FHC – Being For Good Public Process — Not Against Oval

June 19, 2018

Dear Mayor and Council Re- The Oval

I believe it is always best to have public perception reflect reality. At last evening’s public hearing there were a couple of references by council that members of the audience had been against the Oval but were now presenting that they were concerned about the effect of the proposed 25-storey building’s shadow on it. It is unfortunate that Friends of Halifax Common were not granted their request in 2011 to speak before Council about their ideas for the Oval and some Councillors may have the wrong impression of the position FHC has with respect to the Oval.

To clarify any confusion about the position of Friends of Halifax Common on the Oval please find attached the FHC press release from April 2011. It reflects the position of the FHC then and now. You will read that we included comments by Derek Hawes a refrigeration expert who had been working throughout the province to help arenas/rinks reduce GHG emissions and improve energy efficiency. His information about 140 homes being able to be heated from waste heat is what led the FHC to support the Oval be located at the Central Common. Waste heat from the Oval would have been sufficient to heat all of the institutional buildings (hospitals, school, museum, pavilion, CBC TV) in the area. These were details FHC brought forward when we voluntarily went to a number of community council meetings (because we were unable to speak to Council of the Whole) to suggest a better process would result in a better outcome.

It was the architectural firm DRSA that had a volunteer team of architects come forward in support of the Wanderers Grounds as a location for the Oval. They were brave to do so at that time because in Halifax alternative positions often get framed as being anti. Ironically they were later awarded the RFP for the new building on the North Common although they considered this to be an inferior location. FHC may have mentioned this as a solution, but it was generally referenced as being this firm’s idea.

Friends of Halifax Common


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FHC did oppose the construction of a new building on the North Common. Our position was always that the existing Pavilion building next to the skatepark be re-built or repurposed and used for a general recreational facility. This is where the majority of hard-surfaced infrastructure already is. We also proposed that if there was a broader consultation other ideas would come forward. For example Winnipeg has a yearly architectural competition for the design of temporary warming huts that create a special creative but functional solution. In response to the RFP from HRM FHC critiqued the building plan for its lack of public space-it primarily serves the needs of support staff and equipment and zamboni storage.

These details may be too nuanced for the press or Save the Oval members to have paid attention to however I believe it is worth while trying to represent the facts rather than the rumours in any discussion. Perhaps what this speaks most strongly to is the failure of good process and transparency in decisions with respect to the Halifax Common which often results in short-term solutions, polarized perceptions and rumour- mongering.

Open discussion with citizens can be the opportunity for good ideas. For instance had the Oval been located on the Central Common the waste heat could now be used for a year-round heated outdoor pool at the proposed new aquatic centre.

And the Common Roots Urban Farm is the outcome of an idea and the work of FHC. FHC had several meetings with some visionary folks at Capital Health to encourage them to use the former QEHS site as a garden. After we convinced them to proceed it was our group that introduced Jayme Melrose to them and the rest is history.

As with last evening’s presentation FHC’s ask has always been that the City honour its 1994 commitment to develop a master plan for the 235 acre Halifax Common in conjunction with overall planning of the city such that there is best outcome for the common good. Adding an unsolicited 25-storey building that shadows the Oval does not meet that criteria.

Thank you,

Peggy Cameron
Co-chair, Friends of Halifax Common

Friends of Halifax Common


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April 27, 2011

(Halifax) In its rush to Save the Oval, the HRM staff report on the Canada Games Oval recommending a single centralized skating facility on the North Halifax Common has miscalculated the price tag and budget implications.

“One cost missing is NSPI’s forecasted 20% electricity rate increase by 2015,” says Alan Ruffman, Executive member of Friends of Halifax Common.

“Another is the increased cost of energy consumption and maintenance of such a large outdoor ice surface when Environment Canada is telling us that, thanks to climate change, we’ve just come through the warmest winter on record- the 14th in a row, and one with many extreme weather events that bring high winds, high rain and snowfalls and lots of power outages,” concludes Ruffman.

Derek Hawes, project manager for the Ice Rink Energy Programme that is operated through the Recreation Facility Association of Nova Scotia, raised several concerns with HRM about the oval.

“This one facility has a similar refrigeration capacity as eight indoor community arenas, and in another location such as the Central Common or Beasley Field, the waste heat could be used to heat approximately 140 homes or the equivalent number of public buildings such as hospitals or a school,” said Mr Hawes.

“I suggested a number of other skating options, including skating paths in Victoria Park, on the Grand Parade or other community destinations where the waste heat could be used, but for the staff, the oval on the Common was a done deal,” Mr. Hawes continued.

Hawes is also concerned about the quality of the refrigeration units the city purchased: “I have reason to believe the long-term operating and maintenance costs will be significantly higher than staff projected.”

“Unfortunately, Council was misled and based their decision on misinformation provided in the staff report- If the oval goes ahead, it would be the most expensive and environmentally unfriendly rink ever built in the province.” concluded Mr. Hawes.

Friends of Halifax Common presented at several HRM Community Councils meetings to urge more time be taken so the best decision is made. Members suggest that the oval could be a focus for the redesign of the Central Common or, as proposed in the original plan for the Canada Winter Games Skating oval, to have a network of community neighbourhood skating venues throughout HRM instead of forcing everyone to drive to one destination.

The North Common is less than one-third of the original public open space on the Halifax Common.

“The skating oval is another example of where the HRM staff are rushing into a poor planning decision for the Halifax Common instead of respecting a long-term master-plan,” said Beverly Miller, FHC Co-chair. “Public open space on the Halifax Common will be lost, or continue to be covered with concrete or remain under threat of commercialization as long as there is no proper public process,” concluded Miller.

Theestimateformakingtheovalpermanentisapproximately$6milliondollars. Althoughsponsorshavecome forward, all HRM taxpayers will be contributing $8 per $100,000 property value. No estimates have been provided for multiple outdoor skating rinks throughout HRM.

For information on the Friends of Halifax Common: http://halifaxcommon.ca/index.html

Friends of Halifax Common


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