Update #18 – Residential Licensing, Accessibility, Bike Lanes and more

Residential licensing 

We can expect a staff report this Fall regarding my motion to explore residential licensing in HRM for small unit buildings and converted homes.  The collapse of the deck on Brussels Street this last week is a prime example of why we need routine licensing and inspection.  I think we all agree it is only fair that property owners in Halifax comply with the land use and bylaws.  There must be consequences for landlords who do not follow these basic rules.

 This will not be an easy thing to get passed.  The property owners association will oppose this and try and convince my fellow councillors that this type of regulation will hurt their economics.  When it comes to Council I will ask you to reach out to friends and relatives throughout this whole regional municipality to make sure councillors vote for what is right – ensuring the fire, life safety and land use compliance of residential rental housing.

Accessibility

Council continues to work to implement the accessibility agenda outlined in the Mayor’s Healthy Community report.  This is no small project – Halifax and Nova Scotia are fifteen years behind the rest of the country in legislating protection for the disabled when it comes to the building and construction. It is my hope that Halifax will provide leadership and move to act on these issues without waiting for the province.  Halifax can act to better ensure accessibility to our own facilities and services, but we can also mandate accessibility in building and renovation.

In the United States, the American’s With Disabilities Act requires accessibility wherever it is reasonable to do so, and so should Halifax.  You will see me make a number of motions over the next few weeks that will help to create the policy framework to get this work done.  I appreciate the comments and thoughts many of you have already sent me, and I look forward to hearing from you about how we can work together to make Halifax one of the most accessible cities in North America.

Movement on Bike Lanes

I support bike lanes.  I know there are challenges and trade-offs, but a critical goal of the Regional Plan is to get more people out of their cars and into mass transit, on cycles and their two feet.  To achieve this we need to improve regional sidewalks in critical high traffic areas, build more shared trails and cycle lanes, and upgrade Halifax Transit.

An exciting piece of this is the tendering of construction of an official bike and walking path behind the old St Pat’s High School site.  Right now, we walk through the St Vincent’s parking lot, but an official path would be safer, permanent and a lot wider/better lit.  This will connect Vernon Street, a bike route, to the Windsor Street bike lanes, which is a long time coming.

Please remember to be careful of bikes going straight through Quinpool / Vernon.  The ‘Bike Excepted’ sign is not very obvious, but this is now allowed under the Motor Vehicle Act.  When the path behind St Pat’s is built, better markers will go onto the pavement so drivers can see the cyclist right of way.  Until then, please be careful if driving in a car and give way to cyclists.

Traffic Calming

My cousin lives near the Annex in Toronto.  You could not enter off Bloor and short cut to the next major street.  Clever one ways and speed bumps would spit you back onto Bloor.  My feeling is that our goal has to be to get to that point in our neighbourhood.  Vernon Street is a major connector, despite its residential profile, as is Jubilee, but the other streets should be impaired for through traffic.

Staff has been directed to prepare a policy to assess roadways within the Municipality to determine need and suitability of implementing traffic calming measures.  The current policy is a shortcutting policy, which is based on number of cars.  Most side streets don’t qualify.  This new criteria will be based on speed and speeding. I’m hoping that we can achieve something approaching what you see in other cities with our kind of grid pattern.

Snow Removal Services

It’s not winter yet, but it’s not too soon to plan for winter! The snow removal program is available to seniors (65 years of age or older) and persons with disabilities in Halifax, who meet the criteria below. The program applies to residential properties only – commercial properties are ineligible.

  • The program is NOT available to landlords.
  • You must reside in a single dwelling home that you own or rent.
  • The total gross household income of all people living on the premises must not exceed $30,000.

The program offers assistance to clear snow from steps and walkways, including:

  • Front and back steps
  • Walkways
  • Access to fuel tanks

To find out more about this program, please call the YMCA at 483-3678. Application for the program ends on December 1st OR earlier if the program reaches full capacity.

 A Wheely Fun Summer at the Oval

 Think the Oval is just for winter? Think again. This summer, the Oval saw 7372 visitors, five special events, rollerblading lessons for all ages, learn to bike, and lots of equipment borrowed – rollerblades and all protective gear, rollerskates and all protective gear, three adapted bikes for special needs/adult trikes to learn to bike, sledges on wheels and five two-wheel bikes for youth and adults.

 OUT AND ABOUT

 As always, I am including some events, some of which are in District 7 and others which are in the Municipality. This list is by no means exhaustive and inclusion on the list does not indicate my endorsement.

 Open Gym program offers residents free access to six school gymnasiums

HRM and Halifax Regional School Board are inviting residents and families to stay active this fall and winter by providing free access to some of the region’s school gymnasiums. Six school gyms located across the region will be open for two hours most Saturdays for school-aged children and youth, along with their parents, to come and play tag, kick a ball around, dance, shoot some hoops, or anything fun and active.

Open Gym days will take place every Saturday from Sept. 27 to Nov. 29, 2014, and again from Jan. 3 to May 2, 2015 (except for March 14 and April 4), at the following schools and times:

  • A.J. Smeltzer Junior High School, 46 Prince Street, Lr. Sackville from 1:30 – 3:30 p.m.
  • Humber Park Elementary School, 5 Smallwood Avenue, Lake Loon from 2:30 – 4:30 p.m.
  • Rockingstone Heights School, 1 Regan Drive, Halifax from 2:30 – 4:30 p.m.
  • John MacNeil Elementary School, 62 Leaman Drive, Dartmouth from 2:30 – 4:30 p.m.
  • Fairview Junior High School, 155 Rosedale Avenue, Halifax from  2:30 – 4:30 p.m.
  • Duncan MacMillan High School, 481 Church Point Road, Sheet Harbour from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

Municipal recreation staff will be on-site at each school to assist and participate, but unlike other municipal programs, these sessions will be unstructured with no lesson plans or organized activities. The objective of this program is to increase citizen access to recreation facilities at no charge, as well as provide more opportunities for unstructured play.  This program is supported by the Halifax Regional School Board, the NS Department of Health and Wellness, and the Halifax Regional Municipality.

Name Halifax Transit’s newest harbour ferry

Halifax Transit is expecting the arrival of a new passenger ferry in spring 2015. This new vessel will replace one of the existing ferry vessels and bring more continuity and efficiency to the harbour ferry service. Based on the success of our 2013 Ferry Naming Contest that saw the name of Christopher Stannix placed on one of our ferry vessels, residents are invited to name the new harbour ferry. Until October 12, residents of Nova Scotia have the opportunity to suggest a name for the newest ferry vessel that is scheduled to be delivered in spring 2015.

After a vetting process, a final short list of five finalists will be posted on halifax.ca for residents to select their favourite. The most popular finalist will be submitted to Transport Canada as the ferry’s name and will win a one-year Halifax Transit conventional transit pass.

For more information: http://www.halifax.ca/transit/ferrynamingcontest.php

It’s that time again: Curbside Giveway 

Taking place on a curb near you on October 18 and 19 – Curbside Giveaway is a great opportunity to find a treasure or rehome a treasure. On Facebook: Facebook.com/HalifaxRecycles and Twitter @hfxgov. Share your curbside finds with #hfxcurbside

 2014-15 Professional Arts Grant Program Applications Now Available

 The Halifax Regional Municipality is pleased to announce that applications are available for the 2014-2015 interim Professional Arts Grant Program for not-for-profit arts organizations. This program provides funding for arts organizations through two categories: operating assistance and project assistance. It was developed as a result of recommendations from the Municipality’s former Special Arts and Culture Advisory Committee. Staff responded to these recommendations in a report to Regional Council, formalized afterward in an Administrative Order.

 Applications found here: http://www.halifax.ca/culture/Opportunities/index.php#ArtsGrantProgram. Applications must be submitted no later than 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 31, 2014.

 2014 HRM Volunteer Conference

 In its 14th year, the Volunteer Conference gives volunteers an opportunity to participate in training, networking and learning that help them become more effective in their work and provide strong volunteer capacity in the Halifax region. It will be held Friday, November 21 and Saturday, November 22, 2014 at the Harbourview Holiday Inn, Dartmouth. For more information: call 902-869-4755 or visit   www.halifax.ca/volunteerservices

2015 Volunteer Awards

Each year Halifax Regional Municipality, the Mayor and Regional Council recognize the extraordinary contributions of individuals and groups who volunteer their time and skills to provide services and programs in our communities. The nomination deadline is Friday, December 12th, 2014. Visit www.halifax.ca/volunteerservices/awards for the nomination forms. For additional information or questions, please contact Volunteer Services at hammonp@halifax.ca or 902-869-4018.

Keep in Touch 

There are many ways to reach us to get the help you need:

1. Call 311 first for most municipal issues. 311 is open 7 am to 11 pm seven days/week. Be sure to ask the agent for a file number (for follow-up). By calling 311, your request is put in a queue and prioritized. It also provides a record of what concerns come forward, which is helpful for planning.

2. Contact my office.  Call our office for assistance with your municipal issues. Please contact my Council Constituency Coordinator, Lynn Matheson at lynn.matheson@halifax.ca or by calling 902.490.7177.

3. Contact me directly.   The best way to reach me is via email – waye.mason@halifax.ca or you can call my direct line at 902-490-8462.

 I’m usually in meetings 85% of the business day, so calls usually go to voicemail. Email really is better. Social media (twitter, facebook, google plus, etc) is great, but please send issues and questions to my email, that way everything comes into one place – and also Lynn can read my emails and respond, but she can’t see my social media messaging!

4. Sign up for my email list: http://wayemason.ca/

STAY CONNECTED, STAY INFORMED

Follow these social media channels to keep up to date:

HRM website: http://halifax.ca

HRM twitter: http://twitter.com/hfxgov

my twitter: http://twitter.ca/wayemason

my facebook: http://www.facebook.com/wayemasonhrm

google plus: https://plus.google.com/102848045441298131401/

linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/wayemason

OTHER IMPORTANT NUMBERS

 Other political contacts (school board, provincial, federal) can be found here

Police/Fire Emergency – 911

Councillor Support Office – 490-4050

Police (non-emergency) – 490-5020

Fire (non-emergency) – 490-5530

Halifax Water Emergency – 490-6940