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HRM Questions Accuracy of DHBC Newsletter on Plant Siting
(Wednesday, March 13/2002)-- Halifax Regional Municipality is concerned with most of the information contained in the March 8/2002 edition of the Downtown Halifax Business Commission newsletter.
Under the headline of "Halifax Sewage Treatment Plant," the newsletter contains excerpts of a presentation to Halifax Regional Council on February 26th by Deborah Grant, Executive Director of the DHBC.
George McLellan, HRM's Chief Administrative Officer, said "Aside from the opening and closing paragraphs, there is very little that we can agree with, nor do we consider the information being provided to the members of the DHBC and others to be accurate."
Mr. McLellan said HRM needed to respond publicly to the newsletter, because misinformation contained in it was coming back to the municipality from various stakeholder groups and if the issue was not dealt with, clear communication between HRM and the various stakeholders would be jeopardized.
Of greatest concern is a statement that the wastewater treatment plant to be built on the HRM-owned site at Barrington and Cornwallis Street would be the size of the Metro Centre.By comparison, the area of the Metro Centre (not including the World Trade and Convention Centre) is almost three times (3) the size and more than seven(7) times the volume of the wastewater treatment plant (WTP) to be constructed on Halifax site.
There were also comments which may lead readers to believe that Department of National Defense lands near the Macdonald Bridge are available as an alternate site to the HRM-owned site.At the request of Regional Council, HRM carried out negotiations with DND in hopes of reaching an agreement on the site. However, DND placed a number of conditions on the acquisition that were unachieveable for HRM, given the overall Project time lines.
The newsletter also contained comments dealing with the treatment plant site and any future re-development of the Cogswell Interchange lands. The wastewater treatment plant is to be built in the extreme north perimeter of the Cogswell Street Interchange area and will initially occupy less than 5% of the Cogswell area. Given this, and the fact that a variety of land uses could co-occupy the site (including a roadway on top of the wastewater treatment plant), the argument that the WTP would adversely impact any Cogswell re-development seems excessive.
HRM takes exception to, or considers to be inaccurate:, the following points contained in the Downtown Halifax Business Commission (March 8/2002) newsletter. (attached)
Column 1, Paragraph 2: - "Imagine a building the size of the Metro Centre located in the wrong place."
HRM Response:The Metro Centre by itself (depending on where you split the buildings, because the Metro Centre and World Trade and Convention Centre are considered to be one) is about 8,500 sq meters, with an average height of about 25 meters along Duke Street, for a total volume of 212,500 cubic metres.
So, the area of the Metro Centre (alone) is almost three times (3) the size and more than seven(7) times the volume of the wastewater treatment plant (WTP) to be constructed on HRM-owned land at the corner of Barrington and Cornwallis Streets, as part of the Harbour Solutions Project.
(Note: Comparing the Metro Centre and WTCC as one, the complex occupies an area of approximately 12,500 sq meters, and has a height at Argyle Street of approximately 30 meters (15 meters at Brunswick Street).
The proposed wastewater treatment plant has an area of approximately 3,000 sq meters, and has a height at Upper Water Street of approximately 10 meters (0 meters at Barrington Street).
So, the building area (footprint) of the Metro Centre is more than four (4) times that of the WTP and the total approximate building volume of the complex (375,000 cubic metres) is more than 12 times that of the WTP (30,000 cubic M)
Column 1, Paragraph 5:- "In 2 out of the 3 sites, there are no concerns that would impede development."
HRM Response: There has been some level of concern at each of the three sites, but the Community Liaison Committees (CLCs) in Dartmouth and Herring Cove have been much more active in addressing them). The statement further implies that there is a greater level of community concern about the Halifax site. This has not been the case. The Halifax CLC was well aware of the Barrington/Cornwallis Street site.
Column 2, Paragraph 1 - "Plans and sites for the two other plants could be confirmed, while the first plant in Herring Cove is being built, which would not delay the project."
HRM Response: This implies that HRM could sign a contract with the consortium proposed to undertake the $262 million Harbour Solutions Project with only one of the three sites for wastewater treatment sites confirmed. This would be an unacceptable level of risk for HRM, and would significantly inflate the contract price due to the uncertainties.
Column 2, Paragraph 2: "Everyone with whom the HBC consulted has expressed that the Department of Defense (DND) property (near the Macdonald Bridge) is the most desirable site."
HRM Response: Who is "everyone" and "desirable" in what sense? For what reasons ? What about the community which is located nearer to the DND property site?
The two Halifax sites (Barrington vs. DND lands) have been publicly identified for over two years. The Request for Proposals (RFP) for the Harbour Solutions Project issued in May 2000 included only one Halifax site-- the municipally-owned land at Barrington and Cornwallis Streets. There was no serious objection from Downtown Halifax Business Commission at that time to the site
Column 2, Paragraph 3 - "Yesterday, DND's Base Commander, Captain Nigel Greenwood, expressed DND's willingness to continue to negotiate the use of the DND property for the Halifax site with HRM."
HRM Response: This statement fails to mention that there are a number of outstanding, serious issues regarding HRM's negotiations with DND and even if there was agreement, final approval would be required through a lengthy process controlled by DND in Ottawa. Treasury Board would have to make the final decision on the lands, due to the value of the property in question.
At the request of Regional Council, HRM has carried out negotiations with DND in hopes of reaching an agreement on the site. However, DND placed a number of conditions on the land acquisition that HRM considered to be unachievable, given the overall Project time lines.
Column 2, Paragraph 4 - "Council must weigh the options for the placement of such a large facility in the downtown."
HRM Response: This has been done, and Regional Council was given full information on which to base a decision.
Column 3, Top of Page: "There should also be an opportunity for public input."
HRM Response: The overall Harbour Solutions process has been extremely open and inclusive, with many ongoing opportunities for public input. The specifications and design of the Halifax WTP were positively influenced by the local CLC and other public input.
The Halifax CLC process did not progress while HRM investigated the possibility of acquiring an alternate site on DND lands. That consultation process has now resumed and will continue.
The Halifax CLC will also be discussing the design, construction and operation of the WTP with the consortium undertaking the Harbour Solutions Project.
Column 3, Paragraph 1- "John Lindsay Jr. (a local developer) is prepared to present his study of the Cogswell Street lands, at no cost to the city."
HRM Response: Mr. Lindsay undertook this study on his own, with no prior consultation with HRM.
Mr. Lindsay's unsolicited study presents only one option for any future re-development of the Cogswell Street Interchange lands. HRM has already had a study done, which showed ways in which the wastewater treatment plant could be incorporated successfully into any future re-development plans.
Note: The wastewater treatment plant is to be built in the extreme north perimeter of the Cogswell Street Interchange area and will initially occupy less than 5% of the Cogswell area. Given this, and the fact that a variety of land uses could co-occupy the site , the argument that the WTP would adversely impact any Cogswell re-development seems excessive.
Column 3, Paragraph 2 - "Continue with the process, but do not confirm the decision for the location of the Halifax Sewage Treatment plant....."
HRM Response: Continuing with the process outlined and approved by Regional Council for the Harbour Solutions Project required confirmation of this site. Further uncertainty would not be acceptable to HRM.
Column 3, Paragraph 2 (cont'd): "The location of this sewage treatment plant is a crucial decision, one that will have a long term and. irreversible impact on the development of HRM."
HRM Response: This is an extreme and unsupported statement.
Column 3, Paragraph 4 - " ... the motion to approve the site was passed without discussion."
HRM Response: This appears to imply that Regional Council was uninformed and gave the issue no consideration, while in fact, there was considerable background analysis which formed the basis for the decision. In fact, the site was contained in the recommendations of the Harbour Solutions Selection Committee, an independent body which has access to, and comprehensively examined, all the information available about this site and others.
Corporate Communications Officer