SMALL BUSINESS

Halifax regional council requests report to help businesses affected by Nova Centre construction

‘Those small businesses are paying a price,’ said Councillor Waye Mason

Members of regional council discuss compensation for businesses affected by construction of the Nova Centre
Members of regional council discuss compensation for businesses affected by construction of the Nova Centre   Alexander Quon

The construction of the Nova Centre in downtown Halifax has given neighbouring businesses a headache, but now they may be getting some relief.

At Tuesday’s meeting of Halifax regional council, council passed a motion asking for a staff report looking for ways to help businesses affected by the construction.

The motion was brought forward by Councillor Waye Mason of Halifax South Downtown.

In the meeting, some of the councillors expressed concerns over providing financial compensation to businesses. They said the construction of the Nova Centre is not an isolated incident. Councillor Brad Johns of Middle/Upper Sackville – Beaver Bank – Lucasville, went so far as to describe the concept of providing compensation as a Pandora’s box.

Mayor Mike Savage said he commended the work Mason had done in bringing the proposal forward, but echoed the concerns put forward by Johns.

“This is a unique circumstance,” Savage said. “You can’t just have a rule for one building that doesn’t affect others.”

At least one business has already expressed concern over the effect construction has had on its business.

Andrea Rahal, the owner of Inkwell Boutique on Market Street, spoke to The Signal last week. She voiced her frustration with the construction that has slowed her business.

“I’m not against new construction and development,” she said in an email to The Signal. “I am however disappointed in the lack of forethought.”

Mason questioned why a road with retail business was being closed during the Christmas season.

“Those small businesses are paying a price and they are in a position where they can’t carry out their business,” he said. “What we want to see is that some of these businesses that are there putting up with this right now, that have suffered through this, survive to the end to hopefully prosper.”

Councillor Steve Adams of Spryfield – Sambro Loop – Prospect Road, suggested a temporary solution would be to have Nova Centre construction workers go to the affected businesses for supper.

“These businesses are hurting, we know that,” he said, adding HRM was “not in the business of putting business out of business.”

Mason says the challenge the municipality faces is one that may continue for years to come.

“Part of what is happening here is that we have unprecedented prosperity,” Mason said. “We have businesses, developers building stuff at a rate that we haven’t seen in 40 to 50 years downtown and we just don’t have the rules in place to handle it very well.”

Mason said if the city wants to avoid having future discussions about compensation, it needs to have that discussion now.

He requested the report be returned to the transportation standing committee for its Jan. 26, 2016 meeting.