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Long-term parking

Mike Fleury parks it like it’s permanent.

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After months of speculation and argument over how to best use the lot near Spring Garden and Queen—the former location of the Halifax infirmary—some parts of the site began to take shape this past week: A brand new parking lot has been installed near the corner of Queen and Morris, taking up a sizable chunk of the vacant property.

The question is, for how long? Despite early reports that the lot would operate on an interim basis (a story in last Friday’s Chronicle-Herald quoted a spokeswoman from the Department of Transportation and Public Works who described the parking set-up as “temporary”), a citizens advisory committee for the former infirmary lot fears that at least part of the new parking lot will be around for a long time to come. In an email sent out last Monday, the committee expressed concern that Dalhousie University had already been working on a deal with the province that would give them long-term control over a parking lot on the corner of Queen and Morris.

“At the end of discussions …it was also agreed that Dalhousie would operate a parking lot on an interim basis,” it reads. “What we were surprised to learn last week was that for the last three years, Dalhousie had been negotiating a 99-year lease on the prominent corner of Morris and Queen Streets...Not once during the study was there ever any mention of this impending agreement.”

According to Charles Crosby, spokesperson for Dal, the university does have a pending agreement with the province (Dal has already signed off—it’s now awaiting provincial approval) to have 111 parking spaces beside Gerard Hall—an arrangement that is likely to prevail for the “foreseeable future.”

“We’ve always had parking on that lot, on the corner of Spring Garden and Queen—we’ve had parking in that area since 1966,” he says. “From day one, it’s been very clear that we were going to have our parking spaces retained somewhere.”

Public committee member Jeffry Taggett says the long-term parking deal—and particularly, the location of Dal’s lot—may surprise citizens who attended last Spring’s public planning sessions.

“That corner was openly discussed as a place for new development,” he says. “None of this was ever brought up .”

So, any chance that Dal will eventually install something other than a parking lot on the Queen and Morris corner? “I couldn’t predict what the needs of the community or needs of the university will be in say, 2060,” says Crosby. “But when I say ‘for the foreseeable future,’ I mean for our immediate term-planning process, we have no intention of doing any further development.”

Crosby says the recent outcry over the 99-year lease “isn’t entirely justified,” and that the impending deal with the province has never been concealed from the public. “It’s a bit of a misunderstanding…A lot of this has been a mixing up of two concepts. One is this planning study, which has come forward with various proposals for a library and a law court and various other things. Separate from that is a development agreement—a long-standing development agreement—that we’ve had with the province, involving both Gerard Hall and our parking spaces. They’re not tied together; they’re not the same thing.”

So why bother gathering public input on a corner that’s already been reserved for a parking lot? In that sense, Crosby is right. We don’t understand.

Do you understand? Email: mikef@thecoast.ca

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