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.
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.