E-News July 2021

Temporary Shelter in Downtown Dartmouth. Photo: Robert Short, CBC


Temporary Shelters
Earlier this week, HRM provided notice to folks living in temporary structures in HRM parks to vacate. This isn’t a decision that HRM has come to lightly, but there are real problems with the structures that require HRM to act. The structures have no electricity, running water, or toilets, there are security issues with them, they’re not built to any sort of building code, and one of them recently burned in a fire. They’re not a solution to homelessness. They’re, at best, better than a tent or nothing at all. They’re not a replacements for safe indoor spaces with supporting services.

HRM has been caught between a rock and a hard place on this issue because while the structures aren’t in any way a solution, the municipality doesn’t control many of the actual options that are. We don’t provide housing or control income assistance programs or deliver addiction and mental health services. All of those are Provincial.

With that in mind, for the last several months, HRM has been working with the Province to ensure that provincial services will be in place to support encampment residents. HRM’s approach has been to avoid forced evictions and to work with encampment residents to try and connect them with housing and services. This makes sense. Pushing folks around without being able to offer something better really isn’t helpful.

So what has changed? What has changed now is the Province has agreed to provide ongoing short-term accommodation for structure residents until they can be provided with permanent housing. Community Services has made arrangements to house residents in a hotel, with needed services, until supportive housing units become available in the fall. The result of HRM removing the structures isn’t that the people living in them will be left with nowhere to go, they will have an indoor option to bridge them to permanent housing with support. There is no two week timeline. This has been key in HRM reaching the decision to provide notice for removal.

In terms of housing more broadly, there has been some good work done with the provincial Housing Commission. There are lots of good recommendations in the Commission’s report, including measures that HRM has long been asking for such as the power to require a set number of affordable units in new development (inclusionary zoning). Hopefully the Province will action the Commission’s recommendations and commit the money that’s needed.

The Commission’s report does speak to working with non-profits and others to create new units, but the one big omission is there is no commitment by the Province to build new government owned units. It wasn’t always this way. Government built housing in decades past, but has refused to do so for the last 20-30 years and is, apparently, still unwilling to take on the role of builder. Rental supports and investing in non-profits is important and needed, but I’m skeptical that the deep affordability and supports that many require can be achieved on the scale that is needed without government making active investments to build and operate housing. The Province needs to love housing as much as they love highway twinning.

A provincial election is coming. I would encourage anyone who is concerned about this issue to scrutinize the party platforms and to keep housing in mind when you consider your vote.

Supervised Beaches
Summer is here and another swimming season is underway and HRM’s program to make sure the season is a safe one is underway too. Lifeguards went on duty at supervised beaches on July 1. They will be around from 11:00 till 6:00 each day for the summer season and they all hold National Lifeguard Service certification. In District 5, the supervised beaches are Big Albro Lake, Birch Cove, and Penhorn Lake.

To protect people from high bacteria levels, HRM does daily testing of the water at each supervised beach. You can find a current listing for each supervised beach online here. The site is updated each morning. Enjoy the summer!

HRM Design Awards
It was a good night for Dartmouth this year in the HRM Design Awards. Four Dartmouth projects were recognized! The Alderney Pedway renovation, Downtown Dartmouth’s word mural marketing campaign, the Tel Lofts on Wentworth Street, and the Cancer Survivors Garden all won awards.

  • Urban Fragments Category: Alderney Pedward (Abbott Brown Architects), Award of Excellence
  • Community Connections and Initiatives Category: Word Murals (Fathom Studios), Award of Merit
  • Urban Architecture Category: Tel Lofts (Abbott Brown Architects), Award of Merit
  • Community Connections and Initiatives Category: Cancer Survivors Garden (Outside! Landscape Architects), Award of Merit

Congratulations to everyone who had a role in these fantastic projects.

188 – 192 Portland Street Development
The first large development in Dartmouth to come forward under the new Centre Plan has been approved. The development is located at 188-192 Portland Street (the vacuum repair shop) and includes the vacant lots on either side. The developer’s plan is to build a mixed-use seven storey building on the properties. The developer owns the land next door all the way to Canal Street, including Moffatts Pharmacy. The intent is that Moffatts will move into the new building, which will then allow the Pharmacy site to be redeveloped as well. With several other lots on this stretch of Portland changing hands recently, this block seems primed to change significantly over the next few years.

If you’re surprised about not hearing much about this project before it was approved, that would be because the Centre Plan means that most development doesn’t have to go through Community Council anymore. One of the main points of the Centre Plan was to provide certainty as to where development will go and what form it will take. Large projects that meet the design requirements and are located in one of the areas that allow them get approved by staff like any other as-of-right development, and now only come to Council if the development officer’s decision is appealed by nearby residents. No more site specific fights.

The project doesn’t include affordable housing, but it will indirectly contribute to the need via density bonusing. HRM currently can’t mandate the creation of units (see first article in this newsletter), but the developer will have to pay into HRM’s density bonusing fund. Sixty per cent of the density bonusing money will then be reinvested in non-profits that provide housing.

Paving Projects:
Construction season is upon us and HRM’s contractors are busy at work. In District 5, the big road project is the Prince Albert Road redesign, but there are two smaller projects, on Howe Street and Green Village Lane. I have been asked by a few people over the last couple of weeks why Green Village Lane is getting repaved when the street is in fair condition? So, I thought I would take the opportunity to share a bit more widely some info on how HRM’s paving program works.

HRM has two types of paving projects that, to anyone who is not an engineer, we would just call paving! The two types are recapitalization and overlays. The difference between the two is an overlay is a much smaller scope of work. Overlays involve removing the top layer of asphalt and putting down new material, while recapitalization typically means taking a street back down to gravel. A recap project is as close to starting again as you get and, as result, is much more expensive than an overlay. Recap projects are great opportunities to change a road’s underlying design, which is what is happening on Prince Albert Road this year. I have simplified things a bit, so if you’re looking for a bit more nuance in the types of paving projects there are, check out HRM’s website here.

So how does HRM decide which streets to fix in any given year? Every two years, HRM collects data on the condition of the pavement using automated equipment attached to a van. It takes about two months for the van to pass over every street in HRM and the information generated helps HRM prioritize projects. It’s not as simple though as just repaving whichever streets are in the worst condition. HRM tries to keep streets that carry more traffic in better shape, and to coordinate work with other parties, like Halifax Water, that might need to dig up a road, but there is also an important economic element that factors into the decision making.

HRM has a blended strategy of picking streets from the bottom of the rankings, but also streets from the middle of the pack. It might seem counterintuitive to be choosing streets in fair condition over streets that are in terrible shape, but HRM and other municipalities have found that money spent on preventative overlay projects can significantly put off the need for a much more expensive recapitalization project. A recap project costs $100 – $130 per m2 while surface overlays are $8 – $20 m2. So, a street like Green Village gets an overlay project because spending money there now lets HRM avoid having to spend much, much, more later. That’s why you’ll see paving projects happening on streets that are in bad shape, but also on streets that, at first glance, appear to be okay. It’s about extending the road’s life.

Paddlers Cove
I have had a few people ask about the No Trespassing signs that have gone up in the parking lot at Paddlers Cove. There seems to be some confusion about this property. That green grassy shoreline might look like a park, but it’s not. HRM owns a small sliver near the trail, but that ownership doesn’t extend all the way along the Paddlers Cove shoreline. Most of that shoreline is private property and like all private property, the owner is able to restrict access.

Paddlers Cove. Property boundaries are approximate. Photo: HRM GIS Explore

I reached out to Paddlers Cove to ask why the signage has been installed given the long-standing quasi community use of that shoreline and they indicated that (1) they face potential issues around legal liability if the space isn’t signed and (2) they have had some challenges with people that weren’t actually visiting any of the businesses taking up parking spaces during busy hours. As a gentle reminder, there is plenty of public parking available right around the corner at Grahams Grove for anyone looking to access the beautiful spaces around Lake Banook. Don’t take up space on private property, particularly if the lot is already pretty much full!

Climate Change Plan
HRM recently marked the one-year anniversary of HalifACT, the municipality’s response to the climate crisis. HalifACT was unanimously adopted by council on June 23, 2020. HalifACT commits HRM to zero emissions from municipal operations by 2030 and net zero for the community as a whole by 2050. That 2050 deadline seems far off, but the plan is contingent on all of us taking significant action over the next couple of years because it’s simply not possible with our limited carbon budget to hit the snooze button and wait until the 2040s and still accomplish the goals. Unfortunately, the effects of climate change are becoming more and more obvious. Hundreds died last week in BC during the record smashing heat wave. This is urgent. We must act. Some impacts of climate change are already baked in because of the emissions that have already happened, but we still have the power to choose a different path. We still get to decide whether we want to avoid even more devastating impacts. We need to make the right choice.

Some of the highlights of HalifACT’s first year:

  • The municipality has installed solar energy systems on many public buildings, including fire stations and community centres. Check out the list.
  • In collaboration with Municipal Natural Assets, the municipality is taking stock of all of natural assets, including forests, wetlands and lakes in HRM to help inform how to deliver future services, such as providing safe drinking water or managing floods and stormwater. Learn more.
  • This year, Halifax Transit committed to purchasing an initial 60 electric buses to help meet Halifax’s net-zero targets. Learn more about greener, cleaner transit options coming soon.
  • The Woodside Ferry Terminal renovation will reduce energy consumption by 75%
  • HRM’s new Electric Vehicle (EV) strategy going before Regional Council this summer
  • Council has enrolled in the Green Choice Program to potentially shift all of HRM’s electric use to renewable sources

I’m very much looking forward to HalifACT’s one year report coming to Council in the near future so that Council can dig into not just the successes, but also where we need to do more.

In celebration of HalifACT’s one-year anniversary of being adopted by Regional Council, take part in the first ever municipal-wide art contest – Celebrate HalifACT: Youth Climate Art Contest. Youth 18 and under can get drawing at www.halifax.ca/climate to win some great prizes. The contest closes on July 14th, 2021.

Rapid Testing Alderney
With the Alderney Library reopening, the rapid COVID testing unit has had to relocate. It hasn’t gone far though. The new spot is right across the lobby from the Library in the Harbour East Community Council room. Over the 51 days that Public Health was in the Library, they completed 32,700 tests! Thank you Dartmouth for making testing at Alderney Gate a regular part of your routine!

Halifax Regional Centre for Education Arts Productions
It was more complicated this year to deliver the usual arts programming in our schools given COVID restrictions. HRM provides HRCE with supplementary funding and HRCE had to get creative in delivering programming in new ways. Check out HRCE’s virtual production of Hamlet, brought to you through the wonders of green screen, and this performance of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy for some examples of adaptation.

If you have a kid that will be in high school in September, HRCE has announced that this fall’s production will be High School Musical. Roles are open to kids in grades 9-12 who are interested in acting, music, dance, singing, or in working on the technical crew. Auditions begin September 1 at Prince Andrew High School and rehearsals will run from 5:30 – 9:30 on Monday and Wednesdays throughout September. For more information check out the link here.

Green Bin/Recycling Changes
Reminder that, as of July 2, weekly green cart collection returned for the summer, but blue bag collection has moved to once every two weeks. For more information on why HRM has restored weekly green cart pick-up for the summer months after it was cut last year, but is now scaling back on recycling, check out my Council blog here.

Stats Canada Census
It’s not too late to complete the 2021 Census Questionnaire! The 2021 Census of Population Day was May 11, but the online portal is still open and you can still submit your questionnaire online or on paper. The census enumerates the entire Canadian population and more than 15 million households are expected to complete the census this year. Census information is vital for planning programs and services at the national, provincial, territorial and local levels. Governments use census data to make informed decisions about things like roads, public transportation, schools, daycare centres, retirement residences and health services. Data from the census also provides businesses with valuable information on topics such as employment rates, labour force demographics and employment growth by sector. The benefits to our community increase with every completed questionnaire. Information from the 2021 Census will be even more crucial because it will help to evaluate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and to better plan for the future. Complete your questionnaire online today at www.census.gc.ca

Public Consultation

Thistle and Maple Townhouse proposal

Public Hearing
Maple and Thistle Townhouses
August 5, 6:00 pm

A public hearing to consider a townhouse development at the corner of Thistle Street and Maple Street (where the old O’Reagan’s car dealership was) will be held at the next Harbour East Community Council meeting on August 5. The proposed development is a townhouse style with 20 over/under units. Parking and a small playground would be located behind the townhouses. Access would be from Maple Street, but the driveway would only allow right turns in and out due to the proximity of the intersection with Maple Street (earlier versions of this proposal had proposed a regular driveway that would have allowed left turns). The application was complete before the Centre Plan was finalized and is, therefore, being considered under the old rules. Staff are recommending that Council approve the development. You can review details of the project online on HRM’s website here.

If you would like to make a submission on this proposal to Council, you can do so by writing clerks@halifax.ca or myself. Written submissions must be received by 3:00 pm August 4 to be considered by Council. If you would like to speak during the public hearing, you can do so by phone, but you must sign-up in advance. To register to speak, please contact the Clerks office at clerks@halifax.ca or by calling 902-490-4210 by 4:30 pm August 4.

Proposed development at the corner of Wyse and Nantucket

Public Hearing
112 and 114 Wyse Road Development
August 5, 6:00 pm

The August 5 meeting of Harbour East Community Council will feature a second public hearing for a District 5 project. The second hearing will be to consider a proposed 20 storey mixed-used building at the corner of Wyse and Nantucket at the old Scotiabank property. The building would hold 2,415 square metres of commercial space and 160 residential units. The application was complete before the Centre Plan was finalized and is, therefore, being considered under the old rules. Staff are recommending that Council approve the development. You can review details of the project online on HRM’s website here.

If you would like to make a submission on this proposal to Council, you can do so by writing clerks@halifax.ca or myself. Written submissions must be received by 3:00 pm August 4 to be considered by Council. If you would like to speak during the public hearing, you can do so by phone, but you must sign-up in advance. To register to speak, please contact the Clerks office at clerks@halifax.ca or by calling 902-490-4210 by 4:30 pm August 4.

Regional Plan Review
Now – July 16

HRM’s first Regional Plan was adopted in 2006 and the last extensive review was completed in 2014. Since 2014, HRM has completed a number of major initiatives including the Centre Plan, Integrated Mobility Plan, and the Green Network Plan. It’s time to update it. HRM is inviting residents to provide feedback on the Regional Plan Review.

The Regional Plan sets out a common vision, principles and long-range, region-wide planning policies outlining where, when, and how future growth and development should take place between now and 2031. This includes topics such as affordable housing, identification of wilderness areas, impact of COVID-19, population growth, and more.

The Regional Plan Review Themes & Directions Report shares ideas about key planning issues and provides detail on the work that will be completed during the review. The feedback staff receive on the report will help provide focus and direction for future work in the Review. Surveys, will be available until July 16, 2021. For more information visit the website here.

Council Updates

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 June 8
A really busy meeting. Enrollment in the Green Choice program, Cornwallis Park, roadside memorials, parks motions and more. Read about it here.

Council Update June 3
The Centre Plan Package B begins its approval journey towards an eventual public hearing at Regional Council. All the district specific amendments I proposed at Harbour East. Read about it here.


Sullivan’s Pond Concert Series
July 24, 3:00 pm

After some successful fundraising (thank you Dartmouth for your generosity, especially East Coast Credit Union, the title sponsor), the first concert series at Sullivan’s Pond since COVID is going ahead. The opening concert was scheduled for July 3, but it was a wet Saturday so the concert has been rescheduled for July 24. Come down to the Pond to see Tall Poppy and Noel Morgan combined with live painting by Emily Powers. For more information, check out the Sullivan’s Sessions page here.

Touch Tank Hut Alderney
July 1 – Summer
Back to the Sea Society

The Back to the Sea Society’s Touch Tank Hut is making a return this summer. The Touch Tank is located next to the boat launch/marina on the north side of the parking lot at Alderney Landing. Come meet some of the critters that live in our very own waters. Visits must be pre-booked. For more information check out the Back to the Sea Society’s page here.

Arts Carts
July 7 – Summer, 10:00 am – 3:00 pm
Alderney Landing

Arts Cart is a free community art studio designed to provide inclusive arts education and collaboration. The carts carry a variety of art supplies and will be setup outside the Craig Gallery. To register for a timeslot, check out the webpage here.

McNabs Island Tours
Sundays July – August
Friends of McNabs Island

Join the Friends of McNabs Island for a guided tour of McNabs. McNabs is a special place featuring a rich mix of history and nature. Discover old military encampments, check out the panaromic views, get in touch with nature, and walk the sands at Maugers Beach. McNabs packs a lot into a relatively small place. Check out the Friends page for dates, times, and ticket prices. Funds raised help the Friends pay for cleanups, trail maintenance, and work on the Teahouse.