People all over HRM would be able to sell their own homegrown produce if councillors approve a proposed set of bylaw amendments.

At its meeting on Tuesday, Halifax regional council voted to direct staff to develop amendments to legalize so-called market gardens — where food is “grown or prepared to be sold or shared with neighbours and community members.”

“Rising food costs, shifts to healthier diets, food access concerns and a desire to shorten the supply chain are urging more residents to grow their own food or to purchase food from local sources,” planner Brandon Umpherville wrote in the report to council.

“While the growing of food for one’s personal use is considered accessory to a residential use, should one wish to sell the produce grown on their property, even if the sale is off site, the use becomes an agriculture use, which is only permitted in some areas of the Municipality and excludes many residential areas.”

The Centre Plan changed that in the centre of HRM, creating “urban agriculture, which allows the growing and selling of produce on one’s property.” That creates a template for the rest of HRM, Umpherville wrote.

Nova Scotia has the highest rate of food insecurity in Canada, according to a 2018 study, and HRM is the third worst among Canadian cities, with 16.7% facing food insecurity at home. Food prices have also risen dramatically this year, making matters worse.

“With higher-than-normal food insecurity rates, there is a need for HRM to make changes within its authority to address these issues, advocate for changes at other levels of government, and support other efforts to make positive systems change,” Umpherville wrote.

While HRM is also creating an action plan, JustFOOD, to address food insecurity, the bylaw amendments to permit so-called market gardens are held up as a short-term solution.

The coming bylaw amendments will legalize agriculture and market gardens throughout the municipality; consider where development permits will be required; and regulate secondary production like the creation of “preserved foods such as jams, pickles, cauliflower, rice, and salsas.”

“With unprecedented food costs and higher than average rates of food insecurity, there is a need to remove barriers to safe, local food production and consumption,” Umpherville wrote.

Coun. Lisa Blackburn first moved for a staff report on the idea at the request of a resident who wasn’t permitted to sell from their garden.

“I think this is a good move for us,” Blackburn said. “This is something that many other jurisdictions are doing with great success, and I look forward to hearing from the public, first of all, to see what they have to say about this.”

As part of the process to develop land-use bylaw amendments, the municipality will hold pop-up events, host an online survey, and talk with the JustFOOD Action Plan team.

Cutting the grass

Also during Tuesday’s meeting, council voted in favour of a “Naturalization Strategy,” aimed at replacing grass in municipal parks with pollinator-friendly plants.

Council approved a two-year pilot project in 2019, but it was never fully implemented due to the pandemic. Residents started their own project in Spring 2020 on a right-of-way on Sime Court in Kingswood, and in Spring 2021, HRM got moving in Leighton Dillman Park in the Dartmouth Common and Merv Sullivan Park in North End Halifax.

The meadow garden in Kingswood was created by residents, but there are a few issues around its rock wall and a nearby ditch. Photo: Suzanne Rent

The pilots are heralded as a success in the staff report to council on Tuesday, but there’s so much public interest in naturalized park spaces that HRM needs to hire more staff — one full-time and two seasonal at an annual cost of $150,000 starting in 2023-2024.

The report included a list of more than two dozen parks eligible for naturalization. After a vote in favour of the motion at council on Tuesday, it will consider the inclusion of that $150,000 in next year’s budget.

Emera gets naming rights

Nova Scotia Power’s parent company will retain naming rights to the publicly-owned skating oval on the Halifax Common.

As the Halifax Examiner reported on Friday, municipal staff recommended a new deal with Emera, but they didn’t name the price:

“The Emera Oval is a known brand within the community. The agreement that has been in place for the past 10 years with Emera has been mutually beneficial and has resulted in positive brand recognition for the sponsor,” [parks and recreation area manager Shawna] Shirley wrote.

“Entering into a new agreement with Emera has the potential to enhance the facility and its services for users for many years to come. For example, the amount and variety of accessible pieces of equipment the public can use free of charge to participate year-round could be increased beyond the current business planning purchase and replacement schedule.”

Emera “expressed interest” in another contract, Shirley wrote, “and is in agreement with HRM’s key negotiation objectives.” Those “objectives” — and all the terms of the agreement including its length and the price — are in an in camera report.

There was no tender process to solicit bids for naming rights, but Shirley wrote that HRM “contracted an external consultant, Performance Sponsorship Group, to provide expertise in determining a value for the naming rights for the Oval and Events Plaza.”

Council approved the recommendation without debate. The price may become public once the deal is closed.

The Examiner will add a new name to its style guide, much like the hockey arena we call the $48 NSF Centre. Tentatively, the oval is the 4.24% dividend payment Oval.

Federal funding coming for ‘safer communities’

HRM will receive $3.3 million from the federal government over the next four years “due to a rise in gun and gang related activity in the municipality.”

Council voted to accept the funding, from the Building Safer Communities Fund, on Tuesday. It “must be used to address prevention or intervention of gun and gang related activity,” according to the report from public safety advisor Amy Siciliano.

The report proposed using the money to hire a youth counsellor; a youth navigator; a “Social Policy Strategist;” a “Community Outreach Coordinator;” and to conduct a “Youth Services Review” and a “Drug Policy Public Education and Community Conversation series.”

Coun. David Hendsbee wanted to instead use the money to put up surveillance cameras in North and East Preston.

“Last year there was some reluctancy about the use of surveillance cameras expressed in the community, but with the recent events that have occurred in the last few months, times have changed and so have attitudes,” Hendsbee said.

He suggested cameras in “high traffic intersections to watch who comes and goes from the community.”

Siciliano told Hendsbee the money can’t be used for surveillance cameras. She’s told Hendsbee in the past that cameras are a bad idea because they don’t prevent crime, they just record it, and marginalized communities feel “oversurveilled.”

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. So we have a ‘Naturalization Strategy’ to compensate in small part for HRM approved/permitted ‘Denaturalization’? ( The latest and perhaps most egregious case: the Southdale Woodland/wetland). In so many places, we allow developers to cut down entire mature forest stands before building, even if most of the area will be allowed to regenerate as forest subsequently.

  2. Has Siciliano ever spent time in North Preston ? How much time has she spent in North end Dartmouth and Uniacke Square ?
    When did she ask the people of the Prestons for their views on cameras ?
    Does she have an office in the 3 communities where violent crime is a problem ?
    How much time will the new hires spend in the 3 communities ?