1. Purcells Cove Backlands
Yesterday, I took a look at city staff’s recommendation that city council approve the purchase of a parcel in the Purcells Cove Backlands from the Shaw Group. The proposed sale price is secret because we wouldn’t want the public to know how much it is being asked to pay for the land, but with a careful analysis of the staff report, I concluded that the city is probably being asked to pay at least $3.6 million:
The city would get just 170 acres of the 379-acre parcel. The remaining 207 acres will be purchased by the Nature Conservancy of Canada, but we’re not told at what cost.
Assuming that the city is going to buy 170 acres of the Shaw land for $3.6 million and that the NCC values their portion of the land (the other 202 acres) at the same rate (either through a tax write-off or purchase), then the entire 379 acres is being valued at just over $8 million…
Shaw bought its 379 acres in August 2011 for $4,704,221 on speculation, hoping that it could get the city to change the zoning of the property and run utilities by it. It lost that bet; in May 2014 council deadlocked on a vote to open the land up for development. Until 2013, the Shaw land was assessed for tax purposes for $3,371,500, but after council’s 2014 decision, the assessment for property tax purposes was dropped 55 per cent, to $1,512,200. Shaw’s annual property tax bill on the property is now $18,298.
The 379 acres isn’t even all the backlands — it’s about half, with the remaining property owned by three other development companies.
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What I neglected to say yesterday is that in addition to cold hard cash, Shaw also wants… naming rights. Yep, in return for not bulldozing the wilderness, the company wants it called “The Shaw Group Purcells Cove Backlands” or some such bullshit.
Given the (apparent) outrageous price for the property, and the audacity of demanding naming rights, council should say “no thanks” to Allan Shaw and the Nature Conservancy, and then do nothing with the land, just refuse to rezone it for all eternity.
2. Water restrictions in Dartmouth
The prolonged hot, dry weather has resulted in historic low water levels in Lake Major. Lake Major serves the communities of Dartmouth, Cole Harbour, Westphal, North Preston and Eastern Passage (see map, below, for affected service area).
In order to conserve water, Halifax Water is instituting mandatory water conservation restrictions for all residents and businesses supplied by the Lake Major Water Treatment Plant, until further notice. The water conservation measures include:
• No lawn, garden, plant watering or other outside water usage
• No car/RV or other vehicle washing at home. Commercial car washes remain available for the time being
Here’s the map:
Spokesperson Jamie Campbell told the CBC he didn’t know if the removal of the pipe from the Macdonald Bridge , which connected the Halifax and Dartmouth distribution systems, was a contributing factor to the problem.
People should conserve, but I don’t see that Halifax Water has the legislative authority to order “mandatory” restrictions. That power isn’t named in Halifax Water’s enabling act, in any event. And, reports Ian Fairclough at Local Xpress:
[Campbell] said enforcement of the restrictions isn’t a police matter.
“Usually the way it works is one resident will call on another and say ‘so-and-so at such-and-such an address is watering his lawn,’ ” and we would drop by and have a chat with him,” Campbell said.
“Ultimately, we can shut down a person’s water service, but we’re not in the business of shutting off people’s water,” he said. “But we want people to realize that we have a critical situation here and it’s in the best interests of everybody to conserve water where we can.”
It’s raining today and we’re moving into the wet season, so the restrictions probably won’t be needed much longer, but climate change is here and we can expect more dry weather in coming years. In anticipation of future droughts, there should probably be in place a legislative process — something more than a guy in a hardhat knocking on your door — for enforcing water restrictions.
“Councillors in a Nova Scotia municipality are being criticized for acting ‘like school kids out on a high school trip’ after expensing thousands of dollars worth of alcohol and travel to taxpayers,” report Susan Allen and Pam Berman for the CBC:
Every winter, councillors and senior staff with the Municipality of the District of Guysborough travel to Pictou County to draft a plan for the next budget year. Before the two-day meeting, they stock up on supplies.
For the January 2014 meeting, municipal Visas were used to buy more than $400 in wine, beer, rum, vodka and lemon gin, according to receipts obtained through the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Staff also picked up $73 worth of snacks and drinks, and spent nearly $1,400 dining at The Bistro restaurant in New Glasgow.
Sigh. Buying booze on the public dime is an issue, I guess — we’ve all become Carrie Nations apparently, but I’m not really opposed to it, within reason.
What upsets me is that the councillors tap the public purse only to turn around and buy Miller and Keith’s beer and the dogawful Captain Morgan’s rum. Come on, councillors, you’ve got the Rare Bird Brew Pub right around the corner from town hall, and Sea Fever rum is distilled (conveniently) behind the hospital. If you really need to go to the metropolis of Pictou, there’s Uncle Leo’s.
That should be the rule: you can drink on the taxpayers, but only if you buy local.
4. Vandalism times four
On Cornwallis Street
“Halifax’s newest bike parking has been vandalized repeatedly since it was installed on Cornwallis Street last week,” reports Stephanie vanKampen for the CBC:
The five-piece bike corral weighs around 120 kilograms and would be extremely difficult to move, according to Kesley Lane, executive director for the Halifax Cycling Coalition.
Lane said the bike corral was moved off of the street and on to the sidewalk three times in five days. She said nearly every time, a silver Volkswagen station wagon was parked in its place.
In Upper Onslow
“A well-grounded Jim Lorraine says the weekend vandalism that occurred at his RiverBreeze Corn Maze is both senseless and unnerving,” reports Francis Campbell for Local Xpress:
“What could happen if those pets are out on the road?” Lorraine mused about the llama and two sheep that were spotted by the Onslow Road near his Upper Onslow home and farm early Sunday morning.
“A lot of people panic and swerve to avoid large llamas, and what do they hit — a telephone pole or flip upside down in a ditch or hit a bridge abutment? Those are all things that are possible and then a family member is dead. Is that what you want? That part frustrates me. It’s really disturbing that they chased our pets off.”
They — according to an RCMP investigation at and near the nearly five-hectare corn maze and its five kilometres of trails — were three people who stole onto the property through a well-worn path from a nearby railway crossing overnight Saturday. The culprits damaged fences, set animals loose and left behind a Jack Daniels whisky bottle and a Schooner beer bottle.
In office towers
“A strange vandalism spree appears to be hitting office towers in downtown Halifax — someone is throwing objects down elevator shafts,” reports Brett Ruskin for the CBC:
Four elevator shafts were suddenly shut down last week at 1801 Hollis St. after tenants on multiple floors reported a loud banging coming from inside.
Similar incidents have happened in at least three other buildings in the city.
On Wentworth Drive
Just after 9 p.m. on September 18, officers responded to the intersection of Wentworth Drive and Eliza Ritchie Crescent in Halifax for a report of a large excavator being operated by several people. Officers located the excavator unoccupied with the bucket resting on a damaged fire hydrant that was releasing a large amount of water onto the street. Halifax Water was able to control the leak and Halifax Regional Fire attended the scene to respond to a number of alarms in the area due to the lack of water pressure. Officers checked the area but didn’t locate any suspects.The suspects were last seen leaving the area in a small white car. The investigation into this matter is ongoing.
1. Local elections
We should pay attention, says Stephen Kimber.
2. Atlantic Film Festival
Carsten Knox is all over it.
3. Cranky letter of the day
I’d like to comment on the CBC compass story on Sept. 15th re the Oxford dictionary. Dictionaries have always fascinated me. I recall buying my first Oxford in September 1981 at the Holland College Book Store. I was entering the journalism program and the book was required. Being, [sic] (now, by my own admission) a poor speller, my instructor told me to keep it handy. That dictionary is now in two pieces, the hard covers long gone, but it still gets used. In January 2005 I received a “newer” Oxford dictionary as a gift from my work place at the time. While I did begin to use that new dictionary, we do have spell check at our fingertips.
But often spell check offerings are just not what I’m looking for. And there is [sic] times while on certain websites spell check is not easily accessible … I lose my patience and grab my Oxford from the shelf under my desk. Hanging onto my old Oxford and having the newer version on hand, (printed 2001) I still sometimes pull out the two pieces of the old one to get a more in-depth meaning. But lately, I’m Googling. I’m (finally) catching up with technology. I know the Oxford is available on line but having a book in my hand means more; what can I say? I’m old school and love that beaten up old dictionary. As for all those new “slang” words. [sic] Maybe they are needed for future generations.
Kathy Birt, Mount Stewart
I’m gearing up to do a gazillion interviews of council candidates. What would you like me to ask them?
Halifax Regional Council (10am, City Hall) — I hate 10am meetings, but I’ll be there and live blogging via the Examiner’s Twitter account, @hfxExaminer.
Community Services (10am, Province House) — Delores Feltmate, chair of the Cape Breton – Victoria Child Advocacy Society, will be questioned.
Veterans Affairs (2pm, One Government Place) — Maya Eichler, the Canada Research Chair in Social Innovation and Community Engagement at Mount Saint Vincent University, will be asked about research, and innovation. Don’t forget the innovation.
Bike Lane (11:30, on the median between the McCain Building and the SUB) — A big to-do about the new bike lane down University Avenue. The Dalhousie Bike Centre will have loaner bikes so people can glory in the Dawgfather-free experience.
Scotian Shelf (11:30am, Room 3655, Life Sciences Center, Oceanography Wing) — Shiliang Shan will talk about “Eulerian and Lagrangian Studies of Circulation on the Scotian Shelf and Adjacent Deep Waters of the North Atlantic with Biological Implications.”
Marine Conservation (3:30pm, 5th floor Biology Lounge, Life Sciences Centre) — Aaron MacNeil will speak on “Sacred Livelihoods in Sacred Nature: Finding Sustainable Solutions in Marine Conservation.”
Financial Advice (5pm, Scotiabank Theatre, Sobey School of Business Building) — Globe & Mail columnist Rob Carrick and editor Roma Luciw will explain why they have giant mansions, while you will never escape from your crushing student loan debt.
In the harbour
10:30am: Maule, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Cagliari, Italy
11am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
Noon: Pearl Mist, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 23 from Charlottetown with up to 210 passengers
4:30pm: Crystal Serenity, cruise ship, sails from Pier 20 for Magdelan Island, Quebec
4:30pm: Norwegian Dawn, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Saint John
7:30pm: Pearl Mist, cruise ship, sails from Pier 23 for Lunenburg
11:30pm: Maule, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
Midnight: Tosca, car carrier, moves from Autoport to Pier 31
I’m not sure how it works, but we get an extra day of summer this year. Of course it’s raining.
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