District Boundary Review:
Public engagement is about to begin on new council district boundaries. A draft map of the new districts has been released by HRM’s Boundary Review Committee as a starting point for discussions and it proposes some fairly significant changes on the Dartmouth side, much more significant than the consultant that did the initial work suggested. I’m interested in what the public has to say about the proposed changes. I’m also concerned, however, that the Committee didn’t seem to heed the two keys messages that Dartmouthians gave the last time we went through this exercise back in 2010: Downtown Dartmouth wants to be a single district, and Cole Harbour shouldn’t be carved up. Here’s what the draft districts in Dartmouth would look like starting with what is now Dartmouth Centre.
Dartmouth Centre Today
The current Dartmouth Centre district has a strong community of interest. It’s centred on Downtown Dartmouth and includes all the residential neighbourhoods immediately around it in all directions. It’s very much an urban district with a clear identity and sense of community
Dartmouth Centre Revised
Under the proposed changes, Dartmouth Centre would be turned into two new districts, 6 and 4. Downtown Dartmouth and everything inside the Circumferential to the north would form a new District 6, while everything south and east of Downtown would become part of a new District 4 that would jump the highway to take in Portland Hills and Baker Drive. A bit of a merger of urban and suburban in the proposed District 4! The dividing line in Downtown Dartmouth would be Lake Banook, Sullivan’s Pond, and the Sawmill River.
This isn’t the first time splitting Downtown Dartmouth has been suggested. When the district boundaries were last examined in 2010, the initial recommendation was very similar to what is being contemplated now, with a dividing line running down the centre of Ochterloney Street. The 2010 divided Downtown Dartmouth proposal was roundly panned during public consultation by folks who felt their community was being arbitrarily divided. HRM ended up reversing course and put Downtown Dartmouth back together again in the municipality’s final submission to the Utility and Review Board. I’m fairly skeptical that cutting Downtown Dartmouth in half suddenly makes sense 10 years later.
The other place where lessons from 2010 seem to have been completely forgotten is Cole Harbour. The 2010 map didn’t have a Cole Harbour constituency and instead divided up the area into three adjoining districts. The reaction from Cole Harbour to that idea was extremely negative and the community fought vigorously for a Cole Harbour district. Cole Harbour ultimately won when the Utility and Review Board ordered HRM to go back to the drawing board to create a Cole Harbour district. That the District Boundary Committee is now, 10 years later, suggesting to once again carve up Cole Harbour seems to completely miss the very clear past feedback and UARB decision.
Besides Downtown Dartmouth and Cole Harbour, there are two new headscratchers in Dartmouth’s district smorgasbord. District 3 isn’t bad, but the proposed District 5 is quite unweildly. The proposed District 5 would take in suburban Montebello, but then keep going north all the way into Fall River and Windsor Junction. There isn’t much community of interest in pairing up these far-flung areas. In fact, the existing boundaries that left Craigburn with Fall River rather than including the area in Dartmouth was already a source of contention.
The other oddity is the new proposed District 2, which feels somewhat like gathering up all the remaining leftover bits and throwing them in together. Woodlawn, combined with Westphal, the Prestons, and Mineville means a district that goes from fairly urban inner suburb to newer suburb, to historic black community, to rural. These folks don’t have the same schools, parks, shopping centres, or municipal services. It feels like an odd conglomeration with not much commonality between the disparate parts.
So what happens next? HRM is about to launch a significant public consultation process to look at all the proposed boundaries. As has happened in the past, the proposed boundaries could very well change based on public feedback. An online survey will go live on October 11 on the HRM website here. There will also be several in-person public meetings, including one at the Harbour East Community Council Chamber in Alderney on October 24, 6:00 – 8:00 pm. I would encourage anyone who is interested in the proposed new districts, whether you love or hate them, to participate in the engagement process.
For more information, check out the District Boundary Review Committee’s page here and the online maps here. The consultant’s original boundaries, which didn’t introduce nearly so much change in Dartmouth, can also be found in their report to the Committee here.
Things aren’t completely back to normal yet after Fiona, but here in Dartmouth, the first phase of the recovery is largely complete. Power is back on for most people, and the streets are free of debris. Recovery will take longer for some residents on Lawrence Street though that are out of their apartment building due to structural damage from a collapsed chimney.
I have had a number of people ask why HRM isn’t doing a general pick-up of tree debris at the curb. HRM did that with Hurricane Juan and the result was lots of large and unwieldy pieces of trees being dragged to the curb where they blocked streets and sidewalks. It made moving around even more difficult and complicated clean-up efforts. It also created big liability issues for the municipality. One of the long-term lessons that HRM took from Juan was to require more rigour in how tree debris is disposed of. There was no general pick-up during Dorian and HRM isn’t planning one for Fiona.
What HRM is offering is free drop-off locations for tree debris. The drop-off location in District 5 is 2 Lyle Street by the Macdonald Bridge (complete list of sites available here). There is no cost to bring tree debris to Lyle Street and the lot will be open until at least October 15. I do recognize though that bringing tree debris to Lyle generally means you have to own a truck or have access to one, which isn’t the case for everyone. For disposal at the curb, HRM has doubled the number of allowed bundles of wood that can be put out for collection to 10 (bundles must not weigh more than 75 lbs, have wood that exceeds 8 inches in diameter, or be more than 4 feet long). The allowable limits for bagged yard waste has also doubled to 20. Bundles and bags can be set out with your green bin.
While a lot of the clean-up work is done, and most people’s power has been restored, we really need to start thinking about storms like this as the new normal. Wind events have gone way up in our Province over the last two decades and we’re feeling the impact. Both Fiona and Dorian were major events and Juan wasn’t really that long ago. Climate change is very much here.
We generally lucked out in Dartmouth compared to many of our neighbours in that most of the damage from Fiona was chunks of trees and branches, not whole trees falling, and yet the power was still out for days for many along with phone and internet. Losing phone service is potentially a matter of life and death in an emergency, while losing power for days, shutting down schools and businesses is costly and disruptive. It’s great that the Province is offering some assistance to help people recover (apply online here), but the impacts will still disproportionately fall on the people who can least afford it. We’re going to need to harden our infrastructure to make ourselves more resilient in this changing world. The Province and Federal government must use their regulatory power to demand more of Nova Scotia Power, and the telecommunications companies that we all rely on. In this changing world, the countdown to the next major storm has, unfortunately, already begun.
Boulevard Gardening Giveaway
Most of us never think too much about the boulevard space between the sidewalk and the road in front of houses. Boulevards are generally unloved weedy grass spaces that we only use a small portion of for waste collection. They don’t have to be that way though. Boulevards can be beautiful. Boulevard gardening creates habitat for a greater diversity of species, helps manage stormwater, promotes healthy lifestyles, and just make our neighbourhoods prettier places.
With the heat of summer fading away, with fall rains upon us, and with there still being many weeks before the ground freezes, now is actually a great time to put plants in the ground and create something beautiful for next year. There is a great opportunity to start a boulevard garden in District 5 coming up. On October 16, from 11:00 – 2:00, Dahlia Street between Pine and Maple will be closed for a boulevard gardening party. HRM will be giving away a selection of native and pollinator plants to anyone who wants to create a garden out of their boulevard. While the main effort for this pilot project is on Dahlia Street, anyone in District 5 who wants to turn boulevard grass into garden is welcome to come by to pick-up some plants while supplies last. There will also be experts available to offer gardening advice. Let’s make District 5 bloom!
Disc Golf Pilot Extended
Disc Golf on the Dartmouth Common will continue for another few weeks. The uptake on this pilot project has been incredible, vastly exceeding HRM’s expectations. The pilot was set to end in September, but the course will now remain in place until October 31. HRM is still collecting feedback by email on the pilot project at email@example.com until October 16.
Alderney Elementary School Zone Painting
HRM has been implementing traffic calming in all school zones in HRM, generally in the form of speed tables. Hawthorne Elementary in District 5 now has several, speed tables will be added to Lyngby Avenue in front of Crichton Elementary as part of roadwork this year, and planning for changes to Prince Arthur Avenue by Dartmouth South Academy will be getting underway soon. Alderney Elementary though is a bit of a challenge for the increasingly common speed table because speed tables aren’t recommended for slopes. The grade of Curley Drive and Penhorn Drive by the school is too steep for speed tables.
Given the challenges to put in speed tables by Alderney Elementary, staff are going to pilot a new approach of painting SCHOOL directly on the pavement at the entrance to the school zone. Speed readings have been collected as part of this pilot project so that a before and after comparison can be made. Adding some paint to the road isn’t necessarily the end of traffic calming around Alderney Elementary, but the additional challenges with implementing physical measures at this location make it a good spot to pilot pavement markings.
HRM’s contractor is expecting to install the SCHOOL markings this week.
Penhorn Redevelopment Pedestrian Connections
I have had a number of people in Manor Park reach out wondering when they will be able to resume cutting across the Penhorn Mall redevelopment to get to the transit terminal, Sobeys, and the other commercial services at Penhorn. The alternative right now of going around to Portland Street is a significant detour. I have spoken with Clayton about the disruption to pedestrians and they are very motivated to reopen the site, but can’t do so safely right now because of all the work that is underway. Clayton expects to reopen the Berkley Brae pedestrian connection in the summer of 2023. Clayton is, however, prioritizing connecting the unfinished end of the HRM built trail by Penhorn Lake to the terminal and Sobeys. There is a chance that that trail will get built this fall. Clayton is making no promises, but that is what they’re hoping to do.
Over the last few weeks I have had a number of people write me wondering why the municipality is allowing encampments to persist in Downtown Dartmouth, particularly at Martin’s Park, on the Dartmouth Common, and at Starr Park. Folks have asked, why the municipality hasn’t relocated residents to one of the municipality’s designated park sites where there are services versus leaving the sites where they are with no support? The situation is complicated.
I have spoken with staff countless times about encampments. No one in HRM wants to have people living unsupported in our public spaces. The reality is though, HRM is being swamped by fallout of provincial failures in mental health, addictions, corrections, healthcare, and of course housing. Everything going wrong in the social welfare system is landing on the municipality and there has been a big increase in the number of people living in our parks.
To relocate someone from a problematic site to somewhere else, be that one of our designated park spaces or into some other option, requires a lot of one-on-one engagement. HRM has just two staff who work in this space, plus the two street navigators employed by the Business Improvement Districts who also provide some support. We’re really not able to move someone if we don’t have a spot to direct them to. Shelters are full and our designated sites are close to full. There is simply no space available out there for everyone.
So the need is exploding, and we don’t have staff or space to deal with everyone. The priority over the last few weeks has been dealing with school grounds and playgrounds. There has been no capacity to respond to other encampment sites.
I’m going to be taking all of this into our coming budget discussions because it’s clear that HRM is going to need a much greater first-response capability than we’ve ever envisioned. If we don’t have the staff, than we’re going to be unable to effectively respond to people living in our public spaces, which really is what’s happening right now! More importantly, if the Province doesn’t get moving to address the glaring holes in our social welfare systems, than even if HRM staffs up to provide a much better first response to folks in crisis, there won’t be any services or spaces to direct people too.
You might recall that a few years ago there was a “backyard” rink behind the Findlay Community Centre. The rink was built on the initiative of some nearby residents and for two years it was a great spot to skate. Unfortunately, the escalating costs of insurance ended up killing the community rink project. The cost of insurance wasn’t a problem unique to the Findlay and after another community rink in Fairview ran into similar challenges, Council asked staff for options to help. The result is the creation of a grant program to cover the cost of insurance for community groups setting up rinks on municipal property. HRM is removing the insurance barrier!
The grant program is now accepting applications for the coming winter season. If anyone in the Hawthorne area or beyond enjoyed having a rink at the Findlay Community Centre, all of the equipment is still there just waiting for someone to pick-up the torch and bring back the outdoor winter fun. I would love to see the rink reappear, but it will only happen with community involvement. So, if you’re interested, let me know and I will put you in touch with other likeminded folks and staff. Grant applications are due October 14.
Accessible Taxi Service Launches
HRM’s contracted accessible taxi service has launched. HRM approved a three year contract with Extra Care Taxi to provide an accessible service in HRM. The issue with accessible taxis has been that, compared to a regular cab, they’re much more expensive to buy and they tend to be less profitable to operate because drivers travel farther without paying passenger, and spend more time loading and unloading passengers. If HRM’s taxi companies had corporate fleets, the companies could absorb that extra expense across their fleet and also ensure that there are enough accessible vehicles available to meet the demand, but HRM’s taxi companies don’t operate fleets, they’re dispatch services. Each individual driver is an independent operator, making it very challenging to manage vehicles.
After looking at this issue for a number of years, the conclusion HRM reached was contracting a service to ensure accessible vehicles are available was the only real solution. Extra Care has ten vehicles and provides 24/7 service. Passengers pay the same fare as a regular cab. Bookings can be made by calling 902-334-0334, online here, or by using the Extra Care App.
Downtown Dartmouth Projection Show
The Downtown Dartmouth Business Commission has launched a projection show series. Every evening from 7:00 – 10:00 pm, the side of Old City Hall that faces the Library at the foot of Portland Street will be lit up with a video projection. The series launched on September 30 with work from Mi’kmaq artist Alan Syliboy and Lukas Pearse in honour of Truth and Reconciliation Day. The show will switch-up over the course of the season (the image should become even more striking once the ivy on the wall loses its leaves for the season). Many thanks to the Business Commission for their work to enliven Downtown Dartmouth.
Dartmouth Harbour Trail Delay
A short update on the project to plug the gap in the Harbour Trail between Old Ferry Road and Parker Street. As indicated previously, there is a fair bit of timing risk around this project because it is dependent on concluding a real estate deal with CN. Staff felt HRM was close and had allocated money in the 2022 budget in hopes of building it this year. That is, unfortunately, not going to happen. Delays in getting survey work completed that is required to conclude the real estate deal and a need to revise the project budget means this will be a 2023 item instead of a 2022 one. The fund allocated this year will carry over to help make sure that HRM get this done in 2023.
Neighbourhood Placemaking Grants
HRM is accepting applications for its Placemaking program. The idea behind Placemaking is to involve the community in reimaginging and reinventing public spaces. It can involve art, or street fixtures like benches, or creating a community garden. The goal is to bring people together to create a sense of community around a project. Past Placemaking projects in HRM have included painting murals on intersections and, in District 5, the mural on the Findlay Community Centre’s back wall. HRM offers financial and non-financial support through the program so if you have an idea and some interested neighbours, checkout HRM’s placemaking page here. The maximum grant is $1,500 and the deadline for applications is October 31. It would be great to see some more projects in Dartmouth Centre.
Do you know an outstanding community volunteer? Feel that it would be worth recognizing them for all their good work? HRM is accepting nominations for the municipality’s 2023 Volunteer Awards. The deadline for nominations is Friday January 6 so there is lots of time to nominate someone. I would encourage everyone who thinks of someone to nominate them. This is a lovely event that provides recognition and a thank you to the many folks that make HRM a better place to live. For more information, to check out past winners, and to nominate someone awesome, visit HRM’s website here.
USS Gerald Ford Volunteers
Speaking of volunteers, on October 29-31 the American aircraft carrier, USS Gerald Ford will be in port. As part of the US navy’s volunteer program, while the ship is here, the crew will be taking on some volunteer projects. Sailors will be available for 2-4 hours a day. If you’re involved in the leadership of a non-profit that could use a hand with something, let me know and I will put you in touch with them.
Provincial Housing Survey
October 3 – December 4
The Province is conducting a Nova Scotia wide housing survey. The survey was one of the recommendations of the Affordable Housing Commission. The survey is gathering information on individual housing experience (i.e. what your current housing situation is). It’s not a survey about what policy approaches you think government should be pursuing, like building more public housing. I worry the survey will leave out people in the most dire situations. Expecting someone who is homeless or even someone who is housed but really struggling to get by, to spend the time to complete an online survey seems pretty absurd. Not sure what the Province’s approach to making sure the survey doesn’t just capture the comfortable will be. Comfortable or not, everyone should fill it out. The survey will be available until December 4. Take it online here.
Regional Plan Phase 3 Public Hearing
October 11, 6:00 pm
Halifax City Hall
After a Fiona delay, amendments to HRM’s Regional Plan will go before Council next week on Tuesday. The proposed changes are part of the latest phase of the Regional Plan Review and include:
- Requiring Council to consider the policies and objectives of the priority plans (the Integrated Mobility Plan, Halifax Green Network Plan, HalifACT) as part of discretionary planning applications.
- Requiring Council to consider environmental and cultural values, relationship to wilderness areas, mobility planning, and climate action as part of secondary planning.
- Policy and regulations to support housing diversity, that remove regulatory barriers in land use by-laws for tiny homes and converted shipping container dwellings.
- Allowing the adaptive reuse of municipally registered heritage properties by development agreement.
- Supporting ongoing work on community action plans for historical African Nova Scotian communities.
- Revised Conservation Design Development policy to improve its interpretation and implementation.
- Amendments to support site specific requests for development and minor housekeeping amendments (i.e., corrections to the Service Requirements Map to ensure that lands currently serviced with water and/or wastewater are accurately represented).
Anyone is welcome to attend Council and offer their views on the proposed changes. For more information, visit the Regional Plan Review page 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, September 29
A rare Thursday meeting after Fiona bumped the planned Tuesday meeting. The heritage hearings and public hearing into the Regional Plan amendments have been rescheduled. On the Thursday agenda, convenience store hours, Bedford ferry, university heritage properties, and the Spring Garden Road bus pilot. Read about it here.
Council Update, September 13
A relatively light meeting due to scheduling conflicts with some of my colleagues. On the agenda, Dartmouth Cove infilling, a naturalization program, and federal Safer Communities funding. Read about it here.
- Interim Bikeway Improvements, $309,950, Basin Contracting
Speed tables for Slayter Street and improvements on other streets identified as local street bikeways in the Integrated Mobility Plan
- Cracksealing, $208,800, Maecon Infrastructure Services
Minor pavement repairs to fill cracks on a number of District 5 streets including Alderney Drive, Beckfoot Drive, Micmac Boulevard, Peddar’s Way, Pleasant Street, Portland Street, Prince Albert Road and Alfred Street
- Paving and Traffic Calming Frederick Street and Pinehill Road, Closing October 11
- Towing Contract, Closed October 4
Potential shift from calling tow trucks when needed to have a contract with performance standards. Goal is to improve towing response time
Dartmouth North Sea Cadets
Wednesdays, 6:00 – 9:00 pm
Dartmouth North Boys and Girls Club, 60 Farrell Street
The Royal Canadian Sea Cadets are returning to Dartmouth North. The Cadets have found a new space to train in at the Dartmouth North Boys and Girls Club on Farrell Street. The Cadets are recruiting youth, 12-18. They meet on Wednesday nights from 6:00 – 9:00 pm. Anyone interested in more information can contact the Cadet’s by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Special Waste Mobile Drop-Off
Saturday, October 8, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Mic Mac Mall
Chance to get rid of your old batteries, paint, expired medication, propane cylinders etc right here in District 5 without going out to Bayers Lake.
Grace United Book Sale
Friday, October 14, 5:00 – 8:00 pm
Saturday, October 15, 8:00 am – 2:00 pm
70 King Street, Dartmouth
Grace United Church is having their annual book sale this weekend. $5 per bag of books, or $1 for individual hardcover books, $0.25 for softcovers. Masks recommended due to crowds, bring your own bags!
Thursday, October 13 – Saturday, October 15
Nocturne is an independent, free, contemporary art festival presented by the Nocturne: Art at Night Society. The festival brings art and energy to the streets by showcasing and celebrating the visual arts scene. In addition to the festival, the society oversees a collection of arts programming utilizing the mentality that art can be anywhere. This year’s festival includes a number of different art installations in Downtown Dartmouth. For full details visit the Nocturne site here.
Thursday, October 20, 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Christ Church Parish Hall, 61 Dundas Street
The Climate Cafe is a safe and respectful space to talk about how feelings on climate change, climate emergencies and preparedness. It is held the third Thursday of the month, 7:00 – 8:30 pm in Christ Church Parish Hall. The Climate Cafe is organized by Nancy Blair, a climate psychotherapist and David Paterson, a teacher. Both have received Climate Cafe training from the Climate Psychology Alliance (CPA). During the Climate Cafe, participants listen to each other and those who want to talk, do so. It’s a chance to gain support through speaking with other individuals. For information email Nancy Blair at email@example.com or call 902-223-3151.
HRM Volunteer Conference
Friday, November 18, 8:00 am – 4:30 pm
DoubleTree, 101 Wyse Road
Registration for HRM’s annual volunteer conference is open. The conference is an opportunity for volunteers to connect, celebrate, and learn relevant skills. Delegates representing a variety of organizations and causes will participate in two training workshops and networking activities and enjoy a keynote speech and seated meal.
This year’s workshops will cover topics like grant opportunities, diversity and inclusion in the volunteer sector, collaboration as power, connecting with youth, marketing your organization, fundraising, volunteer recruitment and retention, community event planning, engaging your community, healthy board practices, rural perspectives in volunteerism, and improving accessibility in the volunteer sector. To learn more and register visit HRM’s website here.