FHC to HRM Staff- The Halifax Common Needs Good Planning Please!

FHC executive members recently met with HRM planning staff to remind them of the importance of good planning and protection for the future of the Halifax Common under the the following themes: Considering the Common as a whole; Protection; Flexible space; Expand the Purview and Participatory.

The Halifax Common grant in 1763 was for 235 acres ” for the use of the inhabitants of the town of Halifax as Common, forever.” This entire area was to be considered for planning purposes in the 1994 Halifax Common Plan.

!. Consider the Common as a whole. The historical boundary must be respected and highlighted, and an overall character needs to be established, not just for sidewalks, streets, and current public spaces, but to the extent possible for the Common as a whole.

2. Protection. It must be understood that without legislative protection, the dimishment of the Common, which has gone on for many years, will steadily continue in future years and generations. If so, one of the defining features of the urban form and history of Halifax will be irredeemably lost. Specific steps leading to the protection of the Common must be identified in the Plan. Protection does not need to lead to a freezing of the Common, but as with any heritage resource only the maintenance of the resource. These steps should include the need and means to return parts of the Common to public green space.

3. Flexible space. Specific private and programmed uses have always been part of the Common. However, if these are the primary or almost exclusive uses of the Common, true open, flexible, and non-programmed use of the Common by the public at large is limited to the same extent. As you noted, Covid has given us an unanticipated social experiment, and we have found that the public wants and needs public green space for spontaneous use. “The Great Lawn” currently shown on the plan for the North Common is insufficient. This needs to be expanded and enriched, and this type of space needs to be provided around the Common for multiple neighbourhood uses. In addition, the exclusive use of the Wanderer’s Grounds for professional soccer needs to be carefully examined.

4. Expand the purview. The Master Plan will be limited to the Common itself, but additional municipal properties in the vicinity of the Common should be included for consideration for both programmed and flexible public uses, given the intensive densification of this area and the lack of new public green space in Centre Plan B.

5. Participatory. The Common is for the “inhabitants of the Town of Halifax,” the public. You have the responsibility to make sure that the public fully understands and supports all directions of the Plan before they are made into a final document for Council approval. We do not feel you are currently at that point.