Coming to Halifax council: Bus Stop Theatre funding, Lake Banook improvements

Regional Council approved $833-million in total municipal expenditures, provincial mandatory contributions of $173.8-million and a capital plan of $177.9-million as part of the 2021/22 municipal budget. Alexa MacLean/Global Halifax

Halifax Regional Council is back for its third meeting of the year on Tuesday.

After taking the first steps towards introducing Transportation Networking Companies like Uber and Lyft into the municipality, council will turn their attention to community issues.

Among other topics, council will debate funding for the long-term sustainability of the Bus Stop Theatre, a plan for future improvements to Gorsebrook Park and regulations around secondary suites.

Here’s what else is come to Halifax Regional Council on Jan. 28, 2020.

Click to play video: 'The Bus Stop Theatre on Gottingen St. is going up for sale'
The Bus Stop Theatre on Gottingen St. is going up for sale

Bus Stop Theatre funding

The Bus Stop Theatre Co-Operative on Gottingen Street is one step closer to securing funds to purchase the space it currently comes home.

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On Tuesday, Halifax Regional Council will vote on a staff recommendation to approve a one-time $250,000 contribution that would be earmarked toward the non-profit’s purchase of 2203 Gottingen Street and 2268 Maitland Street.

At a council meeting in June last year, council unanimously voted in favour of the $250,000 contribution phased over a two-year period. That was contingent on the co-operative receiving financial support from other levels of government.

With a feasibility study carried out by municipal staff, council will have to vote once again on final approval.

READ MORE: Halifax council to provide $250K over next 2 years for Bus Stop Theatre

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The estimated cost of the project is $1.21 million, which includes building and land purchase expense, construction and development costs, a contingency fund and administration and fundraising support.

The cost is a significant reduction from the Bus Stop Theatre’s original budget, which estimated $6.5 million for the project.

The feasibility study found that the federal and provincial governments have been asked to contribute $355,000 each, while private donors will need to kick in $250,000.

Although the staff report finds that the timing of the sale is ambitious, they conclude that the municipality’s contribution can be a “strategic opportunity” to support the arts and could provide a strong “public benefit” to residents.

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Click to play video: 'HRM recommends $20M contribution for CFL community stadium'
HRM recommends $20M contribution for CFL community stadium

Secondary suites in Halifax

One of the proposed solutions to meeting the municipality’s affordable housing targets is allowing homes in Halifax to have backyard or secondary suites.

In March 2018, council tasked municipal staff with looking at methods of simplifying bylaws in order to allow suites that are an accessory to the principal building on the lot.

On Tuesday, council will look at a report that recommends a series of bylaw amendments that would make the development of backyard or secondary suites easier.

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The argument in favour of permitting these smaller residences is that it could help the municipality alleviate Halifax’s shrinking vacancy rate, which in 2019 slipped to 1 per cent.

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Consultations with the community found that they were concerned secondary suites could pose problems with parking and traffic and a lowering of property standards.

Staff say it’s hard to estimate how many secondary or backyard suites currently exist in the municipality, but that approximately 350 secondary suites have been created since 2005.

Gorsebrook Park improvements

A staff report that was first in front of council in December — but has been repeatedly deferred — is back on the agenda this week.

Councillors will consider adopting a planning report as a guide for future improvements to Gorsebrook Park, located in the municipality’s South End.

In its current form, the 7.6-hectare park contains Inglis Street Elementary and Gorsebrook Junior High School, an outdoor ball hockey, two ball diamonds, a community garden, tennis courts and basketball courts.

Since the park was established in the 1940s there hasn’t been a comprehensive plan for the area, resulting in “decades of ad-hoc upgrades”

The report aims to fix that by introducing a number of planned changes. including:

  1. An entrance at Inglis Street that will improve visibility and circulation. This would function as a formal park gateway with a paved path, park signage, lighting and seating.
  2. A central gathering space that would create an are for unscheduled activity. This would include a centralized pavilion with washrooms and a shaded seating area.
  3. An entrance on Robie Street that would include an opportunity for seating space and a graded pathway that connects the entrance to Gorsebrook School.
  4. An entrance at Wellington Street which would remove only one bay of parking on Lundy Lane. This would function as an accessible park entrance with ornamental bollards that would prevent a vehicle from driving into the park

The report argues for a phased approach for the improvements, with estimates of the work being “within an order of magnitude of $3.0M.”

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Click to play video: 'Dartmouth’s Lake Banook showcased during Pan Am Canoe Championships'
Dartmouth’s Lake Banook showcased during Pan Am Canoe Championships

Lake Banook improvements

Council will also examine a recommendation from staff to plan for improvements around Dartmouth’s Lake Banook ahead of the 2022 ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships.

In 2018, Lake Banook was selected as the venue for the event scheduled for five days in August 2022.

Now, regional council is being asked to authorize a series of upgrades to the lake’s facilities, including improvements to spectators seating at Silvers Hill, levelling the ground at Birch Cove Park for use as an athletes village and revitalization of entrances, landscaping and facilities that were upgraded when Lake Banook previously hosted the Canoe Sprint World Championships in 2009.

The cost of the improvements is estimated at $75,000, which would be included in the 2021-2022 capital budget.

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The Halifax Regional Municipality is already contributing $800,000 towards the event as part of a special events marketing grant.

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