Two groups that use the space opposite the Halifax Infirmary have voiced their concerns over a proposed 800-space parkade to be constructed alongside their facilities.
At a meeting of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts at the Nova Scotia Legislature Wednesday, MLAs had the chance to ask questions of those making the decisions concerning the massive redevelopment project.
According to the Bengal Lancers executive director, it was the first they’d officially heard the plans for a parking garage adjacent to their location, which includes horse stables and a ring.
“We were a little surprised,” said Angie Holt.
“We had been told this might be happening, but we had been given no details and the plans we saw didn’t really reflect what we had been led to believe.”
“We had been led to believe that our space wouldn’t be impacted or that we would be given more space to work with,” Holt said.
“The plans look like we’re given less space to work with,”
The Bengal Lancers have occupied the space for the better part of a century and indicated they have no contingency plan, nor intention of leaving.
The Halifax Wanderers haven’t called the Wanderers Grounds home for quite as long with just one season under their belts, but they share the same level of concern as their equestrian neighbours.
“The draft plan released would have a significant impact on our ability to operate our stadium on game days, while also limiting our potential for future growth,” reads a statement issued by the soccer club on Wednesday.
“We look forward to being contacted by the province to better understand their plans and discuss a more viable solution.”
Officials at the department of transportation and infrastructure renewal said that while formal discussions weren’t held with those parties, they have engaged in consultation with the Halifax Regional Municipality.
“Our responsibility was to first have an engagement with HRM and we feel we have done that,” explained the department’s deputy minister Paul LaFleche.
LaFleche also disputed the concerns expressed by the Wanderers, saying that the plans wouldn’t limit the ability of spectators to safely enter, and more importantly, exit the location.
“I have not seen any evidence that the Wanderers Grounds are affected. There is an entrance driveway route that goes in that several facilities use that would be still there, it would be slightly reoriented so it depends on how you define the word affect,” he explained. “Are they getting the same service? Yes.”
“We’ve been working with HRM to try to find a solution that works for both,” said John O’Connor, the department’s vice president of infrastructure.
Brought up by opposition MLAs was the idea that additional floors could be added as part of the construction project. Current plans are well short of the 28 storey limit in the area.
O’Connor says that while that was discussed, it’s not as simple of a solution as they might like.
“To put parkade levels at those levels, you wouldn’t connect parkades at the OR’s.”
NDP MLA Susan Leblanc expressed concerns over the plan.
“I’m really afraid that we’re going to get to the other side of this, they’ll release all the information and it’s going to look like a bad deal for Nova Scotia,” said Leblanc.
She added that they shouldn’t have to chase down information at a committee meeting, especially when many organizations and members of the public are seeking it already.
“The lack of transparency around this small aspect of this massive project is a great case for why we need to be talking about the whole project in a way more open and transparent forum,” said LeBlanc.
Tim Halman, a PC MLA, agreed.
“What we’re seeing is just a checkbox in terms of their approach,” said PC MLA Tim Halman.
“If they want to earn the confidence of the public, if they want to have meaningful consultation, it can’t just be a checked box.”