Also on the Agenda…

As you have probably divined, the item of greatest interest to me on yesterday’s council agenda was the request to extend Harbour Royale Development Ltd’s waterfront development agreement and thereby, its role in developing the proposed new CBRM central library, but there were other items on the agenda that I would like to duly note.


Who you gonna call?

CBRM Deputy CAO (I missed this development) John MacKinnon updated council on the municipality’s new 311 number.

The “simple, three-digit” phone number, to be launched in May 2020, will allow “customers” (otherwise known as “citizens” or “residents”) to “find information about services, make complaints, report problems” or make “contact with municipal staff.”



MacKinnon explained that 311 numbers are used by municipalities to provide non-emergency information and regulated by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). Halifax and 19 other Canadian cities have implemented 311 numbers since 2005 and CBRM staff has consulted with some of these, particularly Halifax.

Christa Dicks, a former recreation manager with the CBRM, has been hired to implement the system (and received a warm welcome from council last night). The department has also chosen a “311 Contact Centre telephony solution” but won’t tell us what it is.

Identifying service delivery requirements and securing the resources necessary to meet them remain on the IT department’s “to-do” list:

Options are being researched and prepared for staffing, equipment and physical location.

Hours of operation will be 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM Monday to Friday but these will be reviewed “as additional services and resources become available.” Callers will be greeted by a “brief” recording of service offerings, which they can bypass to be transferred to a live operator.

Everything about how the service evolves will hinge on one simple fact, which MacKinnon stated baldly:

We don’t have a lot of money.

Oh, and District 9 Coun. George MacDonald wants you to know this will not eliminate the need for councilors nor, apparently, will it do anything to reduce the number of calls councilors receive. Sadly, he did not offer any explanation as to why we are introducing such a system if residents will continue to call their councilors instead of using it.


Drawing lots

Council approved an application by New Dawn Enterprises to amend the North End Sydney Secondary Municipal Planning Strategy (MPS) and Secondary Land Use By-law to allow it to provide fewer parking spaces around the former Holy Angels High School and Convent than currently mandated by those documents and to operate a restaurant on the premises.

Parking Plan, New Dawn Enterprises

Basically, council has followed the planning department’s recommendation to create an “Arts and Culture Centre (ACC) Zone” that encompasses the facilities, allows uses not otherwise permitted in the residential North End and establishes parking requirements specific to the zone. If I followed the discussion correctly, the ACC specifications call for 96 on-site parking spaces but New Dawn is only going to provide 93, plus an additional 27 on the street.

A public hearing on the amendments was held during last night’s meeting but attracted no participants. Feedback from earlier public information sessions was included in the planners’ report and was mostly in favor of the amendments. Those who expressed concerns the amendments would make a bad situation as regards parking in the North End — where people are already parking too close to intersections, blocking driveways and occupying spaces in front of people’s houses — worse.

I live in the North End, and feel their pain, but I think it’s a problem in need of a more comprehensive solution and so, in fact, do CBRM planners Michael Ruus and Karen Neville. In recommending this solution for New Dawn, the planners said the real answer to the problem would be to create more parking facilities in the downtown core. To this end, they recommended a thorough review of the parking requirements contained in the CBRM’s planning documents as part of a “comprehensive review of CBRM’s Municipal Planning Strategy,” a process that would:

…require additional resources to hire a consultant team and move forward with a robust public engagement program for developing new planning documents for CBRM.

Presenting on behalf of New Dawn, Erika Shea, vice president of development, explained the steps the organization has taken to mitigate the parking situation — including providing a shower for tenants who choose to walk or bike or otherwise actively transport themselves to work, bike parking, priority parking for car poolers and subsidized bus passes for tenants.



Shea also made the case for the restaurant, explaining that it will be operated by Meals on Wheels, which provided 12,000 meals last year to CBRM residents unable to cook for themselves. Shea said the restaurant — which will be open both to tenants of the Convent and former high school and to the general public — will serve three meals a day and help finance the Meals on Wheels program.

She also provided an update on the status of the Convent project, which she described as a 38,000 square foot “cultural hub,” explaining that New Dawn has secured $10.1 million of the $15.3 million cost of adapting the building, that it has four anchor tenants and that it has leased 90% of its studio space.

Interestingly, she noted that according to the American Institute of Architects, the majority of architects’ work over the next 50 years will be “on projects that are already built.” The advantages to this, she said, include reducing demolition landfill waste (which I have recently learned represents a significant portion of all landfill waste). It occurred to me that this is a subject we would have discussed had we actually discussed the best approach to acquiring a new central library.

Okay, I’m talking about the library again — I believe this is where I came in.