Friends of Halifax Common
Challenge Sale of Common Land
HALIFAX (21 November 2008) - The Friends of Halifax Common (FHC) are calling on the provincial government to stop the sale of 5.5 acres of Halifax Common land at the former Queen Elizabeth High School (QEHS). The QEHS land is included in a land swap between HRM and the province. FHC says this a bad deal. HRM will lose public open green space, pay $1.9 million for the land swap but will acquire half as much as land as the province.
All the traded land will be for two "Flagship Developments" purportedly to create a livable, prosperous, vibrant, attractive urban and legislative precinct."
"What's wrong with the Halifax Common being the Flagship Un-development?" asks FHC co-chair Peggy Cameron. "Isn't supporting public parks and open green space, places to walk a dog, throw a Frisbee, go for a run, or plant a garden just as important for creating a healthy, vibrant, livable city as building more buildings?"
"What's at stake is the park used by many Halifax residents who live in apartments and are students, young families or seniors with low incomes," said Cameron, noting that the skate park and only children's play ground on the North Common are directly opposite the ambulance driveway to the new hospital emergency entrance.
By ignoring the 1994 Halifax Common Plan's instruction to retain all land in the Halifax Common including the QEHS, Council continues to whittle away at the public area bounded by Cunard, South, Robie and North and South Park streets. Less than one-third of the original 235 acres of the Halifax Common remain.
"Where is the overall vision for how the city could be look? That scale of landmark is like New York's Central Park," FHC co-chair Beverly Miller explains. "Imagine the uproar in Manhattan if the City gave away 5.5 acres for a building."
HRM's staff report promises lots of green setbacks and walkways, but based on similar pledges when part of Tower Road was given to the VG hospital, the city's track record on such promises is poor.
"It's incredible that after Chebucto Road, that HRM is 'easing traffic circulation' by widening Bell Road 38 feet," said Laena Garrison, Ecology Action Centre's transportation expert. "The proposed bike lane's location, on an ambulance route along a busy thoroughfare through a large intersection, is questionable in terms of safety" stated Garrison.
HRM needs the provincial government to pass Bill 204 to sell the Common. Presenters before Law Amendment's Committee suggested the government help protect the Common by leasing the new emergency site to Capital Health but keeping the rest of the QEHS lot as green, open, and Common.
The British medical journal The Lancet recently reported that green space reduces the "health gap" between rich and poor [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7714950.stm]. The Regional Plan wants 15,000 - 20,000 more residents on the peninsula by 2025 without any plan for additional open space.
For more information contact:
Peggy Cameron, FHC co-chair and Executive: 902-492-4372
Beverly Miller, FHC co-chair and Executive: 902-429-9540
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