Community Planning and Economic Development Standing Committee, May 20, 2021
Meeting recap (the important stuff):
The Lower Sackville Youth Centre a.k.a. The Den has been so successful that the city plans to expand the program into other areas in the HRM. Up next, Spryfield.
In today’s meeting city staff laid out the plan for new multi-service youth centres that will be going to council for consideration and fielded questions from councillors. Everyone was supportive of the plan, and the only real questions councillors had for staff were about trying to make sure the organizations providing the support and services for these youth drop-in centres actually followed through, and how and where this program could be expanded. The only hurdle left for this initiative is getting funding in next year’s budget deliberations, so stay tuned for that.
The committee also looked at potentially changing the noise bylaw for Argyle Street’s entertainment district. City staff recommended that the noise be shut down along that stretch at 11 p.m. largely because every other city in Canada does the same thing. Councillors discussed implementing one of staff’s alternate recommendations, having noise bylaws reflect the times liquor licenses are allowed to serve alcohol, so noise from these establishments could continue until 2 a.m.
They eventually decided to send it to council, and let everyone know that they’re considering both options to solicit informal (a.k.a. not a staff report) feedback from the people and businesses who would be affected by this. If you’re one of the affected parties and have an opinion, reach out to your councillor, who is probably Waye Mason or Lindell Smith.
The committee also got a first look at the Regional Plan Review: Themes and Directions, starting a month-long engagement session to make sure the plan for the city reflects what the people in the city actually want. The broad themes city planner Kate Greene (and her team) reflect a lot of what society at large has been concerned about: the immediacy of climate change (and preventing the catastrophic outcomes), fixing the historic and systemic racial and colonial injustices perpetuating racist and inequitable outcomes, economic systems that arbitrarily punish people with and for poverty, the inefficiency of cars as a method of transportation, the need for complete communities, etc.
There’s not too much to report on this, since it was a ‘heads up this is happening’ presentation, and there will be a lot more in the coming month as Greene and her team present to the various city committees and solicit feedback. If the policies that are written match these themes, and our politicians also adhere to this plan in their day-to-day decision making, Halifax could be on the cusp of a major positive change. Only time will tell.
Who said what (paraphrased):
*They’re adding an item and rejigging the order so Mason can be present for the part he wants to be here for*
Blackburn: On to the Our HRM Alliance 7-Solutions presentation by Meredith Baldwin and Kathleen Hall.
Kathleen Hall: Just a little background, we’re a group of 65 organizations within HRM and have been around for more than 10 years. We were created when there was a frustration with the municipal gov’t in 2011 and decided to join together to make Halifax a better place to live. Jen Powley helped us and we created seven solutions for the HRM including greenbelting. I knew that we were making headway when I saw councillors had our book on their desk and were quoting from it. The greenbelting turned into the Green Network Plan, and that’s amazing.
Meredith Baldwin: We’re a mix of groups from all across the board and we want to make our growth make more sense in Halifax. We were thrilled that HRM included many of them. We’re now at a key deciding moment with the HRM with the Regional Plan Review. And we have an updated seven solutions and here they are:
Baldwin: We need to make sure we’re investing in complete communities, where everyone has a grocery store, for example, and our growth isn’t reflecting this. Our growth isn’t making a lot of sense, the HRM could save $3 billion by concentrating growth. We’re not just allowing sprawl, we’re subsidizing it. We must use the Regional Plan to act on climate change, sprawling suburbs can be 10 times worse on the environment than complete communities. This is probably the last major policy plan before 2030, which is also the deadline for avoiding catastrophic climate changes, and we need to see that reflected in this Regional Plan. This was mainly pointing out problems, without solutions, if you want solutions though you can find them here.
Cuttell: This is an excellent organization and it’s not lost on me how much work has gone into your seven solutions. We need to protect the key places, once they’re gone they’re gone. Concentrating growth, how development happens, and the form it takes, is key to our future. I do have a question, you’ve talked a lot about protecting green spaces and a lot of the pictures in your slides were coastal, one of the greatest things about living in Nova Scotia is access to the ocean. Throwing that out there.
Hall: I listened to a presentation yesterday for the EAC, even though the province brought in the Environmental Protection Act two years ago we’re still waiting for the regulations, and the ongoing development will be harmful. That’s not you, obviously, but anything you can do to put pressure on the province I hope you do.
Lovelace: Part of what’s important is education, can we have this presentation to share it?
Blackburn: I think the clerks can do that. The multi-service youth centre evaluation, is there a presentation?
Clerk: I don’t think so.
Lovelace: *Reads the motion for agenda item 12.1.2 as written*
Blackburn: Anyone want to speak to this?
Lovelace: The Den is great for youth and the youth are playing a huge role in the organization of the Den, and I know that funding is the issue, and we’re talking about next year’s budget. But we need something like this all over the HRM.
Purdy: The stakeholders who partner with the HRM to provide services, is that paid? Are the stakeholders volunteers or are they paid?
Angela Green: The stakeholders were recruited through the initial process of setting this place up. What they give is through their organization, so if it’s the YMCA they’re funding it on their own from their budget.
Austin: Very supportive of this report. Where do we go next? The community was assessed, and got one, what else was assessed? Places like Kennedy Drive in Dartmouth East could use a place like this. Can we have the list of what was assessed in looking at future options? Not to take away from Spryfield, I fully support the next one going there.
Green: We went through an extensive evaluation and worked with the public safety office. I can get that list for you, we ranked them and the top four locations got more evaluation, and that’s how we got the next location.
Austin: Can we attach it to the report that goes to Regional Council? I think the other councillors in the top four would want that info.
Russell: This is in Lower Sackville, I am just thrilled that this has come back to CPED and got budgetary approval. Our youth need something to do and I’m glad this gives it to them. There are some restrictions in place due to COVID, and I’m hoping we can work around them somehow. Most of the people who would make the most of these services wouldn’t benefit from pre-registering. Is there a way to do contact tracing without pre-registry?
Green: I’m going to ask Lee Moore.
Lee Moore (Manager of Youth Programs): We’re looking at a way to make it youth friendly and COVID restriction compliant. COVID’s impacted a lot of things and we’re trying to work within that.
Russell: I’m happy the The Den is being used as a successful pilot.
Cuttell: Happy to see Spryfield is next on the list. Thank you to Councillor Russell for bringing this forward. The timeline, and funding. When will it come to Spryfield and have we identified year-over-year funding? Or is this something we need to bring back to budget each year? How are stakeholders engaged and what kind of stakeholders are engaged?
Green: We’ve identified the year-over-year budget for The Den, the second location will be coming forward at the next budget deliberations. The plan to actually get the location open, we have an action plan we’re going to be implementing, starting with looking for a dedicated location. We’d do public engagement with the youth to see what they need from a space, then contact stakeholders who could meet those needs.
Purdy: I was concerned that some of the stakeholders hadn’t fulfilled their obligation and that’s a risk moving forward, is there some sort of mitigation for that? Contracts? How is success measured? It’s one thing to have a place where kids feel safe, which is a success, but it also says ‘better outcomes for youth,’ how is that measured? Should we follow up with the youth that participate year-over-year? I had a program like this that turned my life around.
Green: Regarding stakeholders, there were issues with a number, a few of the stakeholders not being able to fulfill their requirements. We had an agreement that we required stakeholders to sign off on, but it’s non-binding. Parks and Rec were able to jump in and fill some of those gaps, we’re working to make sure the stakeholders who commit can do so for at least a year. When tracking success, we do intake forms, and we involve them in decision making, we also have goals that we try and meet to track success. Having longer term feedback sounds like a good idea.
Lovelace: Just one comment on the quantification of data, it’s young people and their lives. These young people are in an area where they feel safe and access services they need, the fact that youth are showing up is the success.
M/S/C – Vote – Aye – Unanimous
Blackburn: Up to 12.1.1, noise management!
Cuttell: *Reads the motion for agenda item 12.1.1 as written*
Blackburn: We were waiting for Mason to join us, but I don’t think he’s here yet.
Cuttell: (Missed the start of this and it’s hard to get into a political pontification halfway through. TL;DR: Noise bylaws need to balance the needs of entertainment with the people who are moving to the downtown cores)
Austin: The 11 p.m., did we just choose that based on some other cities? Maybe that should be a little bit later to reflect the actual operating hours? (Cabaret licences can be open until 4 a.m.)
Ross Grant (Planning and Development): We chose 11 p.m. because it aligns with other cities. There’s an alternative in the report to more closely align with the liquor licences.
Austin: The report references Austin and Sydney, Austalia for later, were there no Canadian examples?
Grant: 11 p.m. is the standard across the country.
Austin: My inclination is to align it with the liquor laws in the area.
Smith: I agree with Austin. If we take the alternative to align with the liquor regulations, have you talked to the businesses in the area to talk about the impact of that? Would it be worthwhile to do it again, once COVID has passed?
Grant: We reached out to the businesses in the area in early 2020, so pre-pandemic. We discussed in general, without a time, at that time.
Smith: Have you done an analysis of the alternative?
Grant: The 11 p.m. time is typical across Canada, if the time is permitted to go later, licenced establishments have their noise regulated by the province, it would allow noise on the street, like patios, to go later.
Smith: Do the alternatives encompass all areas with liquor licences or just the district downtown?
Grant: Just Argyle.
Smith: (Said something, but my toddler yelled ‘RUBBLE ON THE DOUBLE’ in my ear at the same time, repeatedly)
Eric Lucic (Director of Regional Planning): We’re looking at this from a ‘what is established,’ consistent regulations across the country. It’s not that we’re opposed to extending the hours, we’re looking at it from best practices. (I’m not sure there’s any proof that 11 p.m. is best practice, seem like it’s just a thing we all do because, like putting ketchup in the fridge.)
Cuttell: In Toronto they were looking at soundproofing requirements from the province. The onus in those scenarios is on the new buildings, not the established use, since the entertainment was a huge economic driver. Has there been any thought given to the building code and how soundproofing new buildings can better mitigate the issues, instead of putting the onus on the pre-existing establishments? The condos at Blowers and Barrington were built and got the bar shut down for being too loud, even though the condo could have been built better to prevent that from happening.
Grant: Toronto’s investigating that, not sure if they’ve done anything about that. I’m not aware of discussions in Nova Scotia. Austin, Texas has some requirements for soundproofing, but I don’t know what they are exactly.
Cuttell: We’ve had all these condos go up without any foresight, so the horses may have left the barn, but maybe if we see this as a start and expanding that as needed.
Blackburn: Is this a briefing note?
Donna Boutilier (Solicitor and Bylaw Coordinator): With respect to the building code, if they aren’t there now, the HRM can’t do it, the province needs to. Council would make a request through a motion to add something to the building code but it’d have to come from council as an ask to the province.
Austin: I’m wondering if deferral is really necessary? It’ll be two weeks before this comes to council, and I’m wondering if staff could have those conversations (that Smith talked about when ‘Rubble on the double’ was being yelled into my ear) while we waited and if we wanted to do an alternative we could do it at council.
Blackburn: Mason’s here now!
Cuttell: Just a consultation piece, maybe talking to Pop Explosion or Music Nova Scotia.
Mason: My power went out! (DAMN YOU NOVA SCOTIA POWER) I’m not sure where you’re at with motions to defer, but putting it ahead to Regional Council and talking to affected parties in the meantime and defer it at that time. I know they’re not going to be happy with a 9 p.m. stop, they want a 2 a.m. stop.
Smith: Can we approve this pending supplemental report?
Blackburn: Send it to council but not until extra information?
Lucic: Two weeks is a tight timeline, can we have a little more time?
Blackburn: Getting information isn’t a problem but the timeline is, so defer to the next meeting?
Mason: Now that it’s public I will solicit feedback and we can put a pause on then. I think we can put it forward to council, we still have time to get that input.
Smith: I don’t think we need to do a very intense engagement, just a letter saying ‘we’re getting feedback, respond by this date,’ should be enough.
Boutilier: We’ve been advised in the past that standing committees and community councils shouldn’t be requesting supplementary reports for council, if you want one it’ll come back to this committee. *Frozen* – to comment on the bylaw.
Austin: Instead of a staff formal consultation, this is being made public, there are enough channels that we’ll be able to get feedback from people directly. And then do what we will with that information. The main question is 11 p.m. too early or should it be 2 a.m. to align with liquor licences?
Blackburn: You’re cool to move this on to council?
M/S/C – Vote – Aye – Unanimous
Blackburn: 15.1 Added item! Regional Plan Review: Themes and Directions presentation!
Kate Greene: We’re here today as the first step in reviewing the plan. Which is an overview of the proposed themes and directions. The public consultation is a month-long for the themes and directions. The Regional Plan document can be a very powerful document in shaping change. We’ve done a lot of research and early engagement, and now we’re doing broader engagement and committee engagement. Here are the major themes:
Greene: We have to make sure the HRM grows in a way that acknowledges and addresses the carryovers from colonialism and the systemic inequities that exist and disproportionately affect the African Nova Scotian community. We know that cars are an inefficient method of travel, especially at peak hours, so we need to plan with that in mind. As we do this piece of work we need to transform. We’re resourceful and community minded, we can band together and our social networks are strong. We need to do more to protect our vulnerable people. Here are the themes, the high level stuff:
Greene: (Sorry, missing a bit here too, my kid just discovered Paw Patrol and is absolutely bouncing because of it) We have some issues papers we’re working on to get more information on important parts of this theme, and here they are:
Greene: We’re engaging the public with virtual tools, using print media, social media and community networks. We can give presentations. Here’s our schedule for engagement:
Lovelace: When you were talking about open space, one of the things we really need is a paper on legislative limitations to help the public understand that we have a lane we have to stay in. And that we don’t have the power people think we do when it comes to things like protecting our waterways. The resources, I feel like there’s a missing element of stakeholder management, where are we with having a database of who our stakeholders are? Are you developing that?
Greene: We do speak of our legislative authority quite a bit, this is something we’ve come up against in housing too. Being clear about what our powers are, we’ll try and embed that more. The second question, this is a municipal wide problem, we don’t have a database. We have a quasi consultation database and so we have a way of recording consultation in that database, I haven’t been engaged in that work but it should be within the next two to three years.
Blackburn: Moving on to item 16, any notices of motion?
Austin: I do! I have two! I’ll be asking for a staff report on the construction mitigation policies on when a temporary sidewalk and crosswalk are required and the encroachment. And the second one is to create an HRM wide Parks Advisory Committee.
Blackburn: We have one registered speaker for public participation, MLA Steve Craig.
Steve Craig: You’ve had quite the challenge with COVID. I’m glad Councillor Austin is still always late. I wanted to come here today to express my delight at the support for The Den (plus an additional five minutes saying the same thing).
Councillor Lisa Blackburn, Chair (District 14)
Councillor Sam Austin, Vice Chair (District 5)
Councillor Trish Purdy (District 4)
Councillor Lindell Smith (District 8)
Councillor Patty Cuttell (District 11)
Councillor Pam Lovelace (District 13)
N/A – COVID
Previous meeting minutes and current agenda:
A former Naval Officer turned journalist, Matt Stickland is committed to empowering his community to ensure that everyone has access to the information they need to make their city a better place.
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