/ Fly Past request; Sidewalk tax; Halifax Forum subsidy; Fire Service Advisory Committee; YMCA project; Regional Plan Five (RP+5); Eastern Passage Common master planning study; Transit strike. /
Today’s Council meeting will see a Fly Past request for Fall River Days (see an explanation of Fly Past requests here).
Next, HRM’s Chief Administrator Officer Richard Butts will ask for a few things. First, regarding the Sidewalk Local Improvement Charges (LIC), he’s going to recommend that Regional Council direct staff to (quoting here):
- Develop a new sidewalk, curb and gutter LIC and taxation system for 2012-2013 that recovers the costs of local sidewalks through a local sidewalk tax and includes the sidewalks on regional roads within the general tax rate, as identified in option 3 of this report;
- Provide additional details for the selected option, including potential tax rates, prior to the 2012-2013 budget presentation; and
- Provide direction as to whether similar solutions should be considered for LICs on other road features such as paving of gravel road upgrades.
I’ll discuss what ‘Option 3′ is in a moment. But first generally, these three directions listed above are basically saying: HRM needs to consider the way it recovers costs for sidewalks, curbs, and gutters; Once Council decides how they want to do it, staff will figure out the details of that choice and reveal the budget implications prior to the next budget presentation; and, to look at whether there are other Local Improvement Charges that should be adjusted.
In his report on the issue, Mr. Butts outlines a number of problems with the current system for funding sidewalk improvements. You can read the report to get the full details (they’re pretty interesting), but some of them also have to do with the boundary re-draws that are going to take effect after the October election.
The ‘option 3′ Mr. Butts is recommending Council agree to is a “Local Area Rate and General Tax Rate“:
This approach would look at local and regional sidewalks differently. Sidewalks on local roads would be paid for by those within a set distance of a sidewalk. Sidewalks on highways and major arterials would be paid for through the general tax rate of the whole municipality or a re-defined urban tax boundary. Those without a sidewalk would not contribute to local sidewalk costs. Using this system, the cost for local sidewalks is paid for by those in the immediate area while sidewalk costs of arterials and highways are paid for by all across the region.
It’s hard to know if Council will simply accept Mr. Butts’ suggestion. Because, as Mr. Butts himself puts it, “there is no accepted best practice for LlCs. Rather, local improvements charges are more of a philosophy, and there is no one correct approach.” There are three other options for Council to consider (Local Improvement Charges, Local Area Rate, and General Tax Rate), so we’ll probably see a hearty discussion on this.
Next, Mr. Butts will recommend that Council send a subsidy to the Halifax Forum to the tune of $102,800. This comes as a request from the General Manager of the Halifax Forum for HRM to pay its agreed-upon operating subsidy for 2011/2012. Should one really have to ask? Anyway, this will pass.
Finally, Mr. Butts will recommend that Doug Tessler, Chief Director of Halifax Fire, take the retired William Mosher’s spot on the Nova Scotia Fire Service Advisory Committee. This will pass.
And then we get to the South Park YMCA development proposal. YMCA wants to do some building, and they want to do it higher than the HRM by Design planning document allows for. This has similarities to last week’s Skye Halifax towers discussion (a Council decision that I actually agreed with), but also has a number of differences.
The first difference is that HRM staff recommended Council not allow the Skye Halifax proposal to go any further, whereas with the YMCA, they’re recommending that the project get the go-ahead. The second difference is that the Skye Halifax towers would be able to be seen from the ramparts on Citadel Hill (a no-no by the HRM by Design document), but the proposed YMCA would not be able to be seen from the ramparts. There are some other differences too, such as that this exception is an easier sell based on language in HRM by Design, and I expect this to more or less sail through.
UPDATE (Feb 28, 12:50pm): By “sail through”, I mean this motion, which would put the project to public consultation. No bets yet on what will happen when it gets to public consultation, though. See some info on the opposition it’ll face as it winds through the process in the comments below.
UPDATE (Feb 28, 2:30pm): This one was actually a first reading (which is very unusual for a staff report), so it wasn’t formally debated today. It’ll be debated next week, but, the motion to bring it to that point passed unanimously.
After that, the Community Planning and Economic Development Standing Committee will recommend that Council approve the launch of a study to “estimate transportation and wastewater services upgrades needed to service future growth with associated costs and suggested means of finance,” and to hang tight on public consultation on certain development proposals until such a report is completed. I expect this will pass no problem.
The same committee will finally push the Regional Plan Five (RP+5) process a long. This is the five-year review of the regional plan (of which HRM by Design is a part) to see how things are going and whether revisions are necessary. This will pass.
Councillor Jackie Barkhouse has the next motion, asking for staff to prepare a master planning study for the Eastern Passage Common. Makes sense. I’m sure it’ll pass.
Finally, we get to the Halifax Metro transit strike. Here, Council will consider a counter-offer from the union. If Council accepts it, transit strike is over. We don’t know much about this counter-offer, except that it doesn’t contain rostering, but it apparently addresses the overtime issue that rostering is supposed to fix.
The transit strike discussion will occur in-camera (behind closed doors), and so we won’t know the result until after the Council meeting.
See the full agenda on the HRM website here.