Halifax regional council had its first in-person meeting since the start of the pandemic on Tuesday.
For some of the councillors, it was their first time attending a meeting in council chambers, having first been elected almost exactly a year ago.
Here’s some of what was on the agenda:
Burnside growing with $29-million contract
Council awarded a contract for the expansion of the Burnside Business Park on Tuesday, a move that will eventually add 120 acres of industrial land to the area.
The contract is the first part of the 13th phase of the industrial park in Dartmouth, coinciding with the construction of the Highway 107 extension connecting Burnside to Bedford. That project is now expected to be complete by fall 2023, and will allow access to the land being cleared to grow Burnside.
New industrial land is needed in the area, according to the staff report to council, because the current supply is dwindling.
“The current industrial market is not unlike the current housing market where supply and resources have not kept pace with demand and continued economic growth. There was not unforeseen and in part a result of delay in the Provincial highway project opening up lands in Phase 13. Furthermore, the pandemic has also created a global surge in industrial land demand driven by e-commerce and logistics,” the report said.
“It is now more than ever imperative to expedite the processes for ensuring there is a competitive supply of industrial employment land appropriately planned and designated for both the short and long-term.”
Brycon Construction Limited got the contract for $29 million. The work is expected to start in three weeks and be complete by the end of next year. According to the staff report, that work includes “tree clearing, grubbing, mass excavation and grading of lots, installation of water, sanitary, storm and natural gas mains and street construction including roundabout, gravels, asphalt, curb and gutter, sidewalk, multi-use paths, power, street lighting, trees, and sod.”
The price tag is high, but the report says HRM expects to bring in $40 million selling off the lots created, and they’re “anticipated to generate in excess of $130 million commercial assessment growth and $4.6 million in annual commercial property tax.”
During the meeting, councillors raised concerns about the already limited transit service in the area, asking Halifax Transit director Dave Reage how service could be extended to a new portion of Burnside when it’s still tough to catch a bus in the existing park.
Reage said there are transit improvements for Burnside coming in the next budget, and when the new area is complete, it’ll be added to transit’s service plan.
Port Wallace development moving ahead
New information from the provincial government has municipal staff optimistic about the future of a massive proposed development in Dartmouth, but the councillor for the area says the province is delaying the project.
Port Wallace lies between Waverley Road and Highway 107, and could one day be home to up to 9,000 people.
The municipality has been considering the development proposal, led by Clayton Developments, for years, but had to slow down the approval process due to contamination of municipally-owned land in the area surrounding a watercourse called Barry’s Run. The contamination is a result of the former Montague Gold Mines, uphill from Port Wallace and Barry’s Run.
Last year, the Halifax Examiner published a three-part series (one, two, three) by Joan Baxter on the development proposal, titled Port Wallace Gamble: The Real Estate Boom Meets Nova Scotia’s Toxic Mine Legacy. In Part 2, Baxter summed up the issues with Barry’s Run:
The land adjacent to Barry’s Run had been acquired in 1976 by the former city of Dartmouth, and it ran right through the middle of the Port Wallace Holdings lands.
Barry’s Run was one of two waterways in the Port Wallace area that were once part of control structures for the Shubenacadie Canal. The other was Mitchell Brook (maps alternate between Mitchell Brook and Mitchell’s Brook) that originates in Lake Loon, flows through Montague Mines, and drains into Barry’s Run, which in turn discharges into Lake Charles and the Shubenacadie Canal system.
This wouldn’t pose a problem to the proposed Port Wallace subdivision were it not for two inescapable realities.
The first is that upstream from the 527 acres slated for a residential subdivision is the historic gold mining site of Montague Mines and mine tailings contaminated with arsenic and mercury. As Halifax Council was informed on November 19, 2018, “the mine tailings were historically discharged into Mitchell’s Brook, which flows to the wetlands at Barry’s Run.”
The second problem is that Barry’s Run is “located at the centre of the Port Wallace project area.” Indeed, Halifax Council learned that sediments contaminated by the historic mine tailings had also been found in Lake Charles, which is 2.5 kilometres from Montague Mines.
Basically, the project was on hold until the provincial government started cleaning up the former mine upstream, and determined just how dangerous the contamination surrounding Barry’s Run is for, say, kids playing in the dirt.
In a staff report to council on Tuesday, municipal planner Tyson Simms provided an update: the tender could be going out to clean up Montague Mines in summer 2022, and the province has determined that the arsenic contamination around Barry’s Run presents a low risk even from prolonged exposure.
The item was originally on council’s consent agenda, meaning it would pass without debate, but Coun. Tony Mancini wanted to speak to it, acknowledging that the proposal has been moving slowly.
“The last delay of over two years has not been the municipality, it’s been the Province of Nova Scotia,” Mancini said.
Council unanimously passed a motion directing staff to continue working on the proposal, and to keep up to date on the provincial government’s work to clean up the contamination.
Mayor makes climate commitment
Halifax Mayor Mike Savage is headed to Scotland next month with a new climate commitment.
Savage brought a motion to council on Tuesday asking his colleagues to endorse his signing onto two climate commitments ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland in November, COP 26.
The two commitments, called Cities Race to Resilience and Cities Race to Zero, commit HRM “to reducing our fair share of global greenhouse gas emissions in support of the goals of the Paris Agreement,” according to the reasoning provided with Savage’s motion.
Savage told his colleagues that the municipality is already in line with this commitments through HalifACT 2050, its climate change action plan that aims to make city operations carbon neutral by 2030.
As part of his work with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Big City Mayors, Savage said he’s planning to attend the conference in Scotland. He assured his colleagues that the federation is footing the bill.
While council unanimously agreed to sign onto the commitments, it may be too late for Savage to hear Halifax announced at the conference. The websites for both the Cities Race to Resilience and Cities Race to Zero list the deadline for submissions as Oct. 14.
“Cities are welcome to submit their pledge after the deadline, but any later commitments will not be announced in Glasgow,” the fine print reads.