Tag Archives: 1994 Halifax Common Plan

HRM Adopts Piecemeal Halifax Common Master Plan – No Legal Protection

The Halifax Common Master Plan Review and Implementation Plan was adopted by HRM Council on January 23, 2024. In February 2022 HRM Council directed staff to undertake further public consultation and review as the masterplan process begun in 2017. The public had not seen the plan since pre Covid and had little awareness of it. HRM staff chose to not host any public information or consultation sessions but sought feed back via a Shape Your City on-line survey for 9 months.
The presentation to HRM Council by HRM staff Carol Kodiak Roberts begins at 4:37. Council comments begin with Waye Mason at 4:48. Most of the discussion is around the stadium. HRM Staff are awkward in their answers. Councillor Mancini is excited. Councillor Patty Cuttell gives the best insight to “All winners no losers,” (5:06) Continue reading

FHC Writes to Ms. Maggie MacDonald, HRM Executive Director Parks & Recreation

FHC sent a letter to HRM’s Executive Director of Parks & Recreation Ms Maggie MacDonald to with information for her use in writing a staff report for the HRM Standing Committee on Community Planning and Economic Development about the Wanderers Grounds, particularly in the context of the proposal Mr. Derek Martin made for a long-term lease of a publicly funded stadium.

As the matter of the public funding stadiums is as yet untested in Halifax we recommend the Journal of Economic Surveys’ February 2022 article, The Impact of Professional Sports Franchises and Venues on Local Economies: A Comprehensive Survey. This recent analysis of 130 studies on the economic impact of publicly financed sports venue…

“…confirms the decades-old consensus of very limited economic impacts of professional sports teams and stadiums. Even with added non-pecuniary social benefits from quality-of-life externalities and civic pride, welfare improvements from hosting teams tend to fall well short of covering public outlays. Thus, the large subsidies commonly devoted to constructing professional sports venues are not justified as worthwhile public investments.”
(https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4022547)

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Todd Veinotte & FHC’s Howard Epstein re HRM’s Proposed $40m Stadium Build

Listen to Todd Veinotte’s interview with Howard Epstein about SEA/Derek Martin’s pitch for HRM to spend $40 million on a permanent stadium for his private use and profit for thirty years. 

Watch Derek Martin/SEA pitch to HRM Community Planning and Economic Development standing committee along with presentations by Howard Epstein starts at 13:03, David Bentley and Vince Calderhead here:

The Wanderers Grounds was fully used by amateur players prior ot HRM’s deal for a ‘temporary pop-up stadium’ – HRM’s 2017 staff report stated that if it was successful was to go elsewhere, no park space would be lost.

Todd Veinotte- Interview re Ron Pink’s letter to HRM on Privatization of Wanderers Grounds

In 2018 just before the start of public consultation for the Halifax Common Master Plan HRM signed a contract with a private, professional, for-profit soccer club for a temporary “pop-up” stadium on the Wanderers Grounds.  According to the 2017 HRM staff report, prior to this agreement amateur players of all ages and gender fully used the field for football, touch football, rugby, lacrosse, frisbee and soccer— an estimated 325 hours. (Even more had the field been maintained.) The report also states that if the club was successful they would have to move elsewhere-no park space would be lost. Public tax dollars paid for initial ~$1million dollars in field improvements, and since then for on-going maintenance and utilities. There has been little to no public access. And no public consultation. With thousands more residents moving to the Peninsula we need public open green space more than ever.

The Wanderers Grounds was fully used by amateur players like this QEHS football team (2015) before HRM paid hundreds of thousands for field upgrades, lights, scoreboard and on-going utility/maintenance for a professional private for-profit soccer team takeover of the public-land.

FHC Response to HRM’s ‘in principle’ Halifax Common Master Plan

We invite you to read these detailed comments on the ‘in principle’ Halifax Common Master Plan (the “Plan”) that FHC recently sent to HRM staff.  Collectively it took us thousands of hours. It is comprehensive and worth a look!  (There is a short summary below the map.)

Halifax Common with its boundaries between Robie, Cunard, Park and South Streets, as well as land leased to the Horticultural Society for the Public Gardens, area used for cricket grounds, area used for military exercising grounds, and the water-course from the Egg Pond to the Public Garden pond to Freshwater Brook (water features aren’t labelled).

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Send Your Comments to Help Make the Halifax Common Plan Better!

HRM is continuing its ‘public consultation’ on the Halifax Common draft plan via an on-line survey or comments until February 28, 2023.  Thanks to Mayor Savage  and HRM Council supporting HRM’s Community Economic Development standing

The Halifax Common grant in 1763 was for 235 acres ” to and 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.

committee’s excellent recommendation in January 2022 to bring it back to the public for feedback. (view video of committee meeting

This plan is critical to the future of the Halifax Common. That’s why we want HRM staff to do more than an online survey or emailed comments. That’s no substitute for public presentations and engagement. We are also very concerned that HRM has not consulted with the public about the Wanderers Block and that it is engaging in side deals.

Below are draft notes you can use to help you to write more detailed comments to HRM. Please email commonplan@halifax.ca to ask for actual public presentation(s) of the revised document followed with opportunities for public feedback. And to also ask that there be public consultation on the Wanderers Block.
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FHC Letter to Mayor: Private Permanent Stadium on Public Land is Foul Play

FHC call on you to confirm to developer Derek Martin that his request to make his private “temporary” pop-up stadium on the public Wanderers Grounds permanent and for $20 million of public money are both not going to happen. Mr. Martin needs to purchase his own venue with his own money, not continue to make a profit by privatizing the public field. No level of government should be considering giving him public money for his private stadium. Here’s why:

The Wanderers Grounds was used to full capacity by amateur players (1) until HRM Mayor & Council gave it over to a developer for his private profit @ $2400/game.

Amateur Players: A 2017 HRM staff report states that the Wanderers Grounds was used to full capacity by amateur players (football, lacrosse, rugby, touch football, ultimate frisbee and soccer) averaging 325 hours/year and near its limit. [1] These players book the field and pay HRM for its use. Any limitation in the amateur player use was simply due to the field not being well maintained. The Wanderers Grounds is one of the few remaining amateur playing fields on the Halifax Common. HRM intends to add 35,000 residents to the Centre Plan area. Less than 20% of the Halifax Common is public space. It is not appropriate to privatize the Wanderers Grounds for a for-profit private business deal.

Private Use for Private Profit: HRM Mayor & Council contracted the Wanderers Grounds to the developer for his private profit initially for $1200 and then for $2400/game, without any public consultation. This contract has never factored in the value of the land itself. As an example, around the same time as the privatization began a similar city-owned central property, the former St Pat’s High School sold for ~$32 million.

Better Options: FHC wrote to you when the developer put forward his business plans suggesting HRM use a better process to determine both the location and the developer. For example, an RFP with specific criteria to be evaluated. https://www.halifaxcommon.ca/tag/wanderers-grounds/page/2/

FHC also met with the developer Derek Martin in 2016 to suggest better options than privatizing the Wanderers Grounds including: partnering with the Universities to improve their sports field venues; finding central locations with available land: ie Burnside, Dartmouth Crossing, Exhibition Park or the Stanfield Airport.

Misleading the Public: Mr. Martin stated at the meeting with FHC that he intended to take over the Grounds as a permanent location. He named his professional team the Wanderers Club. The pretext of a “pop-up” stadium to be removed seasonally fell apart after one season. HRM revised the contract taking out this requirement. Martin’s recent public claims that his proposed use is consistent with historic uses of the property is simply not accurate This is not just from the professional/amateur point of view but also from an exclusive use point of view. Mr. Martin’s denial that his use has been exclusive are also not accurate. Two FOIPOP’s done by FHC show that Sports Atlantic has almost entirely excluded amateur players other than a very few sponsored events. [5]

HRM Public Consultation: The 2017 HRM staff report confirmed HRM’s commitment to include questions on the eventual desired use of the Wanderers Grounds as part of the Halifax Common Master Plan public consultation [2]. Just ahead of any public consultation HRM permitted the temporary pop-up stadium by contract. That was just as HRM closed the field in 2017 for improvements spending ~$1 million of public money. During the Master Plan public consultation both HRM staff and facilitators at the public consultation refused requests to include the field as part of the consultation. [3] All of the decisions regarding the Wanderers Grounds lease arrangements with Martin have taken place without public consultation and outside of the Halifax Common Master Plan process.

HRM Staff Report-Larger Permanent Stadium Would be Located Elsewhere: The 2017 HRM staff report also noted that hosting a professional soccer team at the Wanderers Grounds is not consistent with the more general use as the field must be maintained to a higher standard and overuse can impact the field.[4] HRM’s 2017 staff report stated that a “temporary stadium on the Wanderers Grounds will also help indicate the viability of a larger permanent stadium in the region, which would have to be located elsewhere in an appropriate non-parkland context, and where more land is available.” [6].

Poor Location: The inappropriateness of the location is already notable. There is negative impact from noise and traffic in a densely populated area next to hospitals, the Public Gardens and the Halifax Lancers. The Lancer horses have to have ear plugs during games. The organization needs more space. Where is HRM’s consideration for their needs? They are strictly non-profit and do tremendous public service with their many programmes, especially for other-abled. There is also the negative visual impact of an oversized structure with a lot of clutter and 60 portapotties that is already significant, from all views. 10,000 spectators would only add to the harm.

Public Health: During COVID, it was again confirmed that public open space is critical for mental and physical health. Paying to watch professional soccer at the expense of shutting out amateur players is not sensible, practical or affordable. Asking for $20 million of public money shows how out of touch the developer is with what our society needs at a time where almost 600 citizens are homeless.

On-going Halifax Common Master Plan Public Consultation: In a Feb 8, 2022 directive HRM staff was instructed to “undertake public consultation and a review of the Master Plan and return to Regional Council within 18 months with the results of the consultation and any recommended amendments, along with implementation plans as may be advised.”

HRM has enabled the Wanderers Club to grow a huge fan base, garner corporate sponsorships and use connections and PR to cultivate the notion that the permanent location of the Wanderers Club on the Wanderers Grounds is the next logical step. Evidently there is the same presumption for $20 million public money. At the same time all amateur players have been locked out of play since 2016 and no longer have a cohesive voice. It would be inappropriate for the on- going public consultation to engage on the issue of the permanent stadium.

What HRM should do is acknowledge the importance of on-going public access to public space on the Halifax Common and its critical role in public health. Please remember HRM’s initial commitment was for a temporary removeable stadium. As per the HRM staff report the “temporary stadium on the Wanderers Grounds was to indicate the viability of a larger permanent stadium in the region, which would have to be located elsewhere in an appropriate non-parkland context, and where more land is available.

According to the 1994 Halifax Common Master Plan the city committed to plan for the entire Halifax Common granted “to and for the use of the inhabitants of the town of Halifax as Common, forever” in 1763. To date almost all aspirational plans laid out for the Halifax Common by HRM have been ignored, contravened, dropped or still just aspirational.

Less than 20% of the Halifax Common remains as public open space. We ask that there is a firm end to this misappropriation of a public venue. We encourage HRM to work with the developer to find a suitable location. We are not opposed to a professional soccer league but we are opposed to the process that has led us to this place and we are opposed to the continued use of public land for private profit.

Regards, FHC Directors

Peggy Cameron, Howard Epstein, Judith Fingard, David Garrett, Peggy Smith, William Breckenridge, Lawrence McEachern, Beverly Miller, Alan Ruffman,
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

  1. p. 5, HRM Staff Report, June 20, 2017
    https://www.halifax.ca/sites/default/files/documents/city-hall/regional- council/170620rc14113.pdf

  2. Ibid, p. 9

  3. FHC raised this at the HRM public consultation facilitated by Co-Lab and was told this was not part of the consultation.

  4. p. 5, HRM Staff Report, June 20, 2017
    https://www.halifax.ca/sites/default/files/documents/city-hall/regional- council/170620rc14113.pdf

  5. FHC conducted two FOIPOPs asking for a record of games and events.

  6. p. 6, HRM Staff Report, June 20, 2017
    https://www.halifax.ca/sites/default/files/documents/city-hall/regional- council/170620rc14113.pdf

 

Todd Veinotte- Why Halifax Common Pool Needs a Better Location

Halifax Central Common Pool re-do — good idea bad location.

News 97.5 Todd Veinotte explores FHC’s concerns and better ideas for where / how HRM could locate the $16 million dollar pool. (Hint: not next to a traffic corridor & 1500 cars worth of pollution)

Halifax Common Pool – HRM Dives into the Wrong End of Planning Process

(Ki’jupuk / Halifax) HRM’s ad hoc planning (get it done) vs long term (do it right) once again drowns potential for the best outcome — in this case for the Halifax Common’s new aquatic centre.

Your car, my lungs –a powerful mural by Marta Frej, via @WarszawaBezSmog)

While always supportive of and recognizing the need for a new public outdoor aquatic centre, Friends of Halifax Common continue to be disappointed with a process that now has HRM diving into an unsuitable location with an unknown building design for the Central Common swimming pool re-design. 

Ahead of any public consultation HRM established a new aquatic centre as a top objective of the 2017 Halifax Common Master Plan. On-going disregard for public consultation now lands the $16 million-dollar project ahead of a final Halifax Common Master Plan.

This predetermined outcome ignores considering other locations that would increase public open green space and save money with rationalized facility use. It also ignores the Feb 8, 2022 directive HRM staff received to “undertake public consultation and a review of the Master Plan and return to Regional Council within 18 months with the results of the consultation and any recommended amendments, along with implementation plans as may be advised.”

Most importantly better location choices would avoid the well-known harmful health impact of traffic pollution, noise and accidents that will result from the addition of at least 1500 cars using the QEII hospital’s two new $100 million dollar parking garages directly across the street. That the parkades are associated with the hospital redevelopment will not alleviate the grave and known impact that traffic emissions have on children’s health.

Locating the pool near the Citadel High School could have budgeted financial support for the completion of the upper floor(s) of the HRM recreational space inside the school. HRM has paid 7% of the building’s operational fee since 2007 but the upper ~10,500 ft2  remains unfinished and unused. 

Or locating the pool on the Centennial Pool parking lot could have expanded public green space by landscaping/naturalizing that area. And use or expansion of the Centennial’s staff offices, change rooms and washroom facilities could have reduced overall building requirements and facility costs.

HRM staff’s record of public comments at the December 2017 consultation raised concerns about predeterming the prioritization of the pool and many asked that HRM “Wait for Master Plan.” That public consultation did not find that there should be a new building. The design for the aquatic centre area from that time did not show an increase in the building footprint which evidently is now two buildings. 

There has been no public consultation on the present building design- an architectural black box – even though citizens will presumably be users of the year-round community room, kitchenette and performance space. Limiting public consultation can only curtail the imagination and creativity that might lead us to one day design and approve a natural, wild-space play area.

For the future FHC looks forward to a complete, approved and registered Halifax Common Master Plan. That final Plan should reflect proper and fully engaged public consultation and be informed by the 1994 Halifax Common Plan, not the desires of HRM staff. A Plan that protects and plans for the entire Halifax Common granted “to and for the use of the inhabitants of the town of Halifax as Common, forever” in 1763. And a Plan that is in place before beginning to implement, build, renovate or achieve any agreed-upon new elements to the Halifax Common. 

HRM Promises Further Public Consultation (Kind of)

HRM’s Council adopted the new 500 page Halifax Common Master Plan and has promised further public consultation (kind of). Thank you to the ~100 citizens who wrote to help make this possible.
 
Friends of Halifax Common Executive have at least five major concerns about the plan as grounds for further public consultation. Here’s our summary:
1. Needs to Come back to the Public for further Public Consultation
2. Need for the Master Plan to Better Reflect Public Input and plan for the
entire 240 acres grant not just the left over bits.
3. Need to Address Major Imminent Disruptors to the Common
4. Need to Protect, Reclaim and Expand the Halifax Common
5. Need for Permanent HRM Citizens’ Stewardship Committee:
More details are below.
(Review the Plan here.)

As we’ve all learned during COVID access to public open space is vital for our physical and mental health. That’s why we need to protect it and plan for more.
 Thank you, FHC Executive

Halifax Common in 1859 with its boundaries between Robie, Cunard, Park and South Streets, as well as land leased to the Horticultural Society for the Public Gardens, area used for cricket grounds, area used for military exercising grounds, and the water-course from the Egg Pond to the pond in the Public Garden to Freshwater Brook (water features are not labelled).

Details below:
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Halifax Common Master Plan Approval Delayed by HRM Standing Committee

HRM’s Community and Economic Development Standing Committee met on Wednesday, Dec 8, and agreed to delay approving the Halifax Common Master Plan just released on Friday, December 3, 2021. FHC’s Howard Epstein and Alan Ruffman were among several speakers and concerned groups including the Halifax Lancers These speakers asked that the draft Plan not go forward to HRM Council until an appropriate review of the  lengthy (496 pp) document could take place. Thank you to the many who wrote to ask for the delay.

The Halifax Common grant in 1763 was for 235 acres " to and 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.

The Halifax Common grant in 1763 was for 240 acres ” to and 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.

Howard Epstein, presented on behalf of FHC as follows:

Submission to HRM Community Planning and Economic Development Standing Committee, Re: Halifax Common Master Plan

Proposal—Friends of Halifax Common asks that the Committee refer the draft Master Plan back to HRM staff to conduct further public consultations and receive comments, over a period of at least two months. There are three main reasons for this: Continue reading

FHC Submission to HRM Review of Regional Plan

We are deeply concerned about recent incursions into the Halifax Common…

The Halifax Common grant in 1763 was for 235 acres ” to and 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.

…from proposed multiple high rises (16-, 28-, 29- and 30-storey and ~900 cars – similar in mass to the Nova Centre) at the corner of Spring Garden Road and Robie Street; the expansion of major QE2 facilities onto parkland adjacent to the Natural History Museum and along Bell Road with two parking garages; the exclusive use of the Wanderer’s Grounds by a professional soccer team; the overwhelming use of the remaining open space of the Common of organized sports and programmed uses; the eviction of the Common Roots Urban Farm from the area and the slow progress of the Halifax Common Master Plan by HRM Staff begun in 2017 and that has been without significant public input for nearly two years. Continue reading

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

The Halifax Common grant in 1763 was for 235 acres ” to and 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.

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: Consider the Common as a whole; Protection; Flexible space; Expand the Purview and Participatory.

!. 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. Continue reading

Carlton Block’s “Upward Creep” Proposals Ignore Both Public Concerns and HRM Regional Plan Policy Considerations

Media Release
July 4, 2021 –For immediate release

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) HRM’s response to significant public concerns over two massive Spring Garden Road high-rises that will overwhelm and negatively impact the entire historic Carlton Street neighbourhood has been to give the developers even more height.

Regional Plan Policy CH-16-Development Abutting Heritage Properties- 5 guidelines are ignored

On June 23, the HRM Heritage Advisory Committee moved the Rouvails proposal-Case 20761, at Robie Street, College Street and Carlton Street a step closer to approval, with the new heights now increased to 28 and 29 storeys plus penthouses from the original proposal of 20 and 26 storeys. This development will be adjacent to Dexel’s proposal- Case 20218, for two towers originally proposed as 16 and 30 storeys but now also approved for up to 90m or 29 storeys plus penthouses. Continue reading

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.” Continue reading