Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

Editor’s Note: This week’s Fast & Curious is somewhat — although not entirely — less random than usual as I’ve decided to use the space to cover some items from this week’s CBRM Council meeting. Your regular Fast & Curious will return next week.


Minute by minute

I finally got to watch the video from the November 9 CBRM council meeting (it was posted mid-afternoon on Wednesday, I asked the Clerk’s Office if they’ve considered just continuing using YouTube and they’ve promised to put that question to the IT department).

Council is back in chambers, which have been equipped with plexiglass dividers, so watching a meeting is like watching an Italian mafia trial.

I went through the agenda on Tuesday afternoon and picked out a couple of items that interested me, the first being, of course, the Port of Sydney update. But I got distracted when the new chair of the board of the Port of Sydney Development Corporation (PSDC), James Kerr, announced that the board had voted to publish the minutes of its meetings. (Hurrah!) So I’m going to dedicate this portion of my council report to the minutes posted to date i.e. those of the August board meeting (Kerr didn’t say anything about publishing the minutes in a timely manner) and I will cover the actual Port update at length next week.

James Kerr

James Kerr

The board minutes can be found by scrolling down to the very bottom of the Port of Sydney home page and clicking on “Documents & Reports” (found under “Business Development”).

The first items of the August meeting were chiefly housekeeping: the election of Kerr as board chair followed by the approval of the agenda and past minutes.

The next items (under “Business Arising”) began with a presentation on the Fishermen’s Cove project, a discussion about combining the Liberty Emporium and Fishermen’s Cove projects and an update on the expected resumption of cruise activity. These were all covered in Tuesday night’s presentation to council, so I will report on them all next week. For now, may I just reiterate how much I hate the name “Liberty Emporium?”

The next item involved a federally funded “Solar Cooperative” program led by the Verschuren Center. Details were very sketchy — it’s an opportunity to “green” part of the port operations at “low cost to the port” and “more information will be brought forward” at some unspecified time — but the board heard enough to convince it to join the cooperative.

Next up was one of my two favorite items on the agenda, the “Novaport [sic] Update,” which I will reproduce in full:

Marlene advised that good progress is being made on the Container project. As of late there has been no movement from G & W on rail. Marlene would like to have Albert come to present to the board so board members can ask questions directly. The board agreed on the importance of meeting with Albert. The Port of Sydney is involved in advocacy and promotion of Novaport [sic] as is the case with all other harbour developments such [as] improving service options.

Do you suppose “Marlene” (that would Port of Sydney CEO Marlene Usher) detailed any of this “good progress” to the board or did she literally just say, “Good progress is being made on the Container project?” (And wouldn’t we all like the chance to ask “Albert”– Barbusci, our port promoter —  some questions directly?)

Next was an update on navigational aids for the harbor (more next week) and a financial update that included this reference:

Reserve for land $200,000 still exists from prior board approval to acquire the land near the rail corridor. Genesee and Wyoming seem to be waiting for the resolution of the Nickerson Land.

I’ve written about the Port’s plan to acquire land near the rail corridor, you can read what details there are here. But the reference to the Nickerson land is interesting, because it presumably means G&W is waiting to see what the UARB decides the CBRM should pay for land it expropriated from Jerry Nickerson for the second berth before it puts a price on the rail corridor land.

Item 9 was about the PSDC’s CRA remittance and the meeting ended with my second favorite item:


If the Port Board — a body overseeing a corporation owned by the CBRM — has decided to follow the rules for in camera meetings as set out in the Municipal Government Act, then it needs to tell us why it is meeting in camera. And that reason needs to be one of those set out in the MGA, not “because we didn’t want you to know what we were talking about.”

Still, they’re publishing their minutes, and that’s something.




CBRM staff are restarting the development process for a new sign bylaw — a process begun in 2019 but thrown off course by COVID.

Back in June 2019, council voted to proceed with enforcement measures for unauthorized signage on utility poles. As the CBC’s Tom Ayers reported, then District 12 Councilor Jim MacLeod led the campaign against the unsightly signage, telling CBRM’s general committee:

The utility poles are not the Yellow Pages, and this is what it has come to be when you have four, five, six, seven signs on the utility pole.

Sign on telephone pole

Sign spotted recently attached to a downtown utility pole.

Planning Director Michael Ruus told Ayers:

…the streets bylaw can be enforced to remove signs on public property.

Ruus also recommended a new bylaw be drafted with input from sign companies to consider regulations on where signs can be placed, and to add licensing and fees.

Council had “formed a working group of internal and external stakeholders” (otherwise known, I believe, as “people”) and was ready to start holding public sessions on the matter when the pandemic hit, but Ruus reported Tuesday night that with “restrictions on business and the public easing,” they have reconvened the working group and are “prepared to enter the first phase of public engagement,” focusing specifically on “mobile signage” — those ubiquitous signs telling you what is BOGO at the grocery store and playing at the theater and lurking in your attic (asbestos and mold, apparently).

Ruus says participants will come to grip with questions about:

  • Number of permitted signs on commercial properties;
  • Permitted duration of signs on properties;
  • Separation distances for signs; and
  • Locations where signs are permitted

Regulation of permanent signage — like billboards —  is apparently being left to CBRM Forward to come to grips with.

Councilors asked some good questions — Steve Parsons (District 7) wondered about signage on provincially owned roads, like the little cluster of signs in front of Lady of Fatima Church. Ruus said they would need the Transport Ministry to endorse whatever regulations CBRM adopted.

District 1 Councilor Gordon MacDonald asked whether job losses associated with any restrictions on mobile signs would be considered and Ruus said the working group on the new by-law includes representatives from the business community in general and sign companies in particular. He also said that “business impact assessments” may become part of the CBRM’s regulatory approach as part of a revamped land-use by-law, now expected by December 2022.

Ruus’ presentation was for information purposes only, so council neither made nor passed any subsequent motions.



Senior Planner Karen Neville told council that CBRM Planning and Development has received a request from Nova Scotia Lands Inc, the provincial entity that owns and operates the Harbourside Commercial Park in Sydney,  to amend the boundaries of the subzone categories of the park to “facilitate the sale of property.”

The park is divided into two subzones, HBZ-1 which covers the northern area  and HBZ-2 which covers the southern area. Neville said the “vision” for the park was that “sales and service” uses would be permitted in HBZ-2 and “more industrial uses” in HBZ-1.

The problem NS Lands has is that the purchasers want to establish “service uses” on land in HBZ-1, where these are allowed only if “accessory to a permitted main use.” And so it has asked council to change this.

Here’s the map Neville provided council, showing the properties subject to the amendment (marked in blue):

CBRM map of HBZ zone

And here’s a map from the Harbourside Commercial Park website, which shows that part of this land is occupied by a “sports area.” (The “Steelmen’s Memorial Field,” which  includes a soccer pitch, basketball court and tennis court.)


NS Lands map of Harbourside Commercial Park


Neville recommended council consider the amendment and begin by passing a motion to schedule a public hearing on it.

What are these “service uses,” I wondered? Who are these buyers? I figured councilors would be curious as well. But I soon realized that councilors clearly already know what the deal is, because rather than discussing the amendment, District 12 Councilor Lorne Green immediately moved that a public hearing be scheduled and the motion was seconded and passed unanimously without any discussion.

My first thought was “parking for NSCC Marconi” —  the Ekistics campus relocation report had suggested an off-site lot and shuttle service like those used at the NSCC Ivany Campus in Dartmouth. Ekistics said enough land was required for a “separated parking lot that can hold at least 500 cars…in relative close proximity to the main campus. Ideally within 1 km.”

But that’s just speculation — presumably, the intended use for the land will be revealed during the public hearings. Although why it couldn’t have been mentioned during Tuesday’s meeting escapes me.