Bus drivers and nature lovers faced off at Halifax regional council last night.

The floor was open to the public to discuss the proposed site of a new, $9.5-million Dartmouth bus terminal. It would take out 3.5 acres of wilderness on the Dartmouth Common between the Dartmouth Sportsplex and Dartmouth High School.

Council ended up voting 20-3 to change the Municipal Planning Strategy to allow for a terminal in that area. They have not approved a specific design.

Several drivers expressed their frustration at the lack of bathroom facilities and the safety concerns at the current terminal in the Sportsplex parking lot.

“Every minute you sit here and drag this out our guys are suffering,” said bus driver Paul MacDonald.

A hut was built for drivers to use, but MacDonald called it “disgusting.”

“It’s 2010, the employees of this city deserve better than that,” he demanded of council. “I don’t care what you do, just do it now!”

The drivers who spoke said the current terminal is a “safety nightmare” with students darting out between buses and with criminal activity happening in the wilderness area.

But there’s plenty of people who don’t want the bus terminal to go ahead. Coun. Jim Smith presented a petition of 200 names to council.

Dartmouth resident Michael Cosgrove argued for the green space to be preserved. He suggested building the terminal at Alderney Landing, close to the ferry landing. Staff said it wasn’t a viable option because buses would have to go out of the way and it would cost $550,000 a year to divert buses to the site.

Other business
Council approved a heritage distinction for the property on Kirk Road last night. The property called Finntigh Mara, meaning “small house on the sea” in Gaelic, is tucked in behind Sir Sandford Fleming Park on the North West Arm. Marterra Inc. wants to build a housing project on the 3.5-acre lot. They will be dividing it into 10 house lots and subdividing the main house on the property into two units.