Tag Archives: Halifax Common Master Plan

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

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

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.”

The FHC letter include comments on public engagement; setting, design, turf; 2017 HRM staff report; future expansion; the Common as green space; health and environment; the 2023 FHC submission #5 Feb 2023 CPED on Master Plan; and, a letter of objection from Friends of the Public Gardens (Letter_HRM_WanderersGrounds)

Derek Martin/SEA’s ask for $40 million of public money for his permanent stadium to further privatize the Wanderers Grounds for thirty years came at the same week that HRM Council debated designating two North Common baseball diamonds as tent sites for the homeless.

Here’s the letter:2023 FHC Wanderers Stadium, Ms. Macdonald

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.

FHC to HRM Community Planning & Economic Develoment Standing Committee

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 and on-going utility/maintenance for a professional private for-profit soccer team takeover.

Dear HRM CPED Committee Members:

Re- Wanderers Grounds – FHC Comments

FHC’s FOIPOP information received Sept 11and attached below shows that the Wanderers Grounds was used almost exclusively by Derek Martin/SEA activities with virtually nothing for amateur players. This is similar to two previous FOIPOPs. Martin/SEA private-for-profit stadium is consistently shutting out amateur players year after year.
ARG-23.24-00118 – Response Letter 00118 – Responsive Record (In Full)

HRM’s 2017 staff report wrote:
◦ The Wanderers Grounds was fully used to its full capacity (75% due to poor field conditions) by amateur players—football, touch football, rugby, frisbee, soccer, lacrosse- kids to adults, all genders and all amateur players. 
◦ A professional soccer team if successful would need to find another location to continue.
◦ No park space was to be lost if this trial ‘pop-up’ stadium was successful
◦ The Wanderers Grounds would be part of the Halifax Common Master Plan consultation but HRM staff steadfastly refused to include the Wanderers Grounds/Wanderers Block in any and all public consultation/engagement
◦ Martin/SEA temporary ‘pop-up stadium’ was to be removed at the end of each season but HRM changed the contract to let his stadium and stuff stay so it was never removed. 


In preparation for the private club’s venture
• HRM used ~$800,000 – $1million of public tax dollars to pay to upgrade the Field, for lights, scoreboard etc. HRM continues to pay on-going utilities. 
• The initial field fee was $1200/game, subsequently $1400, $2400 and now $2600. 
• The land is Halifax Common land given ‘to and for the use of the inhabitants of the town of Halifax as Common, forever.’
• The value of the land is irreplaceable (St Pat’s was sold a few years ago for $37m), essentially Martin/SEA is looking for a land donation to a private company, off loading the capital cost of land acquisition to the public.
• Bill Black’s comments on a 2011 Stadium study are relevant; money spent would be spent in any case and generate just as much economic activity and tax revenue, not because there is a stadium. https://newstartns.ca/2011/11/29/stadium-studies-phase-2/

HRM’s Centre Plan will increase the population of the Halifax Peninsula by thousands but it isn’t adding new green or play space. 

Less than 20% of the Halifax Common remains as public open space. Covid showed us how important access to public parks and green space is for our health and well-being.

On behalf of Friends of the Halifax Common, I respectfully request that you do not extend the private-for-profit use of the Wanderers Field, historically used and now needed more than ever for amateur players and public good. 

Thank you,
Howard Epstein 
Director, Friends of Halifax Common

Newly Renovated Robie Street House Demolished & What about those trees?


Historic, newly renovated four-unit building at 2110 Robie Street- demolished.

Mid-town Halifax housing takes another hit this morning as an “Investor” knocks down 2110 Robie to save on maintenance and taxes and to profit from poor planning.
At least four units are destroyed in a recently renovated, pristine and irreplaceable building next to the North Common. (see pictures below) This is one of 450 demolition permits HRM has issued since January 2020.


Please sign the petition to Petition to Stop Demolitions – shorturl.at/dlxET
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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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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.

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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.

Our meeting 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. Details below:

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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 presented our 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.  Continue reading

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 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