Category Archives: OPINION

Friends of the Halifax Common send letters to the media and to public officials regarding protection of and development of the Halifax Common.

FHC to Premier-Don’t Approve a Pool Building Before Public Consultation and a Plan

FHC are asking the Nova Scotia Legislature not to approve legislation to permit new building on the Central Common for HRM’s proposed Aquatic Centre. A public consultation process for the Common Master Plan begun in Dec 2017 has never come back to the citizens for final input or approval.

This map shows a synthesis of what was agreed on for the favoured elements-with no change to the building footprint

Despite there being no final Plan, the Minister of Municipal Affairs, Brendan McGuire, has introduced Bill 103 to amend HRM’s Charter and give permission for a building and fencing for an aquatic centre on the Central Common.

“It is very concerning that HRM staff has not communicated with residents about the Halifax Common Master Plan since the summer of 2019,” says FHC director and long-time Halifax resident Alan Ruffman. “Public consultation is an obligation that HRM owes its citizens under the HRM Charter.”

The 2017 Master Plan process kicked off with the announcement that HRM would be building a new aquatic centre before the public were even consulted. But the following public comments about the aquatic centre recorded by HRM staff at the December 2017 meeting reflect their concern about this and asked that HRM “Wait for Master Plan.”

  • I would like any decisions about the pool or the pavilion (to be delayed) until after the full master plan process complete
  • Wait for a plan, no more building!
  • This should go next to Centennial Pool and expand the Common. This should not be determined as a priority until the public consultation complete
  • Nothing until there is a plan. Put this in stage 2
  • Why are we talking about a pool’s amenities when we’ve not decided to have a big pool?

That public consultation process did not find that there should be a new building and the design for the aquatic centre area that emerged from that time did not show a change in the building footprint. 

HRM does not have authority to build structures on the Halifax Common without legislative permission. This is in keeping with the Halifax Common being a gift from King George III, a land grant of 240 acres “to and for the use of the inhabitants of the Town of Halifax, as Commons forever.

“Why aren’t the public being consulted on this?” Says architect and FHC director David Garrett who is concerned that the final Halifax Common Masterplan hasn’t come back to the citizens. 

Garrett says, “This situation is similar to circumstance with the support building for the Oval but when that permission was approved the Legislature had a plan of what the building and its footprint would be. This time it is not known what the Legislature will be approving.”

An Act for protection of the Dartmouth Common was passed by this Legislature in 1986, but there is NONE that offers protection for the Halifax Common. 

Less than 20% of the Halifax Common remains as public open space. In total at least 20% of the 240 acre grant is used as surface parking. 

In 2020, without public consultation the provincial government announced plans for two new parking garages costing $100 million with 1500 vehicles stalls as part of the QEII redevelopment. These will be directly across from the proposed aquatic centre.

Friends of Halifax Common have asked the Premier and NS Legislature numerous time for protection of the Halifax Common, most recently in March 2021. Increasingly health benefits from access to public open space are being acknowledged especially in the time of COVID.

Letter to Premier Rankin: Cancel $100M Parking Garages

Friends of Halifax Common has sent a new letter to Premier Rankin requesting that he cancel the  ~$100 million parking garages planned for the QEII re-development. FHC respectfully ask for a better choice for the future and for health care dollars.

  • There is a much greater need for direct-to-patient health care over unnecessary parking structures. 
  • Nova Scotia is moving away from balanced Budgets because of the COVID crisis and need to avoid unnecessary expenditures that add to Debt. 
  • Approximately 3,000 citizens signed a petition against the NS Museum garage.
  • Policy priorities set out in the Speech from the Throne needing investment, and especially for the goal of getting off carbon, are inconsistent with building parking garages.
  • Traffic emissions are a principal source of air pollution and the leading cause for Canada having one of the world’s highest rates of new childhood asthma. 
  • Each year ~36,000 Canadians die an early death from diseases related to burning fossil fuels- for perspective COVID has caused 22,000 deaths. Nova Scotia has one of the world’s worst jurisdictions for vehicle fuel consumption and emissions.

As COVID has reminded us worldwide, access to public open space has enormous proven and necessary health benefits. Parking garages do not.

FHC Letter to Centre Plan Team Re Package B (Feb. 24 2021)

Centre Plan Team:
The Friends of the Halifax Common (FHC) wish to re-confirm our belief that while Package B of the Centre Plan is notable in many respects, the current draft does not adequately address the need for green public recreational space within an increasingly densified Regional Centre. The need for public open space in urban areas is widely recognized and documented, particularly by the W.H.O. in their study, “Urban Green Spaces and Health: A Review of Evidence.” Public parks provide a balance to the built environment; in fact development and open space are opposite sides of the same coin.

We believe that the need for green public space must be detailed at every level of Centre Plan Package B from Core Concepts to Implementation. Without this level of detail, the achievement of a balanced urban environment will not be achieved, it will be outpaced by rapid development. Opportunities to enrich our environment with public spaces both large and small will be lost. Continue reading

2020 – FHC Centre Plan Submission

A Park within a Park was promised In return for the School for the Blind lands  with 200 trees, 200 parking places, a scented garden & a landcaped path along a block of Tower Road that was de-listed. The public reluctantly agreed to the plan but the promises weren’t fulfilled.

Dear Centre Plan Staff,

Please find included in this email two previous submissions from Friends of Halifax Common (2018 & 2016) . Our suggestions seem even more relevant in this time so we ask that you will please take the time to re-read these.

Green Space: As the Centre Plan intends to add 15-30,000 new residents to the area it is imperative that there be greater attention given to protecting existing green space and to increase it. This is for all the benefits known — human mental and physical health, safe social distancing, improved walkability and active transportation, habitat, gardening, coping with climate change etc.

Health Benefits: A 2016 World Health Organization[i] report suggests sizes of and distance from green space. ie 5 minutes from 1ha is one standard. It also emphasizes connectivity as well as buffer zones for green space – these should be adopted as goals of the Centre Plan. Continue reading

CBC-Maritime Noon-Why Old Buildings Matter

In 1960s the Cogswell “slum clearances” demolished 3,000 buildings with affordable housing, small scale businesses and diversity. Building & construction is responsible for 39% of greenhouse gas emissions. photo-Stephen Archibald-Brunswick Street, Halifax 1965/66

Listen to CBC’s Bob Murphy and guests Tom Urbaniak, professor at Cape Breton University and Tom Morrison, engineer at Heritage Standing Inc. discuss the multiple advantages of keeping old buildings-economic, social, cultural and very important – environment and climate change.

Cancel the Proposed WSP 23-storey high-rise

The Westwood high-rise tower at 2032-2050 Robie Street has already been turned down by HRM Mayor and Council. Height for this location was to be restricted to 6-storeys. The Development Agreement is discretionary-Mayor and Council should cancel the project.

Dear HRM Planners, Mayor and Council
Re: Cancel the Proposed WSP high-rise- Case 22927

The proposed Westwood high-rise tower at 2032-2050 Robie Street has already been turned down by HRM Mayor and Council. Height for this location was to be restricted to 6-storeys. Council’s decision to allow a Development Agreement is discretionary and should be cancelled. It is effectively raising the dead. This Development Agreement not only denies the earlier council decision and staff recommendations to limit the height to 6 storeys, it makes a mockery of public participation by voiding the historic and more recent input of citizens. 

Values reflected by statements such as Councillor Smith’s June 2019 motion “In recognition of the substantial investment made in the preparation of a planning applications for the site located at 2032- 2050 Robie Street, Halifax” beg the question whose interest are Mayor, Council and staff representing?  The owner’s investment of money in thinking about what to do with their land is not a legitimate basis for approving a project.

Are residents of the area being given recognition for their substantial investment in their homes, livelihoods, neighbourhoods, community services and time to participate in HRM planning consultations and processes? Continue reading