Port Wallace Development: There has been a snag in one of the biggest potential developments in Dartmouth: Port Wallace. If you’re not familiar with the Port Wallace development, it’s an entirely new community being proposed by Clayton on the vacant lands between Waverley Road and the Forest Hills Extension. The area was identified in the Regional Plan in 2014 as one of three potential new communities that could be built prior to 2031. When complete, Port Wallace will be home to several thousand new people, with associated commercial development. We’ll basically be building a small town off the Waverley Road.
Planning for Port Wallace has been progressing for several years, and a concept design has even been produced. The issue that has arisen is concerns about site disturbance and impacts on Barry’s Run, a large wetland that runs through the middle of the proposed development. Barry’s Run is contaminated with leftover mine tailings that washed down from the long closed gold mine in Montague. Testing has shown that the sediments are stable, but have high levels of arsenic and mercury. The Province is cleaning up the old Montague Mine, and it’s not clear yet what that clean-up process means for downstream contamination in places like Barry’s Run. The clean-up could take 5-10 years to complete and until the Province’s plan for dealing with contamination in Port Wallace is finalized, HRM isn’t comfortable finishing plans for the new community. As a result, the Port Wallace development is on hold for now while HRM awaits more information from the Province.
While work on Port Wallace is generally stalled, some planning will still continue, notably, for a utility corridor through Shubie Park (expect to hear more about that in the future), and on redevelopment of the Conrad Quarry Lands off of exit 14. Conrod’s property is being separated from the rest of Port Wallace because it doesn’t drain into Barry’s Run, so staff were comfortable recommending that Council allow planning for future redevelopment of the quarry to continue. Council accepted the staff recommendations.
Hopefully in a year or two, the future of this major Dartmouth project will be clearer.
Findlay Centre Heritage: The Findlay Community Centre may soon be HRM’s newest heritage property. Council accepted the recommendation of the Heritage Advisory Committee to hold a public hearing to consider registration of the building. The Findlay is one of the last surviving bungalow schools and the building has been a fixture of the Downtown Dartmouth community for decades. It’s definitely worthy of consideration as a heritage property.
The application to register the Findlay came from a nearby resident, Maura Donovan. Donovan extensively researched the building’s history and submission formed the basis for the staff report that the Heritage Advisory Committee based their recommendation to Council on. Many thanks to Maura for all the work she has put into this!
The hearing to consider registration of the Findlay will take place at a future Council meeting at 1:00 pm (heritage hearings always occur in the afternoon). It’ll likely be in December or the New Year. I will share a date when it’s known.
Menstrual Products in HRM Facilities: One of the more significant items on Council’s agenda in October was the proposed pilot to make menstrual products freely available in HRM recreational facilities. There is a definite need for the service. Plan International recently conducted a survey and found that 35% of the 2,000 Canadian women interviewed have had to sacrifice something in their budget to afford menstrual products. Period poverty is real. Sixty-three per cent also reported skipping an activity because they were concerned about lack of access to menstrual products. Given that the goal of HRM’s recreational programming is to be open and inclusive of everyone, regardless of income or biology, providing free menstrual products at rec centres makes sense. It’s a basic human need and providing the materials for free in bathrooms isn’t really much different than providing soap and toilet paper.
There is already precedent in HRM too. Our library system is managed by an arms-length board and they opted to start providing free menstrual products at library branches back in the summer. The staff recommendation before Council was to launch a pilot program to do the same at HRM operated community centres. It became apparent in the discussion though that Council wasn’t of the view that this is a pilot. None of us could really envision offering free menstrual products for a year and then removing them the following year. What was really being proposed, rather than a pilot, was a phased expansion of service and instead of phasing things, Council was keen to skip to the end result. So, we deferred the staff recommendation and requested additional information about including all HRM recreational facilities and not just our community centres (Sportsplex, Cole Harbour Place, etc). A report will come back to Council in the future, hopefully before budget deliberations are completed in the New Year.
Planning Fees: The last time that HRM increased the fees that developers and other landowners pay for various planning applications was a long-time ago. So long ago, I was graduating high school. Yes it was 1999 when HRM last upped its fees and since the expense of running HRM’s planning department increases every year, the result is that fees today only cover a tiny, tiny portion of an application’s true cost. For example, the fee for a development agreement is just $1,100, but the estimated cost to HRM is $20,140, a cost recovery of just 6%! Not surprising, given our 20 years of never changing the rates, planning fees in HRM are some of the lowest in the country. It’s past time to increase them to start reflecting the actual cost of service.
While HRM’s planning fees are really low, the municipality can’t just make up for the last 20 years overnight. Fees are going to increase significantly, but HRM will still be well short of cost recovery. That development agreement fee, for example, will go from $1,100 to $5,000, bringing cost recovery up from 6% to 26%. Fees will be reviewed again in 5 years time and I expect they’ll likely increase again then. To ensure the cost recovery ratio doesn’t fall behind again overtime, planning fees will now be adjusted each year automatically based on the consumer price index. Inflation will no longer shrink them each year, which is important on the off-chance that it’s another 20 years before Council revisits the issue. Council approved all of the changes to the fee bylaw.
Re-routing Route 91: Most of the concerns we get about transit at Council are request for better service. For Oceanview Drive in Bedford though, it has been the exact opposite with some residents opposing HRM’s plan to run the new route 91 down their street. The residents are concerned about adding buses due to high existing traffic volumes and speeds, and congestion related to the morning and afternoon drop-off at Bedford South Academy.
Data collected by HRM indicates the resident’s aren’t imaging things, there are problems on Oceanview. The street carries over 3,000 cars a day and has an 85th percentile speed (speed that just 15 percent of traffic is exceeding) of 55 km/hr. Those aren’t good numbers! Oceanview is a place with lots of traffic and that traffic is moving at a relatively high speed on what is suppose to be a residential street. Residents are right to be upset, but they’ve got the wrong target.
I disagree strongly with the conclusion that because Oceanview is already burdened with car traffic, transit can’t be added. Route 91 would have added four buses (2 each way) to the street during peak hours and just two an hour off peak. Adding a handful of buses a day to a street that already has over 3,000 cars isn’t going to make the traffic situation worse, in fact it might be one of the only thing that makes it better. Stats Canada data indicates 97% of the residents who commute to work in the neighbourhood do so by car. Just 3% take transit, which isn’t surprising given that transit isn’t readily available! Oceanview is a neighbourhood street so the only way we might see fewer car trips is by offering alternatives, i.e. transit.
After much debate over two meetings, Council rejected staff’s advice to route 91 on Oceanview Drive and instead moved it to nearby Southgate Drive. As a result, 840 residents who would have been within walking distance of transit won’t be and transit’s operating costs will increase by $27,000 a year due to the additional kilometers that the bus will have to travel. Spend more to serve fewer people while slowing down the bus by sending it on a longer less direct route? Not a great outcome. I voted in favour of the staff recommendation, but the vote was lost 6-7.
- Awarded standing offer for fence repairs and replacements
- Initiated a planning process for a proposed development of Parkmoor Avenue, Hayes Street, and Charlton Avenue in Halifax
- Amended the agreement with the Wanderer’s to allow the Club to leave their seating and other facilities on site year round rather than requiring them to remove everything at the end of each season
- Adopted a new plan for the Lake Echo District Park
- Deferred consideration of an updated on the Port Wallace development until next council meeting so that Councillor Streatch can attend
- Opted, at this late date, not to initiate a roadside debris pick-up in response to Hurricane Dorian
- Directed the mayor to sign the United Nations High Commission for Refugees statement of solidarity
- Declined a request for a staff report by Councillor Cleary to look at allowing residents to pay for parking fines with food bank donations during December. This was a narrow 7-6 result. I voted in favour of seeing more info in a staff report