How much space in a new Mill Cove Ferry Terminal should be devoted to a library, if any?

That’s the question Halifax regional councillors hope to answer with a staff report requested on Tuesday.

The growth of Bedford has far exceeded its small rented library space on Dartmouth Road.

“For almost 30 years, Bedford has needed a new library. It’s 6,000 square feet. For the population size of Bedford it should be something closer to 30,000,” Bedford-Wentworth Coun. Tim Outhit said.

The entrance to the Bedford Public Library in 2018. It's nondescript white clad building, with blue trim and blue glass windows. The name of the building is spelled out in dark blue capital letters.
The Bedford Public Library in 2018. — Photo: Zane Woodford Credit: Zane Woodford

During budget deliberations, councillors asked for a report on moving funding for a new library (and fire station) for Bedford up the priority list. Finance staff planned to push the new library out to 2025-2026. They included $500,000 in the capital budget in that first year. Previously, they budgeted $500,000 each in 2023-2024 and 2024-2025 and $2 million in 2025-2026.

New library expected to cost $14 million

In an information report to council on Tuesday, Philip Dugandzic, director of facility design and construction, outlined the cost of including the library in the new Mill Cove Ferry Terminal.

“Incorporating library space within the proposed Mill Cove Ferry Terminal would require an increase of $14M to the 2023/24 four-year capital plan, plus an additional 12 FTE’s and $723,000 in annual staffing and operating costs when the library opens for service, estimated for 2027,” Dugandzic wrote.

The municipality hopes to build a new ferry terminal on infilled land in Mill Cove in Bedford, pending federal funding. That plan includes 15,000 square feet for a library, Outhit said.

A map with illustrations added shows an area on the water, with a ferry terminal noted in white, with a connecting roadway.
An overhead view of the planned Mill Cove ferry terminal property in Bedford. — Screenshot/HRM

“Although space for a new library service is incorporated in the building design, the Mill Cove Ferry Service project $260M budget does not cover the construction cost of the library’s square footage,” Dugandzic wrote in the report.

“The Investing in Canadian Infrastructure Funding Program (ICIP) application does not include that portion of the building’s design for cost share funding and therefore the entire building construction and fit-up cost for the library will need to be funded by HRM, either through annual tax increases from capital-from-operating or debt financing.”

That would translate to a cumulative 2.85% increase to the average tax bill through 2026-2027.

But the space allocated for a new library likely isn’t enough, Outhit said.

“Is there a way of getting this a little bit larger than the 15,000 square feet?” Outhit said.

“If not, then so be it but let’s have one final look at it … And let’s get the funding in place should this overall project go ahead.”

Concerns over location

Deputy Mayor Sam Austin worried the site isn’t right for a library.

“The location is very isolated,” Austin said.

“It’s an awfully big bet on the ferry terminal, and it’s an awfully big bet on the location.”

Coun. Shawn Cleary disagreed.

“The area of Bedford along the waterfront could be a new downtown,” Cleary said.

“I think this whole area could be something special. This is a city building project for Halifax.”

Outhit agreed that the a library could help rejuvenate the Bedford waterfront.

“There is no reason to think that this rejuvenation of the Bedford waterfront couldn’t be helped by a library,” Outhit said.

“Let’s put it where it’s geographically the centre, of North Bedford and Larry Uteck. And let’s see if we can make it a little larger.”

Outhit moved for a staff report “investigating options for the size of the Bedford waterfront library prior to proceeding with the Mill Cove Ferry Terminal.” That motion passed unanimously.

Also during Tuesday’s meeting: Airport keeps tax deal

The Halifax International Airport Authority gets to hold onto its property tax deal until at least 2025.

Council voted to defer a vote on a staff recommendation to provide a year’s notice to terminate the 20-year agreement. HRM and HIAA reached the agreement in 2019, but it allows HRM to back out with 365 days notice.

The municipality doesn’t tax the airport like most other properties, based on assessment. Instead, HIAA pays a negotiated base charge, indexed to inflation, and a per-passenger fee.

Municipal finance staff argue the deal means HIAA underpays on taxes compared to other airports across Canada. During the budget process earlier this month, staff said a new deal could bring in up to $2 million more.

Most councillors were opposed to the idea of tearing up the deal now. Coun. Tony Mancini moved to defer for a year, citing the airport’s lost revenue during COVID-19. His motion passed 10-7. Cleary was among the seven, arguing the airport is a major polluter that should be taxed more.

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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  1. From what I can tell, based on the public information, Case 23084 is to construct the Mill Cove/Bedford waterfront which would include the library and ferry terminal. Regional Plan Policy C061-C in Phase 5 will be to re-develop the Esquire Hotel site and construct 3,135 housing units…the last thing the Bedford Highway needs. Based on the argument made in Council, it’s believed people would use the Esquire Hotel shops for dining and shopping while using the ferry service and that this could potentially be a new downtown for Bedford. From what I read,
    I get the impression that the current shops will not remain. This is the same developer who has many other active applications. Case 20507 has been paused after a 7 year amendment process which includes a recommendation from the March 31, 2021 NWCC meeting. I am guessing that Staff now realize that the same amendment was rejected in Case 00753 back in 2006 as it did not meet the intent of the MPS…and still doesn’t. Case 23370 has been an active application for nearly a year and has not moved forward since the application was posted on HRM’s website. The Regional Plan Review Case C061-B is to rezone the CCDD and RCDD lands on the north side of Kearney Run. I have no doubt that the Regional Plan Review team will recommend that an MPS amendment be required to remove the requirement to connect the north and south RCDD lands. This would change the intent of the DA which has been in place since 1995 for Case 20507. The other issue with C061-B is that two levels of government will be required to approve the new policy as the the access point to the
    development and the on-ramp to the northbound 102 off Hammonds Plains Rd is on provincial lands. If the developer did not want to build the infrastructure to connect the north and south lands in the 1995 DA, I can just imagine how much it will cost to redesign Hammonds Plains Rd. There is no Bedford BRT, no rail, Hammonds Plains needs to be redesigned and a hope that the
    Federal and Provincial governments will fork over the majority of the nearly $300M to build the ferry terminal. If the ferry terminal is a success, I suspect the traffic pattern to get to the ferry terminal from Bedford West and beyond will further degrade Southgate Dr. It is really concerning as a Bedford resident. Continue to build without the infrastructure. Apparently the developer is now working with Michel Samson to lobby the provincial government due to the delays HRM’ approving these applications. Should be interesting to watch.

  2. It’s a stupid place for a library. Everyone would have to drive there. Why can’t they just add a few floors to the present library?

    1. I mean, the present library is a rented space in a building the municipality doesn’t own. That’s a big factor. Also as much as I don’t want a library too far away from where I am now, it is more central for the newer growth areas of Bedford.