A yellow, metal boot, with a padlock is seen on the front driver's side wheel of an older model grey vehicle with dark grey trim and a red stripe.
A “vehicle immobilization device,” otherwise known as a boot, is seen on a vehicle. — Photo: Flickr/TonyWebster
A “vehicle immobilization device,” otherwise known as a boot, is seen on a vehicle. — Photo: Flickr/TonyWebster

After parking the topic at the last meeting, Halifax regional council agreed on new regulations for the vehicle booting industry on Tuesday.

Council’s Transportation Standing Committee asked for the regulations in February 2020, and parking manager Victoria Horne brought a new bylaw to the committee in June. As the Halifax Examiner reported following that meeting:

Horne said the bylaw would require clear, visible signage in parking lots, including a phone number and the cost to have a boot removed. Employees removing the boots would have to wear a uniform, drive a vehicle displaying the company name, and carry identification. The employees would also have to become special constables, meaning they’d be subject to background checks.

After a driver finds a boot on their vehicle and calls to get it removed, a company would have 30 minutes to get to the parking lot. Once there, they would have to offer multiple payment options, including debit and credit, and provide a receipt, even for cash transactions. And the total fee for removing the boot could not be more than $60.

“It should be noted that industry has expressed extreme concern with this amount and has indicated that this will have grave impacts for their operating models,” Horne told the committee.

Staff arrived at that number based on the average fee derived from a jurisdictional scan of other municipalities with rules around the boots, including Moncton, Victoria, and Sudbury. Currently in Halifax, boot removal can cost more than $100.

The owner of a booting company, Daniel Watson of One-Shot Parking Solutions, said he’s currently charging $100 to remove the boots, and the cap of $60 would put him out of business. He also took issue with the half hour time limit to get to the parking lot.

Councillors were sympathetic to those issues, and when the issue came to council’s July 20 meeting, Coun. Trish Purdy moved an amendment to increase the maximum fee to $100 and the time limit to 45 minutes.

To give themselves more time to digest that amendment and talk to Horne about it, councillors voted to defer the item to Tuesday’s meeting, where they picked up where they left off with the amendment.

The amendment passed with only Coun. Patty Cuttell voting no.

Coun. Lisa Blackburn moved an amendment that would force the parking attendants to post a notice on the vehicle and then wait an hour before applying the boot, arguing they shouldn’t move right to booting.

Horne warned the businesses wouldn’t like it, and the rest of council voted against the amendment.

Finally, Coun. Paul Russell moved an amendment that would allow the parking officer’s uniforms to use the words “parking enforcement.” The draft bylaw bans those words, along with Halifax Regional Police, police, and Halifax Regional Municipality, to ensure there’s no confusion between the private parking officers and the city’s parking enforcement officers.

That amendment didn’t get a seconder, and was defeated.

The amended bylaw passed first reading on Tuesday. It will come back to council for second reading before becoming law.

Council’s first stab at the second half of the Centre Plan

The second half of the Centre Plan came to regional council’s committee of the whole on Tuesday for the last few tweaks before it becomes law this fall.

The Centre Plan is the long-delayed set of land-use planning documents governing development in the regional centre of HRM — peninsular Halifax and Dartmouth within the Circumferential.

The first half, known as Package A and encompassing high growth areas like the city’s major corridors on the peninsula and downtown Dartmouth, passed in 2019.

Package B, covering more of the residential areas in the regional centre, along with areas targeted for future growth and downtown Halifax, has been winding its way through council’s committee over the past few months.

Apartment buildings under construction on Clyde Street in Halifax in June 2021. — Photo: Zane Woodford

Tuesday was the first time the documents were in front of all 16 councillors and the mayor at the same time, and they set out to add a series of amendments.

Coun. Sam Austin moved for a supplementary staff report on creating a new committee to weigh in on the design of buildings proposed under the Centre Plan. It’s an issue the Examiner covered last week during a meeting of the city’s Design Review Committee:

If approved as drafted, that second half, known as Package B, will impose new design rules and height and density limits on downtown Halifax, and it will make the Design Review Committee almost redundant.

The Design Advisory Committee, which makes recommendations but not decisions on development proposals under the Centre Plan, will take over most of the downtown Halifax design review. The Design Review Committee will still deal with the heritage districts in downtown Halifax — the Barrington, Old South Suburb, and Schmidtville districts — but it will be a reduction in its workload. Eventually it will be disbanded completely, with the heritage districts folded into the Centre Plan.

Some members of the committee didn’t know about the change before receiving a letter from Design Advisory Committee chair Ted Farquhar, a former member of the Design Review Committee, urging them to write to council to fight to keep the committee’s decision-making power.

The committee voted to forward Farquhar’s letter, which wasn’t posted on the agenda, to council for its consideration.

Austin argued there should be a design review committee for the Centre Plan generally, which there already is, in the form of the non-decision making Design Advisory Committee. The difference, though, is that committee only deals with Level II and III applications under the Centre Plan, big ones, over 2,000 square metres in floor area.

While he acknowledged that it wouldn’t make sense for a committee to review the design of a shed, Austin left the wording open on the staff report to encourage a broad look at the issue from staff. His amendment passed.

Most amendments councillors moved on Tuesday were zoning changes for specific properties.

Coun. Lindell Smith, for example, moved to rezone an O’Regan’s property on Kempt Road back to its original industrial designation.

The property had been identified in the Centre Plan as part of a future growth node, an area where the municipality would eventually negotiate a development agreement for a mixed-use residential and commercial development.

But the car dealer, Smith explained, wants to move a car dealership from another location on the peninsula better suited to housing to the Kempt Road location, and needs that flexibility in the zoning. That amendment passed.

Coun. Tony Mancini moved to change the zoning on some properties on Jackson Road in north Dartmouth to allow for more residential density there.

Coun. Waye Mason moved an amendment to refine the definition of adult entertainment under the Centre Plan to exclude retail uses. That definition, he said, keeps businesses like Venus Envy from getting approved for occupancy permits.

There were a handful of other amendments from those regional centre councillors, and the amended motion as a whole, 975 words in total, passed unanimously.

It will now come back to council for first reading, likely in September, and then second reading and a public hearing, likely in October.

Council wants action on climate change

Following last week’s “frightening” report from the United Nations’ The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, council wants to know how the city is going to achieve its climate goals.

Coun. Kathryn Morse brought a motion on Tuesday looking for a staff report on the implementation of the city’s climate change plan, HalifACT 2050, the ambitious but underfunded plan passed in 2020.

Morse’s motion:

That Halifax Regional Council direct staff to write a report which will recommend the optimum percentage of HRM’s annual budget to be dedicated to climate mitigation and adaptation measures for a minimum of the next 3 years. The report will provide recommendations to prioritize the most cost-effective municipal investments in net-zero infrastructure, including but not limited to: transportation, forest and land conservation and other nature-based solutions, conversion of public buildings to low-carbon heating and cooling, and related HRM staff positions. The report will also include a range of financing options, tax implications and timelines for achieving HRM’s climate goals.

“This comes out of the IPCC report last week which was very frightening, talking about how the impacts are accelerating,” Morse said Tuesday.

“Since the previous council has already taken steps and we have a fantastic plan, I’m just keen to make sure that we act, and to find ways to make it explicit through the budget process, to make sure we’re getting the resources to our plan.”

While a few councillors quibbled with Morse’s wording around “the optimum percentage of HRM’s annual budget,” she received unanimous support.

Coun. Sam Austin pointed out that council allotted extra money in the budget this year to implement HalifACT 2050 and asked for a resourcing plan to implement it, but it still hasn’t received that from chief administrative officer Jacques Dubé.

Bayers Road over budget

Councillors have approved an inflated budget for the Bayers Road bus lane project.

After public engagement and detailed design, council awarded the contract to build the first phase of bus lanes on the busy street to Dexter Construction for $7.4 million in June 2020.

Construction started last July “with an understanding that construction would need to be completed over two construction seasons due to the complicated nature of the work at the intersections,” and then “unforeseen challenges arose which led to several changes and an increase to Dexter’s contract.”

There have been 17 such increases, common in these contracts, for things including redesigning the active transportation path, moving a bus shelter, and adding concrete storm pipe.

The total increase to Dexter’s contract is now expected to be $520,705.02, taxes in, a 7% increase on the original contract, “within the 10% contingency range that is typical for construction projects with similar size and scope,” according to the staff report to council.

Along with the increase for Dexter, there’s an extra $72,170.09 going to WSP Canada for consulting and $100,000 being budgeted for interim transit priority measures between Windsor Street and Connaught Avenue.

The total budget increase is $692,875.11, and council approved it.

The budget for the second phase of the project is now expected to increase as well, from $2,520,000 to $4.7 million. Construction is now expected to start on Phase 2 in 2023, a year later than planned.

Otter Lake beef simmers

Following a vote in favour of big changes to the way garbage gets to the dump in Otter Lake, Halifax councillors are stirring things up with a pair of motions at Tuesday’s meeting.

Council voted last month to apply to the provincial government to close the Front End Processor (FEP) and Waste Stabilization Facility (WSF) at the Otter Lake Landfill, something it’s been trying to do for years.

A worker operates conveyer belts in the front end processor at Otter Lake in a photo in a slide deck included in the staff report to council. — Photo: HRM

The Community Monitoring Committee that oversees the landfill, a requirement of the community’s contract with HRM, is opposed to the plan, and at council on Tuesday, Coun. Pam Lovelace brought forward two motions taking aim at the committee.

First, she wants “a review of the financial, administrative and governance policies and practices of the Community Monitoring Committee of Otter Lake to ensure best practices are being followed with regards to fiscal accountability, governance, transparency, and public engagement.”

Lovelace explained that she’s been on the committee since she was elected last October, and she’s been troubled by what she sees as a lack of accountability and public engagement.

Second, she moved for “a modernized agreement with Halifax Waste Resource Society that includes the Community Monitoring Committee’s ability to incur liabilities and make expenses; the addition of industrial, commercial and institutional sector (ICI) waste as unacceptable waste; and, consideration of the life span of Otter Lake and longevity of the CMC into the next 50 years.”

Both report requests passed unanimously.

The future of HRM’s application to close the FEP and WSF is unknown, with provincial political interference all but guaranteed.

Arrêt! Bilingual stop signs for HRM?

The city’s stop signs could soon bear both official languages following a request for a staff report at council on Tuesday.

Coun. Tony Mancini made the request:

That Halifax Regional Council request a staff report to outline the implementation options, along with cost implications, operational constraints, and timelines, to replace unilingual signs with bilingual stop signs on all HRM owned streets.

Mancini said it’s not his intention to go out and replace every single stop sign with bilingual English and French signs right away, but rather to phase them in. First, he said they should go in areas with French schools, then communities with high Acadian populations.

Zane Woodford

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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