Everything you need to know about HRM council’s Oct. 18 meeting | City | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST
Here's what happened at HRM council's regular meeting on Oct. 18, 2022.

Everything you need to know about HRM council’s Oct. 18 meeting

Council wasn’t buying what Dalhousie was selling during 1245 Edward Street heritage hearing.

City council had a meeting Tuesday that was mostly routine, except for one huge two-hour debate about 1245 Edward Street, the house Dalhousie wanted to demolish this spring. Dalhousie showed up to council to say the house should not be protected. Dal brought a lawyer, a vice president and a government relations director, went on the offensive, and then got absolutely demolished by councillors. For a brief moment at Halifax City Hall, there was all the drama, glamour and glitz of the American Jan. 6 committee hearings. Other than that, it was a pretty routine meeting. So without further ado, let’s get into it.

Things that passed:

In deferred business from Aug. 23, HRM council finally heard a motion to create an African Nova Scotian advisory committee. It will likely be struck in the near future. Unlike standing committees, which have (minimal) legislative power, advisory committees only have as much power as council gives them. This council seems to listen to advisory committees and often takes action on their recommendations. Just worth remembering when future city council hopefuls are asking for your vote: The Soon of this deferral was 56 days.

And in September, council was supposed to give first reading to a new bylaw (S-450), but it happened Tuesday instead. This bylaw will allow the city to pave Bayshore Drive, Tidal Way, Delmerle Drive, Maple Drive, Prospect River Court, Birchpond Court and Tara Drive. The streets are currently gravel and owned by the province. This bylaw, should it pass second reading as is, means the city and individual property owners on the affected streets will split the cost of paving provincially-owned gravel roads. The total cost to these property owners will be $421,813.04, with each property paying roughly $57 per foot of property that touches the affected roads. Councillor Patty Cuttell wanted to speak to this because it’s been more than five years since the process started, and some of the new homeowners in the area are paying for improvements their predecessors agreed to. Council debated and passed an amendment to lower the interest rate to reflect the five-year wait. The amendment and motion passed.

Councillor Sam Austin presented a petition from Protect Eisnor Wetland that asked council not to agree to a development in the area. Austin asked staff if not signing the development agreement was actually something the city can do, due to the province’s involvement. He asked for this to come back faster than a staff report. It will likely be a memo.

The Fiona-delayed public hearing for 1245 Edward Street’s heritage status was held. Getting heritage status would protect the building from Dalhousie University’s demolition rampage. So it is now protected: The vote carried 13-4, with councillors Trish Purdy, Tony Mancini, Paul Russell and Tim Outhit voting against it.

65 Tulip Street was also up for heritage status. City staff recommend it be protected because “the subject site contains a vernacular style workers cottage constructed c. 1878 in the Austenville area, which was developed throughout the mid-to-late 19th century. It is one of few remaining original Austenville dwellings in Dartmouth.” And, like many Nova Scotia towns-turned-small-communities within the HRM, Austenville has a very rich history. This motion passed.

Russell brought the grim news of the austerity forecast from the audit and finance committee to council as an information item. The city’s broke, but it’d be worse off if it weren’t for former city CFO and general fiduciary badass Jane Fraser.

Konica Minolta is now the city’s official office printer repair company. This very real subcontracting contract is worth $2,216,391 over five years ($443,278.20 AAV) but is $33,278 over budget. Konica will be doing maintenance, repairs and making sure all 275+ printers of “varying classes” in the city can all work with “cloud printing.”

Did you know cloud-anything computer-related just means “a computer somewhere else?” Did you know that Amazon owns most of those computers that are somewhere else? Did you know that’s kind of really bad? You do now, sorry!

At the last audit and finance standing committee, the committee recommended council approve taking an additional $100,000 from a reserve fund to pay for improvements to Unnamed Park 27, tennis courts in Bedford, improving the Auburn entrance to the Cole Harbour Common and upgrading a parking lot in Cole Harbour. The total value of the tender is $454,452.32. That passed Tuesday on the consent agenda.

Council almost approved a transfer of $2.205 million from Dartmouth’s infrastructure fund to build a roundabout at the intersection of Larry Uteck Boulevard and Broad Street. This intersection will be closed for three months while the work happens. West Bedford Holdings Limited is doing the work, and it will cost the city a minimum of $3.25 million to a maximum of $5,943,572 (for now). This was deferred by an Outhit motion—he wants staff to find a solution to closing the intersection for three months. Austin wants to make sure Bedford will give the money back to Dartmouth, while staff said the check would be in the mail (AKA in the four-year budget plan). This was deferred.

The city is providing tax relief to various community groups, non-profits and charities. The estimated revenue hit to the city’s bottom line is $257,058 ($8,864.06 in relief on average per property). The city is also relaxing the rules on late filings to minimize administrative penalties and removing properties that no longer house eligible charity or non-profit organizations. This passed.

People aren’t maintaining the houses very well in Schmidtville, so the city is providing up to $50,000 in rebates for 50% of renovation costs upto $100,000 worth of repairs for homeowners in that subdivision.

And finally, 1322 Robie Street is up for heritage status. It’ll get a public hearing in the near future.

Notable debates:

Dalhousie’s presenters went hard at city staff during the heritage status hearing for 1245 Edward. Dal’s presentation team consisted of Gitta Kulczycki, vice-president of finance and administration; Laura Hynes Jenkins, director of government relations; and Peter Rogers, a lawyer with McInnes Cooper. Dalhousie’s expert team cost a lot of money: Kulczycki makes $311,868 a year to collapse spectacularly under council’s scrutiny. Dal’s lawyer, Rogers, opened hot by telling council that city staff sucks, and that Dal knows this because the architect it paid said the building is bad.

Rogers also made the argument that the government shouldn’t be allowed to usurp individual property rights for public good. “Bad process leads to bad results,” he said. Speaking of bad process, the law in Canada is largely based on precedent, which means what courts allowed in the past dictates what courts should allow in the future. The very short, much abridged moral of this story is that if council had accepted the lawyer’s argument, it gives that argument more credibility in future legal proceedings.

Rogers also said the city shouldn’t just protect the building without a plan. But Dalhousie also has no plans for the property.

Dalhousie’s team also said it is committed to saving its heritage buildings. But since none of the university’s heritage buildings are registered as heritage buildings council was able to easily see through this flimsy argument.

click to enlarge Everything you need to know about HRM council’s Oct. 18 meeting
The Coast
HRM council demolished Dalhousie's team during the debate over the heritage status of this 125-year-old Dal-owned house on Edward Street.

When the presentation was done, council just absolutely beat the crap out of Dalhousie’s speakers and did not buy anything the team was selling. Waye Mason said Dalhousie inferring city staff was “offside” in the process was “insulting.” Mason, very diplomatically, called Dalhousie full of shit, encouraging his peers to see through it. Councillors Austin and Shawn Cleary both said the land use is the land use, and that’s important—but also not what this debate was about. They also said the city just spent years zoning that land as residential, so Dal’s plans for the house—when it eventually gets around to making plans—better be for housing because council won’t change the zoning.

Two of the city’s councillors were especially vicious and/or clever in their line of questioning. Cleary pointed out that Dal gets a lot of public money, and wanted to know whether buying property with no plan was really the best use of that money. Because it is not the best use of public funds, Dal’s highly paid PR team completely failed to answer the question.

Queen of Sting, councillor Iona Stoddard, shadily reminded Dalhousie that if it was strapped for cash, the municipality does have grant programs to help maintain heritage properties. Excellent rhetorical barb, no notes, a perfect 5/7, councillor Stoddard.

Matt Stickland

Matt spent 10 years in the Navy where he deployed to Libya with HMCS Charlottetown and then became a submariner until ‘retiring’ in 2018. In 2019 he completed his Bachelor of Journalism from the University of King’s College. Matt is an almost award winning opinion writer.
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