Enough with the Developer Shock and Awe

Quinpool Road’s proposed future under the Centre Plan (this image does not include rule-breaking developments in process) Click on image to enlarge. Source: draft Centre Plan (March 2017) 107; heights added by the Willow Tree Group

In “A nightmare of evocation as Halifax falls to the wrecking ball,” author Larry Haven (The Coast Aug 17) gives a satirical glimpse into why we worry that Halifax is “surely and inexorably being destroyed by rampant developers and an obliging council.

The worst is yet to come. A recent Willow Tree Group essay describes the draft Centre Plan’s proposed future for Quinpool Road, one of several targeted growth areas. Its illustration shown on the right is a mini-look at one of multiple Centre Plan areas where height restrictions will be increased to up to 20 storeys. It doesn’t include the proposed Robie Street Corridor where increased heights of 4-6 storeys all along the western edge of the Halifax Common, slowly killing off 100+ historic buildings so more cars and buses can zoom by. And what’s really missing is the huge number of rule-breaker developments approved in advance of the Centre Plan.

HRM Council recently added ~22 developments to the list. These buildings all break planning regulations for height, mass, density, public open space requirements etc. These democratically agreed upon regulations haven’t slowed or stopped development as decried by certain developers, they’ve kept it predictable and balanced it with the best interests of citizens. But now instead of respecting a Plan the city is being consumed by a rash of glass and cement cubes and towers; building designs that are not sustainable, that add to climate change and take away from the economic viability of our city, reduce the livability, walkability and charm of neighbourhoods and attack affordable housing and commercial space.

For example, two developments marching forward on the Halifax Common propose four towers, 16, 30, 20 & 26-storeys on a single block next to the registered Carlton Street Heritage Streetscape. If approved, these will cause the demolition of dozens of affordable commercial and residential units, create shadow and wind, to add luxury units to an area with limited water and sewage and where there is not even a grocery store.

HRM staff reports on such development applications neutralize valid public concerns into meaningless “PLANspeak” commentary. Rarely does citizen engagement influence decisions. And developers as pirates make millions in extra profit by getting extra floor space to rent or sell while they destroy and gentrify neighbourhoods and wreck the experience on public open space.

No one is providing models or images to show the cumulative impact of the proposed Centre Plan changes plus the multiple development agreement projects.

Why aren’t HRM staff providing citizens with visual models/images for the entire Centre Plan area with its growth centre, corridors, and high density growth areas? Where are the models/images that includes the many proposed development agreement applications? Why haven’t HRM staff developed models/images of growth scenarios that would sensibly use in-fill or under utilized land such as empty lots and automotive dealerships? Or of growth scenarios around a commuter rail corridor? Why is developing these models/images left to the un-paid volunteer work of individuals or community groups such as the Willow Tree Group?

I’m not a a NIMBY nor are my fellow citizens. Nor are we anti-development. We care about Halifax. All citizens have the right to insist that the long-term vision for a sustainable Halifax be the focus of HRM planners and the Mayor and Council, not just the greed of private profiteers masked under the mantra of densification, exaggerated population projects and planning as farce.

Dear Mayor and Council- enough with the developer shock and awe. Now is the time to plan our city not demolish it.