In June, Halifax council approved a plan to place an expanded Bridge Terminal on Common land, in a configuration that stretched the terminal from Nantucket Avenue to Thistle Street, just behind the Sportsplex on what is now the Urban Wilderness.
But soon after, premier Darrell Dexter caused the council much consternation by saying he had "concerns" with the plan. In a subsequent interview, Dexter admitted the city's plan was consistent with the Dartmouth Common Act, but said the issue was one of the "relationship between the government of Nova Scotia and the government of the city."
It seems Dexter hadn't thought through the issue-- Metro Transit says much of its expansion plans hinges on having a bigger and safer Bridge Terminal. Both bus drivers and bus riders have complained about safety and accessibility issues at the existing terminal, and it appeared Dexter was opposing much needed transit improvements.
The new agreement, announced yesterday in a vague press release, basically gives Dexter a way to save face. As Kelly describes it, the agreement allows the city to continue exactly as it intended with the terminal plans, but in return, the borders of the Common will be clarified. The Common Act will be "better defined" to include the triangular piece of land bordered by the old School Street extension, Victoria Road and Nantucket, and the old pavement will be torn up, the right-of-way formally dedicated to the Common.
Also, the existing park across Wyse Road from the Sportsplex-- the land bordered by the 99 Wyse parking lot, Wyse Road and Windmill Road, where councillor Gloria McCluskey had gotten outdoor gym equipment constructed-- will be designated as part of the Common. Likewise, the old museum property and a small stand of trees across Alderney Road will receive Common designation.
As well, some former Common land that had been hived off for other public purposes-- including the land under Dartmouth High and Bicentennial schools, the graveyards and some, but not all, of the social housing complex at the corner of Victoria and Boland, will be acknowledged as Common land.
In practical terms, the agreement doesn't change anything at all. It's conceivable, however, that into the future those properties could be pulled back a bit towards park-like uses.
Kelly says that the tender for construction of the terminal has already been put out, and council should approve the winning bid in coming weeks.