About that General Committee Meeting…

I watched yesterday’s CBRM General Committee meeting in its entirety and would like to give you a few highlights:


New Central Library

First thought when I saw this item on the agenda: John Phelan is no longer on the library file. The former economic development manager (who returned to Public Works last year) had previously been the staffer presenting on the new central library, but yesterday this task fell to Bill Murphy, director of parks, recreation, buildings & facilities and, for the record, he did not seem at all happy about it.

This was possibly due to the nature of the duty assigned him:

At the Council meeting discussing the Central library, the CAO was to asked [sic] follow up with library officials and staff on the status and feasibility of developing a Request for Proposals to complete a study of service, programs and operational plan development for a new central facility.

Murphy described the information to be gathered as “the building blocks of requirements before we talk about what the building is going to look like,” which is quite funny when you consider that Harbour Royale Development Ltd, the private developer that has been allowed to include the public library in its waterfront development, and architect Spiro Trifos have spent two years showing us pictures of “what the building is going to look like.”



The proposed RFP reinforces what Murphy told council:

The 2016 Feasibility Study and recent Concept Plan work was more focused on facility requirements than services…[T]he report did not include a detailed review of CBRL [Cape Breton Regional Library] services and programs as currently offered at the JMML [James McConnell Memorial Library] or service and program delivery approaches for the future. The Concept Plan prepared by HRDL and TDC [Trifos Design Consultants] followed the facility guidelines of the 2016 Feasibility Study and presented a physical concept for a unique waterfront boardwalk site without the benefit of an Operations Plan or Service Plan.

I would note that HRDL also pre-empted a formal site selection process by including the library in its waterfront plan and dispensed with the possibility of a design competition for the building by giving the job to Trifos.

Asked if this study would be done in time to inform 2020 budget discussions, Murphy said:

I can assure council it will not be done.

He softened this a bit later, saying that while it is “certainly the intent” to get the study done in time for council’s budget deliberations “the reality may say something different.” Which makes sense, because budget deliberations will be held in early March.

Given that such a study must be completed and will inform the design (and in a sane world, would probably have informed the location) of the new library, I guess we could consider this a step forward.

Given that we still haven’t secured funding and we have no idea what size building we can afford and we’ve allowed HRDL to become a “stakeholder” in the process (that’s how the RFP describes them), it might also be two steps back.


Cider House Rules

Jill McPherson, co-owner of the Island Folk Cider House, a cidery to be located in the former St. George’s Church Hall on Nepean Street in Sydney, asked council to amend the cidery’s development agreement with the CBRM to allow it to also sell beer and wine on-site. (The current agreement allows for the sale of cider produced on-site only.)

In a letter to council, McPherson pointed out that cider and beer have similar alcohol content — 3% to 8% — adding that while wine’s alcohol by volume or ABV is slightly higher, it is “consumed in lesser quantities” which suggests she doesn’t know the wine drinkers I know but passons

McPherson’s rationale for requesting the amendment is that not everyone drinks cider and to operate successfully, she must be able to cater to the non-cider crowd; that local craft breweries are permitted to sell alcoholic beverages not produced on-site; that offering products of a craft brewer like Breton Brewing (which sent a letter of support to council) would “demonstrate support for other entrepreneurs and form the basis for future collaboration;” and that it will ensure the success of the business and thus contribute to the CBRM’s commercial tax base.

The cidery’s hours will remain unchanged — 11 AM to 10 PM Sunday to Thursday, 11 AM to 11 PM Friday and Saturday — and it is not requesting permission to offer hard liquor.

District 5 Councilor Eldon MacDonald announced that he would not vote in favor of the amendment, citing comments made by residents of the North End in 2006, when the Secondary Planning Strategy for the district was under development.

It seemed like an odd response to me. I could understand him citing recent conversations with North Enders (who are his constituents) or comments made during the public information sessions held to discuss cidery, but citing comments made 14 years ago seems like a bit of a reach.

I don’t think the district is going to turn into The Liquor Dome North (neither, apparently, did most councilors because the amendment passed).

I also suspect (although I haven’t done the research so don’t quote me) that the demographics of the North End are quite different now than they were even 14 years ago and that the attitude toward purveyors of fine alcoholic beverages may have changed.


Travel allowance

I’ve included this highlight in my article on expenses.

There were some other interesting topics raised during Tuesday’s general committee meeting — I’m particularly interested in a program to finance green home improvements and the latest from the Property Valuation Services Corporation — but they will require me to do a little more reading.

Featured image: CBRM Council Chambers, 2017, by WayeMason, CC BY-SA 4.0, from Wikimedia Commons.