I’ll be live-blogging tomorrow’s meeting, starting at 10am, via the Examiner’s Twitter feed, @hfxExaminer.
I’m old enough to remember when the perfectly good term “dump” that describe the place we literally dump our garbage morphed into the feel-good “landfill.” But besides making no sense at all—how do you fill land?—I object to the word because it obfuscates that we are in fact dumping crap out in the country somewhere. Sure, we can do that in better or worse ways, but that’s what we’re doing. So I’m reverting back to using “dump.” Let’s call things as they are.
CAO Richard Butts has been trying to push through a series of changes at with the garbage system. Some of these changes involved increasing the amount of “diversion” from the dump—requiring clear plastic bags for garbage, for example—and making the green waste system work better—requiring Kraft bags, prohibiting grass clippings in green bins. From a making-the-system-work-better perspective, these changes make a lot of sense, although of course some people are put off by them for their own reasons.
More controversial have been Butts’ proposals to extend the life of the dump. As long understood (more on this momentarily), the dump would close in 2024, and Butts’ proposals would extend that closure date many years into the future. He’d do that in part by changing policy to allow commercial waste to be trucked to dumps in other parts of Nova Scotia, and in part by raising the planned height of the dump cells by 15 metres. Additional changes at the dump itself would do away with the front end processor, which catches recyclables and organics that people have been throwing in their garbage bags.
The idea of extending the life of the dump particularly irritated the Halifax Waste Society, which if I understand correctly is a sort of private extension of the Community Monitoring Society set up to oversee dump operations.
Last January, council accepted the less controversial parts of Butts’ proposals, but punted the more controversial parts to the future, that is, to now. In the meanwhile, the issue would be discussed by a committee set up of city staff and members appointed by the Halifax Waste Society Board of Directors.
Amazingly, to me anyway, the Society agreed to most of the changes, albeit with lots of caveats. They can be summarized as follows:
Shipping garbage out of HRM and raising tipping fees at Otter Lake
The Society had no problem with this proposal, albeit I’m sure environmentalists will scream foul. Keeping our own waste local was a fundamental part of establishing the Otter Lake dump and the recycling and green waste systems created alongside it.
Commercial waste—that is, garbage from apartment buildings and businesses—was never properly integrated into the system. Apartment buildings are serviced by private haulers, who are now charged $125/tonne at the dump. Actual costs for processing the garbage at the dump are $170/tonne, so city staff is recommending tipping fees be increased to that amount.
But clearly that increase will be passed along to apartment owners. There’s a certain genius to allowing the haulers to export the garbage out of HRM to cheaper dumps in other counties: it undercuts what would surely be a political firestorm if every apartment owner in town saw their garbage bills increasing by 50 percent, and at the same time stops a lot of garbage from going to Otter Lake, making feasible the extension of the life of the dump.
Of course, the reason the dumps in other counties have lower tipping fees is that they don’t process the garbage to the same standards that HRM does.
Do away with the front end processor
The Society backed off its opposition to this proposal, provided it is thoroughly involved in every step of finding a replacement process.
Raising the height of the dump and extending its life beyond 2024
Quite remarkably, the Society has agreed to these proposals as well. Well, sort of. It was discovered that the agreements signed at the creation of the dump didn’t actually spell out a 2024 closure date, but rather anticipated such a closure date. Here’s how the staff report puts it:
Due to the success of diversion programs and other changes to the operating model including those resulting from the most recent strategy review, the Otter Lake facility will not reach capacity as a landfill by 2024. As a result of discussions with the Society, staff and the Society have reviewed this matter and despite the expectations that some people have in the community to the contrary, have been unable to locate any authority for the proposition that the Otter Lake facility operations end in 2024.
As set out in the Report, the Mirror Agreement at Section 24.2 only requires HRM to permanently close the facilities at the end of the operating term: a) if it elects to do so, or b) if the facilities have reached capacity and no additional permits can be obtained to permit further waste to be disposed of at the site. It is not now anticipated that the facility would reach capacity or that additional permits could not be obtained until sometime after 2024.
Well, OK then.
There are lots of details and caveats that are too complicated to go into here, but it looks like Butts got most of what he wanted, assuming council goes along with the proposals.
Avondale Construction—$751,025 for renovation of the washrooms at the $48 NSF Fee Centre (formerly the $45 NSF Fee Centre, and formerly the Metro Centre).
Traffic Authority—Taso Koutroulakis has been serving as the city’s “provisional” traffic authority since the tragic death of Ken Reashor earlier this year. His provisional term expired last week, so council is extending it through next spring. Staff will make a recommendation for a full-time appointment in the spring. Everyone seems to like Koutroulakis, so I expect it’ll be him, but I guess they have to do a proper search.
Gas tax—there are new multiyear gas tax agreements between the provincial and federal governments, and between the province and municipality. The short of it is that Halifax will get about $24 million a year for the next five years.
Cherry Brook Community Centre—just for curiosity’s sake, here’s the crazy history of the Cherry Brook Community Centre site:
Ownership of this property is derived from a June 1951 grant from the Crown to “Trustees of School Section No.58 in the District of Preston” which makes back reference to an earlier grant issued in April 1914. The preamble to the 1951 grant indicates it was made because of an error in description in the 1914 grant. The 1914 grant was to the Trustees of School Section No. 48 and the 1951 grant corrected this to School Section 58. Both documents include the same survey sketch which indicates the existence of a school house on the property at that time.
The Lake Loon school burned to the ground in December 1951 and a new school was built in 1952.
The building appears to have been declared surplus sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s but the exact date is unclear.
The building has not been in use since approximately 1990 and records indicate that the power to the building was disconnected in 2004. Due to the condition of the building, repair and recapitalization was not deemed to be an option. As a result, a tender was issued for the demolition of the building in 2009. However, the local Councillor requested that consultation with the community be completed prior to the demolition. The demolition was not completed and further discussions were initiated with the Lake Loon Cherry Brook Development Association (LLCBDA).
Now, council is being asked to tear down the building but turn the property into a trailhead for the trail network in the area.
Wellington Street development
It’s bizarre that some councillors are forcing this development proposal forward, despite a clear staff rejection of the plan and despite well-organized neighbourhood opposition that will undoubtedly spill over to legal action should council approve it. The proposal is the subject of a public hearing scheduled for 6pm. I gave the background of the issue here.
Since then, I’ve received the following press release:
December 7, 2014
SOUTH END RESIDENTS RETURN TO HRM COUNCIL TO BATTLE DINO CAPITAL TOWERS
The recently formed Park to Park Community Association takes its battle to Regional Council Tuesday (Dec. 9) to continue the efforts to thwart Dino Capital’s amended plan to build a 142-unit, two-tower, multi-storey development on a short, two-block residential street in south end Halifax. The project would immediately abut Gorsebrook Park, a large and intensively-used green space, multi-season recreational area and community garden.
Pat Whitman, chair of Park to Park, says the neighbourhood group’s battle is not just a Wellington Street issue, but is happening all over HRM. “Developers are amassing properties to plop down multi-storey condominium or rental buildings by requesting Municipal Planning Strategy and Zoning By-law amendments,” she said. “Is this a rush to get such developments passed before the Centre Plan is revised or local area plans get updated?”
The amendment application by Dino Capital, owned by Stavros (Steve) Tsimiklis, proposes to replace four family homes with a two-, 8- and 10-storey condo complex although over 90 % of homes on the street and in the neighbourhood are three storeys or less. The current zoning allows for 35 ft. height and 40% lot coverage. The Dino application wants to use over 75% of the lot and proposes very limited setbacks.
The application argues that the short street already has two adjacent tall structures built in the 1960’s. “However, these each have lot coverage of less than 40% and would not receive approval under today’s guidelines,” Whitman says, adding that the application’s “mass and soulless” design appearance is totally at odds with the current character of the neighbourhood and some elements such as minimal tower separation do not meet recommended construction standards
Over 100 residents attended each of two public information meetings raising their concerns over a proposed development for a residential side street which would not be approved in downtown Halifax. Councillors, Mason and Watts have voted to reject Dino’s request. HRM planning staff have strongly rejected the proposal as being aggressively seeking density and insensitive to the neighbourhood. In addition, a petition signed by 1,047 HRM residents — from every HRM district — has been submitted to Council, supporting good development but not this application. Tuesday’s public hearing begins in Council chambers at 6pm.