COVID’s second wave has arrived. Quick and decisive action back in March, our Bubble, and the generally cooperative attitude of Atlantic Canadians has meant that we’ve been largely COVID free for months. We’ve been one of the few places in the world that has been able to say that. Taiwan, New Zealand, Iceland, Vietnam, Thailand, and Atlantic Canada! That streak seems to have run out and we’re now grappling with the arrival of a second wave. Case numbers are far lower right now than in the spring, but if we want to keep things that way and, possibly, even return to our relatively COVID free status, we need to follow the directions from public health. We all have a part to play here to flatten this second wave. What we do over the next days and weeks will be critical.
You’ve probably heard already, but the Province has implemented new restrictions that will apply until at least December 10. New measures include:
- Bars and restaurants are closed to in person service (takeout only)
- Libraries, gyms, museums, and the casino are closed completely
- Gathering limits have been tightened to no more than five ($1,000 fine for each person over the limit)
- Minimize non-essential travel into or out of HRM
- Mandatory mask requirements now include common areas in apartments and condos
- organized sports and recreation activities are banned
What this means for HRM’s operations is that our libraries and recreation centres are all closed. This includes facilities owned by HRM, but operated by community organizations such as the North Woodside Community Centre. The only HRM facilities that are still open are on the Eastern Shore outside the boundary of the Province’s enhanced restrictions.
Facilities are closed, but there is still programming available online. Check out HRM’s Rec at Home offerings for ideas on how to stay active and engaged at home here. The Library is also once again offering curbside pickup to make their collection of materials available.
Over at Alderney Landing, the permanent tenants are open with restrictions, but the market has had to go back online. Orders received before noon on Wednesdays will be available for pickup on Saturday. Check out the market’s website here.
In recognition of the strain that a second shutdown is going to have on local business, particularly restaurants that are having to flip to takeout only during what would be one of the busiest times of year, HRM is making the first 15 minutes of street parking free. 15 minute free parking begins December 2 and runs until the New Year. The 15 minute free option will be accounted for in the parking machines and in the Hotspot app. Simply enter the total time you’ll be parking and the first 15 minutes will be automatically credited as free. Please note, if you’re planning to park for less than 15 minutes, you’ll still need to enter the start of your session in a machine or the app. This is necessary because otherwise parking enforcement won’t be able to distinguish your free 15 minutes from someone who has overstayed. You still need to visit the machines or check in on the app.
As part of the state of emergency, the Province announced last week a return of rent control and limits on evictions. Effective September 1, 2020, landlords are prohibited from increasing rents by more than 2%. In the event that excess rent has already been paid, landlords are required to credit the overpayment back to tenants. Also, effective September 1, 2020, landlords are prohibited from giving notice to quit. Any notices given since September 1 are void. The courts and residential tenancies won’t be issuing any new orders effective November 25, 2020. These restrictions will remain in place for as long as the COVID state of emergency lasts or until February 1, 2022, whichever comes first.
There could be further impacts from COVID as we move into December depending on how case numbers respond to the new measures. Hopefully we will be able to replicate our success with the first wave.
In happier news, Bicentennial School’s new playground is complete! Many thanks to the school community for their patience and advocacy. The kids at Bicentennial secured $10,000 from the District 5 capital fund through participatory budgeting back in 2017 for this project. An additional $10,000 was added from District 5 this year to top up the HRM budget and increase the Province’s matching grant. Glad to see this finished and available for everyone to use.
Dartmouth Splash Pad
Still with play, some good news today from the Dartmouth Splash Pad community group. They’ve secured tentative commitments for $150,000. This is the total needed for the community portion of the project. Anything they raise from here would be for truly extras to make the park space even better. Congratulations to the community group for all the hard work to get to this point!
With the community portion of the project secure, this now shifts to HRM. We’ll know if the Splash Pad project makes it into the default staff budget early in the New Year.
A fair bit going on at Sullivan’s Pond over the last few weeks.
Geese: I received a number of notes expressing concern about the tender for the care of the Sullivan’s Pond geese. Hope for Wildlife has provided the geese with winter accommodation for the last several years, but no municipal contract lasts forever. They occasionally have to be retendered. Hope’s five year contract had expired and so HRM had to put the tender out again. This bit of routine contract administration created some angst when the tender was reported in the press as people feared that Hope might lose the contract in favour of someone less well-equipped to take care of the geese or that the geese might end up with nowhere to go this winter. I’m pleased to report that Hope was the successful bidder. The new contract between HRM and Hope is good for three years, with two options to renew for an overall total of five years. Hope picked up the geese last week and moved them to their country home. The geese seemed to have discovered Lake Banook over the last few weeks and were wandering more and more so a change of scenery is probably a good thing. We’ll see them again in the spring.
Lights: Still with Sullivan’s Pond, I wanted to take a moment to thank the Downtown Dartmouth Business Commission for the return and expansion of the seasonal lights. I’m not sure if people realize, but the lights that wrap the trees at Sullivan’s Pond are installed by the Business Commission. This year, HRM and the DDBC tried something new. I dedicated some of District 5’s capital dollars to fix the failing electrical systems, which allowed HRM to update the spotlights in the trees and for the DDBC to add some light balls to the treetops. I think it turned out quite well. A big thanks to the DDBC for continuing to help make Sullivan’s Pond an even more magical place.
Cenotaph Poppies: Finally, a special thank you to the staff and resident’s at Oakwood Terrace. This year residents at Oakwood knitted over 1,000 poppies to create a really beautiful Remembrance Day display. The poppies graced the entrance to Oakwood for several days before moving down to Sullivan’s Pond for Remembrance Day. Thank you Oakwood for sharing this labour of love with the whole community. I spoke with Oakwood a few times to help facilitate this and we’re all hoping this will become an annual display. Thanks Oakwood.
Flower Streets Complete Streets:
The Flower Streets Complete Project is getting close to a recommendation to Council. HRM has completed two virtual rounds of public engagement, and the latest thinking on this developing project was presented at the last Active Transportation Advisory Committee in November. You can check out the staff presentation here.
Where things are heading is a proper crossing from the Common to Dahlia Street for pedestrians and cyclists, improvements to the crossing at Maple and Dahlia to facilitate cyclists crossing there, a new sidewalk that would wrap around the large 1 Oak apartment building to fix the lack of safe access from the Flower Streets to Sullivan’s Pond, and a new multi-use trail extension through the back corner of Sullivan’s Pond (behind the Rhododendrons) to connect Dahlia Street to the trail along Lake Banook.
Staff are hoping to have the final report on the Flower Streets project ready for Council this winter so that the project can be, potentially, included in the 2021-2022 budget.
I have received a few questions about the Alderney parkade in the last little while. The parkade has been closed to the general public, except on Saturdays, since COVID first arrived in Nova Scotia back in March. While we’re back into restrictions now, the question I was getting during the lull between the first and second wave was why the parkade wasn’t reopened to the general public?
As it turns out that there is a shuffling of parking going on at Alderney. The parkade is going to permanently become HRM only parking. This will allow HRM to save about $70,000 a year since a staff only parkade won’t require HRM to have someone stationed in the security booth.
To make sure the general public still has short-term parking options at Alderney, the parking lot across the street from the parkade where HRM fleet vehicles are currently located will be transformed into hourly parking. Signage and a parking pay machine will be installed in the near future. The parkade will still be available to the public on Saturdays for the market.
Woodside Ferry Park and Ride:
Still with parking, you might recall some discussion at Council last year regarding introducing fees for parking at the Woodside Ferry Terminal Park and Ride. Parking at the Ferry Terminal, pre-COVID, was at a premium, with demand greatly exceeding the available space. Concerns were expressed that NSCC students and hospital employees were using the Ferry Terminal Park and Ride lot as free parking, reducing the number of spaces available for commuters. Introducing a fee for parking at the Terminal was identified as a potential solution.
Before introducing any fees, HRM did a review of the parking lot, which included deploying cameras to identify people’s destination. As it turns out, misuse isn’t the problem. A mere 4% parked and didn’t proceed into the Ferry Terminal. The Woodside parking lot is full, but it’s full because it’s a popular option for commuters. Given that finding, HRM has scrapped the idea of bringing in a fee for parking because the intended effect, deterring use of the parking lot by people not using it for transit, isn’t actually the cause of the congestion. That, unfortunately, also means that a solution isn’t going to be easy. There is no room to expand the parking lot and building a parkade would be a very expensive and complicated project. So no change at Woodside for now.
Shubie Pump Track:
Dartmouth’s newest recreation asset opened in Shubie Park last month: a pump track. A pump track is a series of connected bumps designed for riding on. It’s a project that Councillor Tony Mancinic championed and it was largely paid for with $40,000 from District 6’s capital fund. Thanks Tony! You can find the pump track next to the ball diamond by the John Brenton Drive entrance to Shubie.
New Youth IT Program:
NPower Canada has expanded to HRM. The charity’s goal is to provide youth with IT skills by providing free technical and professional skills training. The program is specifically aimed at youth who faces systemic barriers to finding meaningful work in the technology sector, due to income, gender, or race. Here in Nova Scotia, the program is aiming to engage Black and Indigenous youth and is being supported by the Provincial government and other partners. For more information, check out NPower’s website here.
Meals on Wheels Promotion:
The Dartmouth Seniors Service Centre is offering 10 free meals throughout December to all new clients signging up for Meals on Wheels. Meals on Wheels is a really important program, not only in helping seniors who are trying to remain in their own homes with good nutrition, but also as a social lifeline. Sue LeBlanc, Claudia Chender and I had the chance to extend a thank you to all the volunteers who keep this essential program going a few weeks ago. To inquire about signing up for Meals on Wheels call 902-466-5578 (ext 217).
Centre Plan Package B Ask Me Anything on Reddit
December 2, 3:00 – 7:00 pm
HRM staff working on Centre Plan Package B will be holding an Ask Me Anything on the Halifax Reddit forum from 3:00 – 7:00 tomorrow. Package B involves new zoning for the established residential neighbourhoods, and industrial areas in the Regional Centre. Basically, it applies to everything not already identified as a growth area in the Centre Plan’s now approved first phase, Package A. This is the residential zoning that applies to most homeowners. For a quick explanation of the Centre Plan check out the Planifax video
For more information on the Centre Plan check out the municipal website here. To participate in the Reddit Ask Me Anything, you’ll need to sign up for a Reddit account and access the local forum here.
To keep you informed about what is going on at Council, I’m writing a regular blog after each meeting. Each of my entries is about what I saw as noteworthy from a District 5 perspective and my views on the issues. We might not always agree, but I think it’s important to provide a record of how I voted and why.
Council, November 17 and 24
First meaty agenda of the new Council. Considering the use of the name Micmac on municipal property, support for several affordable housing projects, and priority for the upcoming Downtown Dartmouth Heritage District. Read about it here.
Council, September 29
The last meeting of the old Council! It was a very heavy meeting and there was a bunch of Dartmouth stuff that didn’t get much attention at the time. Items of note included protecting our lakes, redeveloping Dartmouth Cove, heritage status for the Post Office, the new washroom strategy and what it means for District 5, and alcohol at special events in Ferry Terminal Park and the Community Oven. Read about it here.
Given our current COVID shutdown, there are a lot fewer events to report.
Lights of Downtown Dartmouth
December 5 – 25
No surprise, holiday festivities in 2020 are going to look very different than what we’re use to. It’s impossible to hold the usual large-scale tree lightings, but the holiday season isn’t being abandoned. HRM and Downtown Dartmouth are cooperating to put forward a holiday display throughout Downtown Dartmouth that can be viewed over time. The Downtown Dartmouth display will include the usual Dartmouth Christmas Tree opposite Sullivan’s Pond by the Esso, as well as a new light show on the front of the old Post Office, decorations by various business owners, a animatronic window display at 122 Portland, and seasonal lights on the Neon Mural and on Turple’s new display at 198 Portland Street. Check the municipal website here for details.
Halifax Tree Lighting
November 28 – January 1, 4:30 – 9:45 pm
The Halifax tree lighting has also been disrupted. There is still a tree on the Halifax side too though, and a fantastic light show on the front facade of City Hall has been added. The light show will run all through December every 15 minutes from 4:30 – 9:45 pm.
Halifax Explosion Memorial
December 6, 9:00 am
The Halifax Explosion services are moving online. Wreaths will be placed at Fort Needham to honour the lives lost 103 years ago, but there will be no ceremony. Mayor Savage will address the Explosion virtually on HRM’s Facebook page at 9:00 am on December 6.
December 11 – 18
The large menorah will still appear in Grand Parade, but there will be no event festivities accompanying it.
Halifax Gay Men’s Choir
December 17, 8:00 pm
The Halifax Gay Men’s Choir will be holding a holiday show online on December 17. Some clips from last year’s show and some new pieces. Check out the Choir’s Facebook page for more info.
New Year’s Eve
New Year’s Eve is going virtual. They’ll be a studio broadcast show. No in person gathering at Grand Parade. Details to come.