Media Release – Common for Sale?

Is the Halifax Common for Sale?

HRM Council is going to sell the Queen Elizabeth High School site, Halifax Common land. This is to facilitate Flagship Developments on Spring Garden Road & Queen (the new public library) and the Grand Parade & Province House.

The Halifax Common Plan is very specific about the amount of city-owned land in the Halifax Common not being decreased (3.1). The Plan recommends preserving public open space for a variety of outdoor recreation and leisure activities or other suitable public uses.

It specifically mentions the Queen Elizabeth High School as being an example of a property to be returned to the city when it is declared surplus by the School Board. At 5.5 acres it is the largest parcel of land that could revert to public open green space.

Friends of the Halifax Common believes the newly constructed Halifax Infirmary Emergency site (which happened without due process) could be leased to the province BUT the balance of the Queen Elizabeth High School lands should become public open green space.

Details on what the city is proposing can be found at:
http://www.halifax.ca/council/agendasc/documents/081118cow5.pdf
What’s wrong with the HRM staff report:

HRM Council has “flagship development” projects slated for Spring Garden Road /Queen Street and Grand Parade / Province House.
These projects “balance future land use objectives with the goal of creating a liveable, prosperous, vibrant, attractive urban and legislative precinct respectively”. This will be facilitated through a land sale, including Halifax Common land- the 5.5 acres from the former Queen Elizabeth High School.
FHC SAYS: Why can’t the Halifax Common be HRM’s flagship undevelopment?
The Halifax Common creates a “liveable, prosperous, vibrant, attractive urban precinct” – why wreck it?
There will always be a reason to give away the Common. Imagine New York allowing 5.5 acres of Central Park to be sold for a building.
The Real Cost?

HRM is trading 269,994 ft2 for the province’s 131,330 ft2
It’s getting half as much land (137, 664 ft2 difference) but its still paying the province $1.9 million.

FHC SAYS: Is this good dollar value?
Would a farmer make this decision about a piece of land?

From the HRM Staff report:

Amount of land being transferred to the Province in ft2
255,742 + 13252 = 268,994
Amount of land being transferred to HRM:
47,040 + 84290 = 131,330
Public Green Space:

All of the lands traded will be used for buildings. There is no net gain in public open green space.

FHC SAYS: It is projected that the peninsula population will be increased by 15,000 to 20,000 by 2020. Build a building on Common land and we lose that land for another 100 years.
Traffic:

A lot of details on what HRM is proposing for land use are about traffic:
widening Bell Road 38 feet to four lanes- to ease the flow of cars, buses, emergency vehicles and no kidding cyclists!;
new building design by the captial district health has to leave space to accommodate future traffic and intersection improvements at Robie and Bell Road and Bell Road at Trollope (a rotary anyone?)
FHC SAYS: Widening roads doesn’t work & is not sustainable.
It’s like going on a diet by loosening your belt – that’s not sustainable prosperity!
Health Care:

HRM staff cite CBC radio interviews as their source for evidence that the VG site is in bad conditions. They don’t cite the Dal Surgery 2007 report which gives many examples of how efficiencies could be improved within the existing infrastructure:
– completing the 6th floor of the Dartmouth General;
– increasing long-term care bed numbers,
– using efficiencies within the region etc.

The report mentions… ” with changing demographics, additional hospital capacity/beds is expected”
…”health care is a major economic contributor to HRM, the province and to peninsula Halifax and expansion at the QEII complex would add 2000-3000 staff”

FHC SAYS: Why would the city (and province) supporting a model that promotes illness as an economic driver rather than wellness?
Why isn’t Capital Health building up- increasing density, instead of out?
Are all Nova Scotians going to receive health care in Halifax?
Health Benefits from Public Green Space:
There is lots of evidence that even small parks in the heart of our cities can protect us from strokes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stress and perhaps even promote faster healing after surgery.

These benefits are also linked to reducing the “health gap” between rich and poor. A recent report in the British medical journal The Lancet (there are many others!) determined Green Space reduces the “health gap” between rich and poor.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr/-/2/hi/health/7714950.stm

FHC SAYS: Not everyone has a cottage or an out of town vacation. Public open space is free!
Many of Halifax residents live in apartments and don’t own cars, are seniors or students and live on fixed incomes.
Bill 204

In order to be able to SELL the Common, HRM requires an Act of the Legislature, Bill 204.
An Act to Enable the Transfer of Lands Necessary for the Expansion of the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre

At Law Amendments FHC stated:
The Act to enable the selling of part of the Halifax Common does not respect the 1763 vision of King George III nor the 1994 vision of citizens and Halifax city staff who developed the Halifax Common Plan.

FHC requested: …that the Act be reworded to allow the new Halifax Infirmary site to be leased to the province but keep the balance of the Queen Elizabeth High School land as public open green space.