Darell Dexter approved moving Bridge Terminal onto Dartmouth Common land in 1995 | News | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST

Darell Dexter approved moving Bridge Terminal onto Dartmouth Common land in 1995

In pre-internet days, the premier was a Dartmouth city councillor

Premier Darrell Dexter says he has problems with HRM's plans for expanding the Bridge Terminal on Dartmouth Common land, so I wondered what his past stance on the issue has been. I stopped by the municipal archives this morning to find out.

Dexter sat on the old city of Dartmouth's city council from 1994 through to amalgamation in 1995. At that time, the Bridge Terminal was located in the parking lot for the Dartmouth Shopping Centre, just north of Nantucket Avenue. According to Lori Patterson at Metro Transit, the owners of the shopping centre gave Metro Transit just four month's notice that it could no longer use the land for the terminal, which sent officials scrambling to find a new site. The issue was therefore placed before the Dartmouth city council, and before Dexter.

At its March 28, 1995 meeting, the Dartmouth council approved “in principle” a plan to move the bridge terminal into the Sportsplex parking lot, “subject to the details being worked out by staff.” According to the minutes of the meeting, "[s]peaking for the Common Committee, Ald. Dexter commended the landscaping plan; he said it will be a real improvement in the look of this whole property. He was pleased with the co-operative way in which the details of the landscaping plan have been developed, with the Sportsplex and Metro Transit representatives.” The motion carried unanimously.

The next month, on April 25, 1995, the council voted unanimously (including Dexter) to direct staff to proceed with the public information meetings related to changing two bylaws necessary for moving the bus terminal, and for setting a public hearing date of May 23.

At that May 23 public hearing, no one from the public spoke for or against the terminal relocation plan, and the council voted unanimously in favour of it. (Curiously, mayor Gloria McCluskey was absent.) That cleared the way for the terminal to be moved at a cost of $445,000, which was paid for by Metro Transit.

What does this say about the present situation? Hard to say.

In the first place, it's clear from the minutes, and from talking with Dexter a couple of weeks ago, that everyone understood that the terminal was moving onto the Sportsplex parking lot, and not onto Common land. That's a bit of linguistic problem--- the Sportsplex parking lot is Common land, but it evidently was thought of as lost to development already, and not as parkland. (For that matter, the Dartmouth Shopping Centre land was at one time part of the Common as well, but had been privatized, I believe in the 1950s.)

This was before I arrived in Nova Scotia, so I have no personal memory of events, but the minutes of the meetings suggest that no one at all was in opposition to the use of Common/Sportsplex land for the terminal-- at least, no one spoke against it at the public hearing, or at any other point the issue came before council. Perhaps everyone felt the property was "already developed" (as a parking lot) so didn't make an issue of it.

But clearly it set a precedent that is today playing out in interesting ways. Proponents of the new terminal argue that Common land is already in use as a terminal, so objecting to it on those terms is disingenuous.

On the other hand, Dexter himself isn't making that argument. As a Dartmouth city councillor he was in favour of the 1995 plan, and as opposition leader in the legislature in 2008 he voted in favour of using six acres of Common land for the terminal (I'm going to the legislative library later today to read up on that debate). It's only the most recent plan, which uses 3.5 acres of Common land, that he opposes.

I'll have more to say about that in this week's editorial.

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The MacKay Bridge and Barrington Street are taking loooong construction vacations this summer, making driving to and through the city harder. Will your commute be OK?