Halifax Common Master Plan, Wanderers Block & Public Garden Greenhouses Needs Full Public Consultation

FHC want the Friends of Public Gardens’ proposal for new greenhouses on the Wanderers Block to be included as part of the on-going public consultation for the Common Master Plan.

Plans for a Victorian greenhouse proposed by the Public Gardens Foundation on the Wanderers Grounds. – Public Gardens Foundation https://www.saltwire.com/halifax/news/8-million-year-round-greenhouse-proposed-for-wanderers-grounds-100796396/#.Y3agxJ3VqCM.twitter

While supportive of the concept FHC worries that so far HRM staff and consultants refuse to include the Wanderers Block during the any phase of the public consultation although asked to. The on-going lack of real and transparent public consultation has led to a loss of open space and failure to recapture or add to that space.

HRM’s secret dealings with Derek Martin’s Sports Atlantic have privatized the use of the Wanderers Playing Field. Martin is now looking to turn his for profit trial ‘temporary pop up stadium’ into a 10,000 seat permanent venue. “Because there is a history of projects proceeding on the Halifax Common on an ad hoc basis, there is a significant lack of cohesion within the Common – it is a collection of parts,” writes Howard Epstein, FHC Director.

According to a November 17 Herald article Area Councillor Waye Mason emailed the Community Planning and Economic Development Committee meeting that the city was working with proposals from the Halifax Lancers and the Wanderers Club. This is another example of HRM planning without a Plan or public knowledge. For Tim Brennan, vice-president of the Wanderers Lawn Bowls Club the greenhouse proposal to HRM was the first his group had heard of the plan or that it intended that the Club would be moving from the space they’ve occupied since 1887. It is worrying too that the clubhouse’s Heritage Property designation has been recently removed meaning it could be demolished.

See details in the FHC letter to HRM’s CPED Standing Committee and Jen Taplin’s Chronicle Herald article below.

November 16, 2022
Dear HRM Community Planning Economic Development Committee Members,

Re: Halifax Common Master Plan and the Wanderers Block
While Friends of Halifax Common support in principle the proposed plans put forward by the Friends of Public Gardens for new greenhouses and we commend their efforts to improve these facilities and hope this supports new opportunities for the public to enjoy the gardens we write to remind you of a couple of things.

HRM staff chose to exclude the Wanderers Block from the public consultation process when the Halifax Common Master Plan began in 2017. HRM Council had just finalized a private approval & contract with the private, for-profit Wanderers Club directly ahead of the consultation’s start. And even though a 2017 HRM staff report on the deal suggested the future of the Wanderers Field would be part of the process HRM staff subsequently refused to engage in this topic.

Last fall HRM Mayor and Council directed HRM staff to bring the draft Master Plan back to the public for further consultation. The public had not seen it for some time because of COVID and in fact there was insufficient time for Councillors to review the 500-page document. But HRM staff has not had any further public engagement. Any sense of “further collaborative planning” for the Wanderers Block has been with individual parties rather than the general public.

The Wanderers Block is a large area and with several significant parts including:

  • Natural History Museum
  • Halifax Lancers buildings and grounds
  • The HRM maintenance depot 
  • Lawn Bowling pitch
  • Power House
  •  The QEII 8-storey parking garage
  • The Wanderers Field

Because there is a history of projects proceeding on the Halifax Common on an ad hoc basis there is a significant lack of cohesion within the Common-it is a collection of parts. The draft Master Plan itself emphasizes the need for broader integration. 

FHC and the public are very concerned about the privatization of the Wanderers Field which began with a so-called temporary pop-up stadium. The professional sports team owner Derek Martin has been publicly advocating for a permanent stadium for 10,000.

HRM’s 2017 staff report provides a lot of evidence as to why if a temporary pop-up stadium were to be successful a subsequent permanent stadium would have to be on non-park land and re-located. Presently the Field, which was previously used to capacity by amateur players, is now exclusively used by the professional team.

We hope you will take this occasion to remind HRM staff that they were tasked to take the draft Halifax Common Master Plan back to the public for more public consultation. The Wanderers Block should be treated as part of the whole rather than risk fragmentation because of the lack of integrated planning. HRM staff need to work with the Friends of the Public Gardens to ensure that their proposal is included in a good fulsome public consultation.

Best wishes,
Howard Epstein, Director, Friends of Halifax Common

Chronicle Herald, Jen Taplin: $8 million year-round greenhouse proposed for Wanderers Grounds: https://www.saltwire.com/halifax/news/8-million-year-round-greenhouse-proposed-for-wanderers-grounds-100796396/#.Y3agxJ3VqCM.twitter

2022 FHC AGM- Tuesday November 29, 6:30-8:45 Halifax Public Library

Dear Friends of Halifax Common,

Please join FHC for our 2022 AGM.

The meeting’s programme will focus on the draft Halifax Common Master Plan. That’s because
In February HRM Mayor & Council asked HRM staff to undertake more public consultation on the draft Plan, but apart from an on-line survey HRM staff has been silent. See details here: https://www.shapeyourcityhalifax.ca/halifax-common-master-plan
After a quick update on FHC work there will be five short presentations by FHC Directors about the draft Plan. The goal is to help you better understand the draft so you can complete the survey and or send comments to HRM Staff and Council. We also want to hear from you so there will be a Q&A.
Date: Tuesday November 29th, 2022
Time:  6:30 – 8:45 
Place: Halifax  Central Library, Room 301, Spring Garden Road
Presentations: Halifax Common Master Plan: a 5 part guided tour
Discussion: Have Your Say
Presentation Topics: Planning for the Common
  • Protecting the Common as a Whole – Judith Fingard
  • Reclaim, Expand & Balance Use of Public Green Space – David Garrett
  • Clarifying the Public Role in Shaping the Common – Lawrence McEachern
  • Return Public Use to the Wanderers Grounds – Peggy Cameron & Peggy Smith
  • A Common Vision, Purpose, & Policy  – David Garrett
Many citizens feel helpless these days. Being active and engaged is a good countermeasure. Please plan to attend, hear ideas, join the discussions and have your say. 
Very best wishes,
On behalf of
Friends of Halifax Common

HRM Pulls Switcheroo on Premier / Minister with Common’s Pool Building

Say one thing, do another.  In April 2021 HRM’s Jacques Dube asked the NS Government’s Law Amendments for permission for HRM to construct a building to support the new pool on the Central Common. FHC expressed concerns to Law Amendments then; drawings showed two buildings; the public had never been consulted on the design; and the Master Plan public consultation was on-going. Now it seems HRM pulled a switcheroo on the NS Government— there are two, much larger buildings placed in a different location than HRM requested.

Initial Central Common pool and buildings design near Cogswell HRM proposed. (3)

Pool buildings being built- larger and in a different location

FHC has written to Premier and Minister of Municipal Affairs as they both oversee Municipalities and authorize decisions made by the Law Amendments Committee. In this case Bill 103 was an agreement to a particular request from HRM. But HRM did not proceed as it presented it would. 

We believe this “Say one thing, do another,” is too usual a form of governance. It erodes public trust in government. We have asked the Premier and Minister what they have to say about this? And we have also asked if they are willing to propose a remedy the situation such as creating legislative protection of the Halifax Common?  

Read FHC’s letter here Continue reading

FHC to Mayor/Council: Pls. Clarify Role of Senior Staff in Premier’s Panel on Housing

The Premier’s Housing Joint Task Force meeting minutes show senior HRM staff Kelly Denty, Executive Director of Planning and Development and Peter Duncan, Director of Infrastructure Planning led and fully participated in the site selection. The only participation from the general public was by proxy with an article from The Atlantic: Community Input is Bad, tabled at the April 28, 2022 meeting .

FHC has written to HRM Mayor & Council asking that they direct the Chief Administrative Officer, Jacques Dube:

  • To determine how the actions of the staff do or do not reflect the priorities of Council, i.e. why the selected areas are not those Council has in mind; 
  • That requires an explanation from the CAO on these matters, and that he will communicate the answers to the public. 

One of the sites fast-tracked by the Premier’s Housing Task Force is the 45ha Eisner’s Cove Marsh in Dartmouth, N.S. There the provincial government paid Clayton Developments ~$22 million to have 373 ‘attainable’ units (~$59,000/unit) in a total of 875 units.

Read the FHC letter here: Continue reading

Todd Veniotte & FCH: What’s Wrong with the HRM-Emera Secret Deal?

"EMERA" Oval

LOTS! HRM Mayor & Council ignored all FHC’s good reasons why making secret deals with any fossil fuel corp is bad news. So now Emera, NSPI’s parent—gets naming rights (along with some very cheap green washing) to the Halifax Common’s Oval. Can someone remind those HRM decision makers we’re in a climate crisis? And that decision-making for the Halifax Common shouldn’t be secret deals?

Here’s the FHC letter…

September 12, 2022

Dear Mayor and Council, 

Friends of Halifax Common write to ask that you do not approve the secret agreement with the fossil fuel company Emera to extend the sponsorship of the Halifax Common’s Oval. 

There are several questions we propose you consider. 

The Halifax Common Master Plan is still undergoing public consultation.
The matter of branding, advertising or sponsorship are subjects that should be vetted as part of this consultation. Should HRM Council be making this decision in secrecy and at this time?

No to Alcohol or Cigarette Advertising but Fossil Fuel Branding OK?
Naming rights is a form of advertisement. On public property it is a form of privatization, where companies gain access to the public viewer for private gain so as to buy positive affirmation or customers. What is viewed as appropriate or permissible advertising changes over time in response to societal values or even scientific evidence. Would HRM condone or permit alcohol, cigarette or pesticide advertising?

Today the ramifications of supporting and promoting fossil fuel companies on our collective future is much more in our collective thinking and decision making. Emera is the parent company of Nova Scotia Power Inc. one of the provinces leading polluters and greenhouse gas emitters. It is essentially a fossil fuel business that is negatively impacting human health and the climate crisis. France, Amsterdam, Sydney are jurisdictions that plan to no longer condone public advertising for fossil fuel companies. They are taking steps to regulate this. 

In June 2022, 34 Canadian health organizations representing 700,000 health workers across the country asked the government of Canada for a comprehensive ban on fossil fuel advertising – including ads for gasoline, fossil fuel utilities, and gas-powered vehicles https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/canadian-doctors-call-for-tobacco-style-ban-on-fossil-fuel-advertising-in-canada-867532772.html  Does extending a secret contract to Emera to greenwash a corporation at this time positively reflect the values that HRM purports in its commitment to be a climate change leader?

Public Concern Over Secrecy
To be clear despite misinformation by some, Friends of Halifax Common has never been against the Oval (https://halifaxcommon.ca/tag/the-oval/)  and FHC did not engage in the 2011 public discussion about the first agreement with Emera and Molson. But as this is some time ago, are you aware of the public concern that the decision was made with a “secrecy that came to be seen as emblematic of a growing lack of transparency at city hall?”  (https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/halifax-mayor-on-thin-ice-in-outdoor-rink-controversy/article4197223/)

Or did you know that in 2013, Solidarity Halifax a volunteer citizens group, led a popular contest to un-brand and re-name the Oval because of how unsuitable both the process and choice were? (https://solidaritykh.org/2013/02/renaming-our-oval-whats-in-a-name/)

The Oval was built with public money, on public land and a comparatively small amount of corporate money. Can you consider honouring the sentiment of the 1763 land grant and keep the name as the Halifax Common Oval and the Oval as a short form?

Unless extending a secret agreement with a fossil fuel company to brand a publicly funded recreational facility on the Halifax Common is the legacy you as HRM Mayor and Council want to leave, we hope you can re-consider the process and the outcome.

Yours truly, 

FHC Directors

News 95.7 Todd Veinotte re Wanderers Grounds Privatization

News 95.7 Todd Veinotte and FHC director Peggy Cameron. FHC director talk about why the Wanderers Grounds must remain public. It’s been used to full capacity by amateur players for many sports- all ages, any gender. COVID showed us there are more and more demands on the little remaining public space on the Halifax Common. There isn’t any room to share  any field with a private developer. HRM can work to manage the developers’ need for a permanent 10,000 seat stadium and for $20 million by finding a better location.

The Wanderers Grounds was used to full capacity by amateur players until HRM Mayor & Council gave it over to a private developer for his profit for $2400/game.