Halifax City Hall in August 2020. — Photo: Zane Woodford Credit: Zane Woodford

Housing dominated discussion around the virtual council table on Tuesday, but there was a full agenda of other material for councillors’ consideration.

Here’s some of what else was approved or moved ahead:

New rules for coops

Backyard chickens are one step closer to legalization across the municipality after a vote on Tuesday.

Like many municipal bylaws, the rules governing chickens differ wildly between areas of HRM. They’ve long been legal on the peninsula, but illegal in most suburban and even some rural areas.

Aiming for one set of rules for the whole municipality, planner Ross Grant brought a suite of proposed rules to council for first reading on Tuesday. Among those rules: a limit of six hens per lot, no roosters, no slaughter, no sales of eggs or meat, required coops or fenced-in areas, a set-back of one metre from the property line.

Peninsula councillors like Waye Mason and Shawn Cleary were quick to point out that the limit there is 10 chickens, and no one seems to complain about it. The first half of the Centre Plan, approved in 2019, created that 10-chicken limit, and Mason and Cleary argued it should stay.

Coun. David Hendsbee also took issue with the limit, but suggested another solution: different limits based on lot size.

Under Hendsbee’s amendment, up to 10 chickens would be permitted on lots less than 4,000 square metres, 20 chickens on lots between 4,000 and 6,000 square metres, 30 chickens on lots between 6,000 and 10,000 square metres, and 40 chickens on lots larger than 10,000 square metres. Those numbers were later amended slightly, but councillors never said the numbers aloud during the meeting.

Hendbsee’s amendment passed, and then Mason moved another, to exempt properties in the regional centre — the peninsula and Dartmouth within the Circumferential Highway — from the setback requirement.

That amendment passed, meaning chicken coops could be built right on the property lines in those areas.

The entire suite of rules, with those amendments, passed first reading.

They now head to second reading and a public hearing at council, where the public will have a chance to weigh in on the proposals.

Forum redevelopment plan passes without debate

Councillors have agreed in principle with a plan to sell off a portion of the Halifax Forum property to pay for its redevelopment.

And they did so without question or debate.

The Halifax Examiner teed up the proposal from staff on Friday:

Despite the CAO’s previous statement that such a move would be “unwise,” staff are recommending council sell off a portion of the Halifax Forum property to pay for an expensive redevelopment plan.

Built in 1926 and registered as a heritage property in 2003, the historic Halifax Forum has fallen into disrepair in recent years, with cracking bricks, a leaky roof, and ice surfaces too small to serve the municipality’s modern needs.

Halifax regional council voted in November 2019 to move ahead with a plan from consultants Ventin Group (+VG) to redevelop the building, keeping and restoring its brick facade while updating the rest of the building to the tune of up to $85.9 million.

When council approved that plan, it directed staff to explore some sort of public-private partnership development, likely mixed-use commercial and residential, to recoup some of the cost.

In a report to council on Tuesday, recreation planning specialist Gareth Evans and policy and planning manager Richard Harvey are recommending the city sell the land outright.

Cutting off the land for development changes the plan for the Forum redevelopment, most notably around parking and parkland.

Read the full story for more details on the changes to parking and parks.

As noted in the story, the motion came to council on the consent agenda, meaning it wasn’t automatically on the floor for debate. Councillors can always ask that an item be removed for questions or debate, but none did, and the motion was passed as part of the consent agenda.

That moves the proposal along to public consultation, and then it will come back to council for a final decision.

Football field funding in Spryfield

Council has pledged $250,000 for a football field at the new JL Ilsey High School in Spryfield.

ƒThe new high school, built on the same site as the old one, is opening next week. As part of the construction, the province plans to build a standard soccer field for the school. The community has requested a football field, which would be larger and have synthetic turf.

The provincial government, in a letter in June, told the municipality that if it wants the football field, it should pay for the difference between the cost of a soccer field and a football field, estimated at $950,000.

In a report to council on Tuesday, staff recommended against providing the funding.

“Based on the information as gathered and the overall approach to regional facilities being used for competitive football, there is limited municipal purpose for an enhanced football field that, in addition, would be at a relatively high cost. Therefore, the municipality should decline the offer to enhance the field at the school,” the report said.

The area representative, Coun. Patty Cuttell, argued council should offer to pay half the bill, up to $500,000.

Other councillors sided with staff, arguing there’s limited benefit to the community at large, just to one football team.

A majority of councillors followed Cuttell’s direction and voted down the staff recommendation, and then Coun. Shawn Cleary put forward an amendment to reduce the dollar figure to $250,000.

That passed, and so did the motion as a whole. It’s unclear how the provincial government, which wanted HRM to pay the full $950,000, will react to the new offer.

In other Spryfield field news, council voted on Tuesday to spend more money on a field house at nearby Graves Oakley Park.

In 2019, council agreed to grant the Tars Rugby Club $315,000 towards the construction of a field house, which will include public washrooms.

Construction costs have ballooned during the pandemic, and the project is now way over budget, so the club came back to HRM to ask for an extra $150,000.

Staff recommended in favour of the increased grant because the project will “provide a public washroom in a cost-effective manner.” It also added a caveat, that the club has to match the added contribution through its own fundraising. The motion passed.

Zane Woodford is the Halifax Examiner’s municipal reporter. He covers Halifax City Hall and contributes to our ongoing PRICED OUT housing series. Twitter @zwoodford

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