City council tackles food deserts and feral cats

Five quick hits from Tuesday's meeting inside City Hall.

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One special interest group not in favour of spaying and neutering cats, the cats to be spayed and neutered. - VIA ISTOCK
  • VIA iSTOCK
  • One special interest group not in favour of spaying and neutering cats, the cats to be spayed and neutered.

Pay-to-spay
A five-year pilot project will kick off later this year to help reduce HRM’s feral cat overpopulation. “This has come a long way since we started [with] Tuxedo Stan and the Tuxedo Party in 2012,” said councillor Stephen Adams. The $50,000-a-year program was developed in consultation with Halifax’s ‘Domestic and Feral Cat Committee,’ and spins off of similar money spent in the last few years on a spay/neuter clinic for the NSSPCA and a trap-neuter-release program last year that took the knife to 1,000 cats. Manager Andrea MacDonald told council there are anywhere between 60,000-90,000 feral cats in HRM. No one’s really sure on an exact number, as “it’s not counted in the census.”

Woodside’s Roots
Councillor Sam Austin has asked for a staff report on bringing the Back to Our Roots urban farm to the Woodside Ferry Terminal this summer. It’s an initiative of Partners for Care, the Nova Scotia Hospital’s charity arm, which conducts gardening workshops and supplies locally-grown vegetables to hospital patients and staff. The organization is hoping to increase program funds by selling produce outside the ferry terminal, but Halifax Transit—which doesn’t allow vendors on its property—is currently against the idea. In a related item, Regional Council approved the Mobile Food Market’s winter pilot season.

Fall River’s future
Four five-storey buildings totalling 400 residential units are being proposed as an “enriched living care facility” for property adjacent to Fall River Village. It’s well beyond the low-density residential zoning of the area, but staff suggested cautiously moving forward with the idea to gauge community interest. Fall River has a strong need for more seniors housing, and HRM allows for special zoning considerations if it helps elderly residents “age-in-place.” The city can’t legally impose a requirement for the units to only be used for seniors housing, though the project is currently designed around that idea and has an agreement with Northwood for nursing services. Councillor Steve Streatch added an amendment to also conduct more general public consultation around seniors housing in the area.

Coburg kerfuffle
Nearby residents worried about raucous students leaving beer bottles outside didn’t sway council’s opinion to allow a five-storey, 28-unit development at Coburg Road and Larch Street. A half-dozen neighbouring homeowners spoke out at a public hearing against both the proposal, and the kinds of “transient” people who could end up living in it. Council was sympathetic, but unmoved. A five-storey proposal is against zoning now, but it's actually smaller than the six storey allowance that's expected on the corridor once the Centre Plan is finalized. The bylaw amendments for the development passed 15-1, with only Peninsula North councillor Lindell Smith opposed. “We're still basing our decisions on developments on the Centre Plan,” said Smith after the meeting. “If we're basing our decisions on a document and policy when we don't actually know the policies, then we shouldn't be putting things forward.”

Bell, let’s talk
Halifax has agreed to sign a new $2.3-million contract with Bell Aliant for the municipality’s 3,000 landline phones. The city previously capitalized on the province’s plan with Bell for municipal service rates, which expired in 2013. This new contract—more than five times cheaper than over-the-counter rates—likewise spins off of the new provincial agreement. But the news had several councillors questioning why HRM has any landlines at all, with Richard Zurawski comparing it to manufacturing “buggy whips” when we’re all using cars. That prompted Steve Streatch to warn his tech-loving colleagues to be careful what they wish for. “One solar flare, the cell service is all over.” The simpler answer back from staff is that cellphones are still much more expensive, and certain business units (311’s call centre, for instance) need landlines.

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