Crichton Avenue – Micmac Boulevard Park Improvements
I have heard from a number of residents in the new Terraces at Kings Grove building on Micmac Boulevard over the last several months. The concern has been the condition of the land behind their building. The land behind the Terraces is HRM parkland and a large portion of it was destroyed during construction, much more than was originally planned. The frequent ask from residents has been “when will the area be restored?”
It has taken sometime for HRM and the Terraces owners, Armour Group, to work through the details of how the parkland will be reinstated. The fact that there was once a landfill in the area, necessitating environmental testing, was a further complication to address. All of the environmental work is now complete and I’m pleased to share that HRM and Armour have reached agreement on the parkland restoration. Work has already begun.
Armour will be responsible for constructing a walkway connecting the end of Crichton Avenue to Micmac Boulevard behind the building. This was discussed as a potential project when the development agreement for the Terraces was before Council, but, being an off-site improvement that is technically located on another property, it wasn’t something that HRM could legally mandate through the development agreement. The walkway is, instead, getting done through the parkland restoration. The walkway will be built to HRM standards for active transportation and will have lighting. Armour will also replant mixed tree stands and other plants to restore the green space adjacent to the walkway. Armour will be responsible for snow and ice removal for at least the next 10 years.
I’m glad that this agreement is complete and that the unofficial shortcut from the end of Crichton Avenue to Micmac Boulevard will now become a proper connection. My thanks to the HRM parks staff who spent a lot of time working this out.
This is, unfortunately, becoming a regular section in my e-newsletter. Since my July e-news, results from the latest point in time count have been released, HRM has designated more parks for sheltering, and the Province has changed course and made some welcome investments while also doubling down on interfering in HRM’s affairs. There is a lot to cover!
Point in Time Count
The latest survey reveals that the number of people living outside has increased significantly. This year’s July survey counted 178 people living rough compared to 85 last year. This is most definitely an undercount too since it’s not possible to reach everyone who doesn’t have a fixed address. Unfortunately, since July the number of people living outside has continued to grow and HRM estimates that it is now over 200.
Of those surveyed in July, 50% were located in Halifax, 22% in Dartmouth, 19% in Sackville, and 3% in Spryfield. Sources of income varied with 36% receiving income assistance (a woefully inadequate $380 a month), 7% are actually employed, some had other benefits, and a quarter reported no income at all. A large number, 31%, indicated they were involved in child protection services as youths, and Indigenous citizens were significantly overrepresented compared to their share of the population. 24% are on a housing wait list and 23% indicated they had become homeless due to either a renoviction or a fixed-term lease not being renewed. Behind all of these statistics is a story of inadequate social programs, systemic racism, and a lot of human suffering and misery.
Provincial Change of Heart
Thank you to everyone who has been writing the Province demanding that they treat the situation around homelessness in HRM as the crisis that it is. I have been ccd on many emails. It’s definitely not a wasted effort, public pressure does work. As recently as April, the Province ruled out building new public housing. In September, however, the Province did an about turn and announced that they would partner with the feds to build 222 new units. Details haven’t been released yet on where the new units will be located, but “the bulk of them” will be in HRM and Cape Breton. This will be the first new public housing in Nova Scotia in nearly 30 years and with a multi-year wait list to get into existing public housing units, it is desperately needed. The 100 or so new units coming to HRM aren’t anywhere near enough to make-up for the combined effect of decades of neglect and a rapidly growing population. More announcements like this will be needed, but it’s at least a start. It can be tough to change your mind in politics. I’m glad the government has done so here.
Also in the category of changing minds, the Province is now backing a tiny home community in HRM. HRM has been pushing for a tiny home community for a while and the Province has now agreed. The tiny home community will be located on a former HRM ballfield in Sackville and will consist of 52 homes. The Province is also bringing in 100 pallet shelters and will provide funding to support people living in RVs and trailers at HRM’s Shubie Park Campground this winter.
All of this is good and the kind of emergency action HRM has been pleading for for years now. It’s unfortunately not enough considering that there are likely over 200 people living outside now and projections from HRM staff are that that number will at least double next year. 52 tiny homes and 100 pallet shelters will help, but it’s not going to mean that everyone living in an HRM park will have somewhere to go. There still won’t be enough space for everyone who is homeless now, let alone the folks who are becoming homeless each and every week. We need 100s more quick to build/install units like pallet shelters and tiny homes, with supporting services, as an immediate need, and we need an ongoing program to build new public housing. The Province’s change of direction has to be a beginning, not an end.
I was hoping to be able to stick to good news on housing as not every e-newsletter can be a rant about the Province. Unfortunately, it seems to be two steps forward one step back when it comes to dealing with the Province. The good news around public housing, tiny homes, and pallet units, was quickly marred by yet more excessive overreach into HRM’s affairs through Bill 329.
Bill 329 will block HRM from charging developers for the cost of infrastructure in new development, will curtail HRM’s ability to invest in non-profit affordable housing, and will give the Minister of Municipal Affairs the ability to unilaterally approve any development he wishes, in private, with no public scrutiny. It is a deeply flawed piece of legislation that won’t fix much of anything and will demonstrably make things worse by raising everyone’s taxes, reducing funding to non-profits, and setting the table for potential corruption. I did a detailed write up on it in my Council blog that you can read here.
Bill 329 hasn’t passed the House yet so I would urge anyone with concerns to write the Province now. Don’t delay. This legislation is wrong-headed and it’s only public pressure that might make the government blink.
Minister of Housing, John Lohr
Premier Tim Houston
Affordable Housing Grant Program
Speaking of HRM’s affordable housing grant program, the municipality is currently accepting applications. Non-profit and charitable organizations looking for financial help with development, renovations, or purchase (including land) of affordable housing units are invited to apply to the 2023 intake. This would be where most density bonusing dollars go! Applications are due by December 1. To apply and get more information check out HRM’s page here.
Harold Schultz Mural
If you’ve been by Harold Schultz Field on Howe Street lately, you might have noticed that there is a new mural overlooking the ball field. The mural was created by Jason Skinner, a Dartmouth artist. Skinner volunteered his time and talents to produce the mural, District 5 paid for the cost of materials, the Dartmouth & District Minor Baseball Association managed the funds, and National Radiator volunteered their blank rear wall. The result is new public art for Schultz Field. Many thanks to everyone involved and, particularly, to Jason Skinner for both spearheading the project and his generous gift to the community.
HRM has announced that its long-awaited transit fare app, HFXGO, is coming this fall. The app will allow transit riders to purchase their fare on their mobile phone and then display the app screen as proof of purchase when boarding the bus or ferry. No more digging for exact change or hunting for a place to buy tickets. The greater flexibility of the app means that Transit will be able to easily offer additional fare options that haven’t existed up until now, including a 20 ride pass, day pass, two day pass, and a seven day pass. Staff training is underway and I’m hopeful we will see the app live in November. For more information, check out HRM’s HFXGO page here.
King’s Wharf Proposed Amendment
King’s Wharf has applied to modify their development agreement around how an emergency access route over the train tracks is provided. The current plan requires King’s Wharf to install an emergency access route to the development via a bridge alongside the building that is currently under construction. There is no requirement for secondary public vehicle access as traffic modelling indicates that one road connection is sufficient, although not having a bridge is inconvenient when trains are passing through.
When the King’s Wharf plan was last amended, I requested a supplemental report on connecting King’s Wharf to Ferry Terminal Park. HRM owns the water lot along the tracks and the thinking is that joining the two would provide trail access on the water side of the tracks, make Ferry Terminal Park a through space rather than a dead-end, and make it even easier for folks at King’s Wharf to get to the Ferry Terminal and viceversa. A win-win for HRM and King’s Wharf.
Since then, HRM and other parties interested in the Dartmouth Waterfront have been looking at what the future could entail. This was sparked by the Port identifying the potential for a cruise terminal in Dartmouth, but has grown beyond just thinking about cruise ships and where they would dock to a whole waterfront plan. A number folks presented to HRM’s Community and Economic Development Standing Committee and Council passed a motion asking staff to develop a waterfront plan. You can find that presentation and motion here.
If things come together as folks are hoping, emergency access to King’s Wharf could be provided via crossings elsewhere along the tracks that would then all link together. The result would be a waterfront trail and new public space that, in a pinch, would also be an emergency route. This would connect Dartmouth to its waterfront for the first time since the railway came at the turn of the 20th century and blocked most of it off. It would be a plus for Alderney Landing too since solving access to King’s Wharf would also work for Alderney Landing (the major limitation for events at Alderney is access over the tracks). Expect to hear more about waterfront redevelopment and access in 2024.
Prince Albert/Glenwood Development
Still with planning issues, I have had a few people ask if the hotel under construction at Prince Albert and Glenwood will actually be a hotel. Rumours are true, the development at Prince Albert Road and Glenwood Avenue will indeed be switching from a hotel to residential. There is no Council approval required to make this change. It’s as-of-right under the Centre Plan.
I know this rankles some folks. This project was extremely contentious and the entire reason it was able to proceed at its current height is because it was a commercial building. So why can they now switch to residential? This situation is the result of the interaction of the old Dartmouth Plan with the new Centre Plan. Under the old Dartmouth Plan, the developer was free to build a commercial building with no height restrictions, as-of-right, but had to come to Council for a discretionary approval for any residential building of more than four units. That made no sense at all and those silly rules were scrapped with the completion of the Centre Plan. Under the Centre Plan, residential or commercial is allowed on the property as-of-right (no need for special Council approvals), but there is a height limit for both uses of 20 metres (about 6-7 stories). The developer opted to start a commercial as-of-right project under the old Dartmouth Plan, where there were no height restrictions for commerical uses, before the Centre Plan’s provisions came into effect.
When a plan changes, stuff that existed when the new plan came into effect is considered a non-conforming use. Non-conforming uses are allowed to continue to exist since they were legal at the time. The non-conformity with the Centre Plan, in this case, isn’t the use since both residential and commercial are allowed, it’s the size of the structure. So the Prince Albert/Glenwood developers can switch to residential, as long as they don’t expand the size any further than what is already there. With the building’s height and basic form complete, HRM staff have approved the change to residential.
I’m afraid this is the one that got away. The developer exercised their rights under the old Dartmouth Plan and they’re exercising their rights under the Centre Plan. It wouldn’t have been justifiable to have put in a special provision in the Centre Plan saying that everyone can do a conversion from commercial to residential, except for this one specific property. We can’t be that arbitrary with our laws. So the developer is free to make the switch.
I have had some folks suggest to me that residential was the plan all along, that this was never a real hotel project. I don’t believe that. First, what bank or financial institution is going to lend money to a fake project? The world simply doesn’t work that way. The owners also actually did consultation with other local Marriott franchise owners in preparation for launching their own Marriott, but COVID up ended all of that (construction started here in late 2019 just months before COVID struck). That said, I expect residential was always a fall back Plan B option and events of the last years have led to the switch.
At this point, from a practical perspective, we need housing more than hotel beds and housing will be less disruptive to neighbours than a hotel.
Old YMCA Property, Lake Banook
Planning questions come in threes in this e-news. I have had a number of folks reach out to me wondering what is going on at the old YMCA property on Lake Banook. This is a prominent piece of property and the piles of gravel that have shown up on site recently didn’t go unnoticed.
First, thing to know is that despite the Banook Trail passing over the property, the land is privately-owned. HRM has an easement in place for the trail, but it’s not our land. The owner, United Gulf, is free to use the rest of the property as they see fit, as long as they comply with HRM’s bylaws and don’t interfere with HRM’s trail.
A few decades ago, United Gulf proposed to build two large apartment towers on this site, but the Community Council of the day rejected the project due to concerns around potential negative impacts on Lake Banook and the race course. After that, HRM limited the height on all properties around Lake Banook to 11 metres (approximately 3-4 storeys). Those height restrictions were brought forward into the Centre Plan. The property owner would like to build a much larger project, but the rules don’t allow for that and so the land sits awaiting a change of heart by the owner, or some future change to HRM’s bylaws.
So what’s happening now? There is no project underway. The owner is storing fill excavated by a contractor from a Halifax Water project. I’m told the fill won’t be there permanently, and that it’s very much temporary storage. There is no project underway right now and what could be built without a public planning process is some low-rise apartment buildings.
Stormwater Right-of-Way Property Taxes
Property taxes are due October 31 and you might have noticed a new entry on your tax bill this year: an area rate for the stormwater right-of-way. This is a new rate, but it’s not a new cost. When Halifax Water moved to a system of recouping the cost of stormwater infrastructure from property owners based on how much impervious area a property had back in 2013, the consumer advocate at the Utility and Review Board successfully argued that HRM should have to pay Halifax Water for run-off coming off impervious areas owned by the municipality, i.e. roads and sidewalks. The result was an unexpected bill of about $4,000,000.
HRM paid the stormwater bill through the general tax rate the first year. What has then followed has been a long saga of trying to figure out where this expense best fits. It was assigned to the Halifax Water bill, then moved back to the HRM tax bill as a flat tax that had all sorts of unintended consequences for condo owners with separately deeded parking spaces/storage lockers, before being shifted back to the water bill. Not exactly HRM’s most decisive moment!
So why now move it back to the tax bill as an area rate? Why change this, yet again? Putting the stormwater right-of-way charge on the tax bill makes sense because that’s where we pay for almost everything that is a collective good. This charge has nothing to do with individual properties, it’s the cost to HRM for roads and sidewalks, which are there for everyone’s benefit. Setting this up as a rate rather than a flat fee also eliminates the inequity that flat fees cause. This is, hopefully, the end of the stormwater right-of-way saga.
Gaston Road Community Garden
HRM has a community garden program that allows organized groups to establish community gardens in municipal parks. HRM provides a lot of support to interested community groups and the municipality even has a dedicated staffer, Darren Hirtle, to assist and coordinate. Unfortunately, the community garden on Gaston Road has run into trouble. The garden was started several years ago, but the original organizers have all moved onto other things and the garden lacks an organized group to manage it. Community gardens require some coordination and structure and that doesn’t exist right now at Gaston Road. HRM would dearly love for folks in the community to come forward to continue managing the garden’s operation. If no one steps up, HRM will end up having to remove the garden. If you’re interested in getting involved, please get in touch with myself or Darren Hirtle, firstname.lastname@example.org. It would be great to see this garden continue.
Park Avenue Community Garden and Oven Volunteers Needed
In a similar vein to the Gaston Road Garden, the Park Avenue Oven and Garden is also in need of help. The Oven project was spearheaded by a small group of passionate volunteers. Community groups require a constant renewal of volunteers as it’s natural for folks to be involved for a while, but then move onto other things. The Oven seems to have been a COVID casualty as it has never really reopened after being shutdown in 2020 and the volunteer base has dwindled. It needs volunteers to come forward to get it back up and running. There has been some interest, but additional help would be welcome. If you’re interested in getting involved, please let me know or contact Darren Hirtle email@example.com and Kayla Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Oven is a great asset. It would be great to have it back up and running in 2024.
The Province is recruiting for members for various agencies, boards, and commissions (ABCs). There is a long list of potential ABCs to serve on. For more information and to apply, check out the Province’s page here. Applications are due by November 21.
A Seat at the Table
It is evidently recruitment season as HRM will also shortly begin recruitment for volunteers to serve on the municipalities various committees and boards. HRM’s volunteer recruitment will begin on November 1 with applications due by November 30. Visit HRM’s website next week for more information and to apply online.
Host an International Student?
Would you consider opening your home to an international student? Each year, the Halifax Centre for Education’s International Services group welcomes students from all over the world to HRM. The next group of students arrives in February and HRCE is already preparing. Visiting international students need warm and caring families to provide them with a home away from home. Host families are matched with a student attending a neighbourhood school.
What you can expect:
- Host families receive a tax-free monthly stipend ($775) to help cover hosting expenses;
- Students stay for periods of three to ten months;
- Ongoing support is provided by an experienced Homestay Coordinator; and
- Introductions to your student before their arrival.
Interested in learning more? Visit HRCE’s page here for more information
Solid Waste Review
September 25 – October 31
HRM is updating its solid waste strategy, which means garbage, recyclables, and green bins. Waste is part of our everyday life, and managing it in an environmentally and fiscally responsible way is important. The last waste strategy was reviewed in 2014 and produced initiatives such as clear bags. The new strategy will look at ways to continue reducing and diverting waste and will incorporate measures around climate change. As part of preparing the Strategy, HRM wants to gather information and feedback on:
- Your efforts you’re currently making to reduce, reuse and recycle
- How you access information about HRM’s programs
- Whether you participate or not in the programs offered
- What your priorities are when it comes to waste management
- What’s most important going forward (e.g. the environment, waste reduction, costs, etc.)
To participate check out the survey on HRM’s Shape Your City page here.
Accessibility Advisory Committee Annual Town Hall
Tuesday, November 21, 6:30 – 8:30 pm
Central Library, Halifax
HRM’s Accessibility Advisory Committee will be holding their annual town hall at the Central Branch Library. The town hall is an opportunity for HRM’s various departments to provide updates on accessibility initiatives and collect feedback from the public. This year’s town hall will have a hybrid format allowing residents to participate in person or virtually via zoom. The town hall will also be streamed online via youtube. For more information, check out the HRM page here.
Wednesday, November 22
Alderney Gate and Virtual
The Halifax Board of Police Commissioners will be holding public consultation regarding the proposed 2024-2025 police budget. This year’s budget request from the department is for an increase of 24 staff, including 21 sworn officers. Policing has been a contentious topic over the last number of years and this year is shaping up to be no different. This year there is a very Downtown Dartmouth dynamic at play, with several business owners and residents in Downtown Dartmouth seeking additional police to help deal with an uptick in crime (mostly property related). A number of Downtown Dartmouth businesses presented at yesterday’s Commission meeting (see a recording of the budget presentation and public presenters here).
Council is arms-length when it comes to policing and although Council approves the police budget, the bulk of the work happens at the Commission. I would encourage folks, be it for or against what’s proposed, to participate in the opportunities the Commission is providing the public to have input. For more information and to sign-up to speak, visit the Police Commission’s website here.
Community Health Board Priorities
The Dartmouth Community Health Board, along with the other community health boards across the Province, are looking to set health priorities for the next five years. The Board is seeking public feedback to help them identify what priorities should be for health and well being in Dartmouth. Visit the Engage4Health page to participate and learn more.
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 26
HRM’s application to the federal housing accelerator program and the back and forth with Minister Fraser. This has since resolved and HRM and the feds reached an agreement based on the modified proposal that Council approved that I wrote about in this entry. A good example of how HRM’s relationship with the Province could function if we had a Provincial government that was inclined to work together. Read about it here.
Council Update, September 12
A stark discussion and debate about the housing crisis where I, uncharacteristically, lost my cool and got emotional. The enormity of it all just kinda gut punched me in the moment. Plus a compromise on the setting retail hours in established residential zones. Read about it here.
Council Update, August 22
A review of uptake on secondary and backyard suites and possible incentives to encourage building more, no second thoughts on short-term rental regulations, and Halifax Water and affordable housing. Read about it here.
- Street Tree Pruning, Closes November 6
Tree pruning in several areas of the municipality including several areas in District 5 (Brightwood, part of Dartmouth North, Downtown stretching over towards Maynard Lake)
- Shubie Park Parking Lot Paving, Closed September 14
Repaving the parking lot at Shubie Park
- Alderney Gate Office Renovations, Abbott and Brown Architects, $115,410
Design for renovations of the office space on the second floor of Alderney Gate
- Traffic Calming Phase 2, Basin Contracting, $716,798
Second round of this year’s traffic calming projects. Work is in various locations throughout HRM, including on Sinclair Street in District 5
- Asphalt and Curb Repairs, Cumberland Paving, $2,369,456
Road work in various locations throughout HRM, including on Richards Drive and Louise Avenue in Crichton Park
Mosaic for Mental Health
October 12 – 29
Craig Gallery, Alderney Landing
This year marks 25 years for the Mosaic for Mental Health show at Alderney. This fundraiser for the Halifax/Dartmouth chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association features over 1,100 tiles by over 400 artists. Tiles are available for purchase online and there are still some left. Visit the Canadian Mental Health Association’s website here to get yours.
Giant Book Sale
Friday, October 27, 5:00 – 8:00 pm
Saturday, October 28, 8:00 am – 2:00 pm
Grace United Church, 70 King Street
Grace United will be holding a giant two-day book sale. Books are $5 a bag, $1 for hardcover and $0.25 for soft cover! Come early for the best selection.
COVE Open House
Saturday, October 28, 11:00 am – 2:00 pm
27 Parker Street
The Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship will be marking it’s fifth anniversary with a public open house on Saturday. Pop by COVE to tour the facility, and meet the companies that call COVE home. This family-friendly event includes treats, games and prizes.
Nora Bernard Street Dedication
Monday, October 30, 10:00 am
North Park and Nora Bernard Streets (formerly Cornwallis Street)
There will be a ceremony on Monday to complete the renaming of Cornwallis Street in Halifax to Nora Bernard Street. Nora Bernard was a residential school survivor and a prominent activist who was instrumental in securing compensation for residential school survivors. As an outcome of the Cornwallis Taskforce, HRM is renaming Cornwallis Street and it was decided to honour Nora Bernard in the street’s new name. The event will have speakers including Millbrook First Nation Chief Bob Gloade, and Councillor Lindell Smith. An Mi’kmaq elder will perform a smudging ceremony and there will be drumming.
Our Heritage: An Evening of Music, Story and Art
Thursday, November 2, 7:00 – 10:00 pm
Alderney Landing Theatre
The Dartmouth Heritage Museum Society and the Cole Harbour Rural Heritage Society have come together to produce an evening of music, poetry and art at Alderney Landing. The event will include a dessert buffet from Cole Harbour’s Rose and Kettle Tea Room and a silent auction. Performances by Clary Croft, Bill Plaskett, Shalan Joudry, Margo Carruthers, Ronald Bourgeois, Art Bowen and Russ Brannon. Tickets are available online here.
Dartmouth Serniors Service Centre Open House
Saturday, November 4, 10:00 am – 1:00 pm
45 Ochterloney Street
The Dartmouth Seniors Service Centre will be holding an open house. Come see what we are all about, shop for baked and knitted goods, enjoy live music and a free coffee or tea and cookie. Membership in the Centre is open to anyone 50 and up.
Pleasant Woodside Neighbourhood Forum
Tuesday, November 7, 7:00 – 9:00 pm
COVE, 27 Parker Street
The Pleasant Woodside Neighbourhood Association will be holding their annual fall forum at COVE. Come and share what matters to you in this area of Dartmouth and hear from and ask questions of our elected officials (Claudia and I will be in attendance). The agenda is still under consideration so feel free to offer topics in advance by replying writing the Association at email@example.com The forum will be followed by a short PWNA annual general meeting. This will involve the nomination of board members. old and new.
Harbourview Residents Association
Wednesday, November 8, 5:30 – 7:00 pm
The Harbourview Residents Association (Windmill, Fairbanks, Shore Road area) will be holding their fall meeting at the Alderney Library on November 8. This is a chance to come together to work on shared projects and discuss issues.
Penhorn Lake Area Trails AGM
Wednesday, November 15, 6:00 – 8:00 pm
Kiwanis Club, Grahams Grove
It has been just over a year since PLATA’s trail around Penhorn Lake opened and it has quickly become a well-loved and well used part of our community. Come join PLATA and share your ideas for the future of Penhorn Lake.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
November 17 – December 3
Friday and Saturdays, 8:00 pm
Sundays, 2:00 pm
St. Jame’s Church Hall, 183 Portland Street
The Dartmouth Player’s will be presenting Shakespeare’s classic comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with a 1980’s twist For information and to buy tickets visit Ticket Pro Atlantic here.
Friday, November 17, 8:00 am – 4:30 pm
Delta Hotel, 240 Brownlow Avenue, Burnside
HRM’s annual Volunteer Conference is a celebration of the tremendous contributions that volunteers make throughout our community. It gives residents an opportunity to participate in training, networking and learning that helps them become more effective volunteers and provides strong capacity in the municipality. For more information and to register for the conference, check out the HRM page here.
Pleasant Woodside Fall Clean-Up
Saturday, November 26, 1:00 – 4:00 pm
North Woodside Community Centre Parking Lot
Come join Pleasant Woodside for a fall clean up. Meet in the Community Centre Parking lot. Gloves and bags supplied.