Despite the fact it was held virtually on the doorstep of the second largest business park in HRM, a recent candidates forum for District 12 failed to generate many business-related questions.
Residents packed the small room at the Keshen Goodman Library to listen to the candidates' positions on a variety of issues, but interest was more focused on residential issues, such as taxation of condominiums, walking paths for school children and improved transportation.
However, some discussion around the future of Bayers Lake Park did sneak in here and there. Bruce E. Smith got that particular ball rolling in his opening remarks, singling out what he called the need to "develop Bayers Lake properly."
Incumbent Mary Wile also mentioned the park in her opening comments, saying Bayers Lake still needs work, including more sidewalks and a better plan for how the new section will be developed by Banc Properties Ltd.
The other two candidates, Rano Khokhar and Reg Rankin, barely mentioned Bayers Lake all night.
Smith came back later to define what he meant by proper development while addressing a question on taxing people who bring their cars into downtown rather than take transit.
"Instead of building more big box stores in Bayers Lake, what we need is a business campus style development to attract businesses that don't need a downtown presence," Smith says. "This would help to take the pressure off downtown and make it more attractive for people to use transit and active transportation to commute to work."
Smith's vision for how the new developments in Bayers Lake should be handled failed to spark any further debate. The other candidates tended to avoid talk of the park, concentrating more on transit issues and taxation.
The only other major discussion of the park's future actually slipped in during a discussion of a variety of citizen complaints, which included such concerns as litter, garbage removal and tree maintenance. Sandwiched in there was a concern over pedestrian access to certain areas of the park and a request for a pedestrian overpass across Chain Lake Drive.
Most candidates quickly dismissed this idea was by using the now familiar refrain that it would be located on private property. In fact, only the newest candidate Khokhar expressed any willingness to explore the idea. Rankin focused on the other issues and ignored the overpass, while Smith preferred the creation of better paths, sidewalks and crosswalk markings as a solution. Wile offered to talk to landowners again about crating better access.
The private property claim has been used for years to explain why there is little to no proper pedestrian access from Chain Lake Drive up to the doors of the various retail outlets and businesses located at the top of the huge parking lots. Councillors and city staff routinely point to uncooperative landlords as the reason no progress has been made to date in addressing this issue.
The only other discussions at the meeting with any impact on Bayers Lake revolved around the new Clayton Park transit terminal and the development of the Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes Regional Park.
All candidates agreed the need to get the transit terminal built was paramount, but there was less agreement on its exact location. Rankin and Khokhar agree with the suggested site at the Canada Games Centre, while Smith would like to see it pushed back to the high ground between the Centre and the nearby soccer fields. Wile doesn't like the Centre location at all and has already asked city staff to come up with some other options.
Rankin and Khokhar also agree that council needs to direct staff to immediately begin acquiring the land needed to make the Regional Park a reality. Wile is more cautious, saying we need to wait as staff moves forward with its current plan to define and assemble the park. Smith has been the most active on this issue, having organized two public meetings on the park and working to get more of it protected from the Banc Properties development in Bayers Lake.