Southdale Development (Eisner’s Cove)
Monday, February 7, 6:00 pm
HRM has initiated a planning process for the Southdale Future Growth Node and the first virtual public meeting is set to take place on Monday evening. The Southdale Future Growth Node is the undeveloped lands between the North Woodside Industrial Park and Gaston Road and includes a large wetland known as Eisener’s Cove. The land is undeveloped because it was under Provincial ownership for decades as part of the North Woodside Industrial Park. Crown-owned Innovacorp sold the land to a private company, AJ Legrow Holdings in January 2020 and Legrow has since partnered with Clayton Developments on planning for future development.
Under the Centre Plan, the Southdale lands are identified as a Future Growth Node. The Future Growth Node designation applies to large areas of vacant or under-used lands that have the potential to be redeveloped, but that require a more detailed site specific plan. The first step is to initiate a visioning process to identify what the lands could be. There will be three formal opportunities for the public to provide input on the Southdale Future Growth Node. The process is set out in the chart below
I have heard from a few folks already with concern about Eisner’s Cove, traffic on Lynn Drive (currently a quiet dead-end street with no sidewalks), and ensuring there is a connection to Baker Drive. I have also heard from people who feel we badly need the housing that would be created through this development, which Clayton is targetting towards first-time buyers. If the planning work is done well, I think there is the potential for to protect the core of Eisner’s Cove by turning it into park space, provide badly needed new housing, and better connect Southdale and Gaston Road to Baker Drive (a frequent and long-standing ask).
To speak at Monday’s meeting, you must register with the planner Ross Grant by emailing email@example.com Requests to participate must be made no later than 4:30 pm on Monday. For more information, check out the Shape Your City Page for the Southdale Future Growth Node here.
HRM 2022 Budget Deliberations
If you’ve been following my Council blog, you probably know that Council is well into 2022 budget deliberations. At each budget meeting, there is an opportunity for members of the public to address Council on any budget related item. Since virtually everything HRM does has some sort of budget implication, it’s a pretty open-ended opportunity to speak to Regional Council about whatever you feel is important.
Council has reviewed the 2022 capital budget and we’re now going through each department’s budget. Here’s the schedule for the remaining meetings:
- Wednesday, February 9, Transportation and Public Works
- Wednesday, February 16, Halifax Transit, and Parks and Recreation
- Friday, February 18, Planning and Development
- Wednesday, February 23, Halifax Regional Police, and RCMP
- Wednesday, March 2, Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency, Halifax Public Libraries, and Fiscal Services
- Wednesday, March 23, Budget Adjustment List
- Tuesday, April 12, Budget approval
You can speak to any subject you want at any meeting, but, if you can, it’s good practice to line up whatever your issue is with the day that the relevant department is presenting to Council. Makes it easy for Councillors to ask staff about whatever issue you’ve raised. Meetings typically start at 9:30 am and public participation takes place early in the meeting. Since Council is once again meeting virtually, you have to register in advance to speak. Please contact the Clerk’s Office at 902-490-4210 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org no later than 4:30 pm the day before a meeting.
Tuesday, February 15
Regional Council is considering changing HRM’s commercial tax system. Commercial tax reform has been in the works for many years now and could (1) include phasing in commercial assessment increases over time to give businesses more notice and time to plan for increases and (2) tiered rates that vary by location. Phasing assessments is relatively uncontroversial, but how rates might change is much more complicated.
In past debates on commercial taxation, Council has expressed a strong preference for lowering the tax burden on small business. Unfortunately, HRM doesn’t have the tools to directly do that because municipalities in Nova Scotia tax property, not income. What our imperfect tools allow us to do is to charge differing rates. With that in mind, Council asked staff to prepare a system of tiered rates that would provide tax reductions on commercial main streets, particularly on the first $1,000,000 of a property’s value. To ensure that reducing rates on main streets is revenue neutral, rates in the business parks would rise to recoup the lost cash. Essentially HRM is looking to shift some of the commercial tax burden from main street to Walmart. We can’t directly reduce taxes for small business, but we can reduce taxes in places where small businesses tend to concentrate. I wrote extensively on the idea when it came to Council for debate back in 2019 here.
While Council directed staff to prepare a system of tiered rates that vary by location, what staff have recommended instead is to implement a tiered system that is consistent throughout the municipality. This recommendation isn’t supported by HRM’s business improvement districts who, instead, are urging Council to stick to the original proposal of a tiered system that varies by location. The staff report came to Council in early January and Council deferred discussion on the proposal to a future Committee of the Whole.
On February 15, Council will pick the commercial taxation issue up again and the meeting will include an opportunity for the public to address Council. To speak to Council on February 15 on commercial tax reform, please contact the Municipal Clerk’s Office at email@example.com Requests to speak must be submitted by 4:30 pm, February 14.
Provincial Review External Boards
Now – February 15
The Province is undertaking a review of the effectiveness of 20 Provincial agencies, offices and Crown corporations. As part of the review, the Province is carrying out a public survey which includes feedback on specific provincial bodies, like the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, or the Bridge Commission. To take the survey click here.
Develop Nova Scotia Property Downtown Dartmouth
Develop Nova Scotia has issued a call for proposals to redevelop the parking lot behind the Royal Bank Building in Downtown Dartmouth (WDC-1). This property has been vacant since the 1980s when the old buildings on the site were levelled as part of the urban renewal era. Develop NS is now looking for proposals for a mixed-use development that provides affordable housing. This property is zoned Downtown in the Centre Plan and has the highest potential density of any property in Downtown Dartmouth. It’s very likely that the future for this site will be some sort of high-rise building and, since the Centre Plan has already identified where growth will go, whatever comes forward won’t likely have to come to Council. For more information on the property and Develop NS’s process, check out their web page here.
The Dartmouth Modular housing project is nearly complete. The facility was handed over to Out of the Cold in mid-January and 24 residents have since moved in. HRM is still working to make two of the Dartmouth units accessible and to add a commercial kitchen. HRM has now shifted most of the focus to getting the Halifax location (Centennial Pool parking lot) up and running. The Centennial site will accommodate 38 individuals. When the Dartmouth accessible units are finished and the Halifax site is up and running, HRM will have created new space for 64 of our community’s most vulnerable residents. It’s great to see this project up and running and making a difference in people’s lives. I wrote in more detail about it in my Council update earlier this month. You can read it here.
Elsewhere, the Provincial, Federal, and municipal government made a joint announcement this week concerning the conversion of the old Travelodge Hotel in Dartmouth North into housing. The facility is being renamed The Overlook and will provide space and wrap-around services for 65 people.
Northbrook Park Tender Award
The tender for the next phase of work in Northbrook Park has been awarded! Ocean Contractors is the winner. The $441,000 contract will see lighting installed in the park, new benches, and redesigned walkways. The project was originally planned to get underway last year, but none of the bids met the available budget so the project had to return to Council for revised funding. Revised funding was secured through the approval of the advanced capital list as part of our 2022 budget deliberations, allowing HRM to finally award the contract. Timing for work to get underway hasn’t been determined, but HRM expects that it will start early in the spring. I’m glad to have this work awarded and the next phase of revitalizing Northbrook Park cleared to proceed. There will still be a third future phase for work in Northbrook Park for new walkways to connect from the tennis court to Richmond Street, and Victoria Road and redesigned entrances from Eastbrook and Westbrook Avenues.
Chadwick/Renfrew Speed Humps
Still with delayed work. Residents on Chadwick and Renfrew Street might have noticed that the promised speed humps weren’t included in this year’s paving work. The reason that the speed humps have been left out isn’t because HRM is having second thoughts, it’s because of timing. Work on Renfrew had stretched so late into the year that the contractor and staff felt that weather conditions were such that a delay on the installation until the spring would be best. The speed humps are still coming, they’re just delayed by the construction season, not cancelled.
Community Grants Program:
It’s the time of year for grant applications. HRM is currently accepting applications for its community grants programs. Non-profits can receive funding of up to $5,000 for a project grant or up to $25,000 for a capital grant. Funding is awarded by category: (1) arts and crafts, (2) diversity and inclusion, (3) environment, (4) emergency assistance and neighbourhood safety, (5) history, (6) housing, (7) leisure, and (8) recreation. Recipients from 2021 in the District 5 area included the Elizabeth Fry Society, and MacPhee Centre. You can read the report on all the organizations that received funding in 2021 online here.
I would encourage all non-profits to take a look at the Community Grants program. It’s money that will be awarded to someone, why not you? You can check out the eligibility criteria in the program booklet online on the municipal grants page here. Community Grant applications are due on March 31.
Independent Living GAME Program
Independent Living Nova Scotia is launching a new employment program, Gaining Access to Meaningful Employment (GAME). GAME is aimed at HRM youth (18-24) who are living with disabilities. The program start date is Tuesday, February 15 and includes a weekly stipend and transportation allowance. For more information and to apply, visit Independent Living’s website 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 Update, January 11
Modular housing and initiating planning for the Southdale Future Growth Node. Read about it here.
A slow time of year for tenders.
- Northbrook Park Revitalization Phase 2, $440,535 (Ocean Contractors)
Lighting, new pathways, benches
- Vincent Coleman Ferry Refit, $400,556 (Canadian Maritime Engineering)
Routine cyclical drydock for repairs and maintenance
- Playground Tender, Closing March 1
Bulk tender for design/build for 16 playgrounds throughout HRM that were approved as projects as part of the 2022 capital budget. List includes the playground on Newcastle Street opposite Maplehurst Apartments near Pleasant Street and Pinecrest Park at the intersection of Albro Lake Road and Pinehill Road.
We Love Downtown Dartmouth Day
Downtown Dartmouth Business Commission
The Downtown Dartmouth Business Commission has organized February 12 as We Love Downtown Dartmouth Day. Several businesses have collaborated to offer deals, promotions, or discounts to shoppers who show proof of purchasing from another participating Downtown Dartmouth business that day. To see a complete list of participating business, check out the Business Commission’s page here.
Learn to Make Fufu with Mary’s African Cuisine
Monday, February 14, 6:00 – 7:00 pm
Online, Halifax Regional Libraries
As part of African Heritage Month, learn to make fufu at home. Halifax Regional Libraries is presenting a webinar with Chef Mary Nkrumah of Mary’s African Cuisine/Noblemay Catering. Fufu is a staple dish in West and Central Africa. For more information and to join the webinar, check out the Library’s page here. No registration required.
African Heritage Month Puppet Show
Tuesday, February 22, 10:30 – 11:00 am
Friday, February 25, 10:30 – 11:00 am
Online, Halifax Regional Libraries
An all ages puppet show as part of African Heritage Month.
Learn to Make Okra Stew with Mary’s African Cuisine
Monday, February 28, 1:00 – 3:00 pm
Online, Halifax Regional Libraries
So you’ve mastered fufu on Valentines Day, now you can learn to cook Okra Stew with Chef Mary Nkrumah. Okra was domesticated in West Africa and is another staple food in the region. For more information and to join the webinar, check out the Library’s page here. No registration required.