Tag Archives: Centre Plan

Amend the Centre Plan, Protect Halifax Trees! Public Hearing, May 21

Halifax planning is killing urban trees. Cutting trees for the QEII hospital is part of a bigger problem. The Centre Plan reduced public open space requirements and increased lot coverage for development threatening trees & green space. And its Robie Street Transportation Corridor will cut ~ 80 trees to widen the street. See: https://shorturl.at/tCDHU But here’s how we can change this !

Robie Street Transportation Corridor will cut ~ 80 trees to widen the street and demolish dozens of buildings. Take a detailed look here: https://shorturl.at/tCDHU

Newly proposed changes to the Centre Plan for the Federal Government’s Accelerator Fund will cause even more cutting on private land and greater harm / killing of public trees along city streets as development and demolitions intensifies. But these changes require public input!

Good News – May 21 Public Hearing: You have a rare and important opportunity to write or speak and ask for changes to proposed amendments to the Centre Plan for the Federal Government’s Accelerator Fund.
Have Your Say – Email or Speak to HRM Council to ask that they:
1. Amend the Centre Plan to remove the Robie Street Transportation Corridor. 
2. Amend the Centre Plan to protect the Urban Forest, greenspace and existing housing. There are better options.
Send comments by 10am Tuesday via email to clerks@halifax.ca
Register to speak by email to clerks@halifax.ca or call 902 490 4210 
Details here: https://shorturl.at/zAFZ3
3. Sign the petition – Demand a Better Plan to Address Halifax’s Housing Crisis!   https://chng.it/CtyPk8ggtf

  • Other Information:
    The Federal Government’s Accelerator is for small-scale, missing middle, gentle density. HRM’s rush to zoning changes is a market based housing solution not an affordable housing solution. It leaves existing affordable housing unprotected and climate action unsupported.
  • HRM staff stated (April 24th) that 15,179 housing units were under permit and 250,000 units could be developed as of right. The mayor commented that constraints against building are interest rates and labour and materials. Changing zoning can’t change that.
  • Density is necessary but it needn’t be destructive. HRM has ~12,000 vacant lots; acres of under-utilized surface parking lots, car dealerships etc.; and publicly owned Cogswell and Shannon Park. Prioritize these areas first.
  • The Robie Street Transportation Corridor threatens community housing and services especially for First Nations, Housing Co-ops, Shelters. Widening Robie Street is not a transportation solution and it harms public safety/health is harmed (VOCs, GHGs, toxic emissions, pedestrian accidents, noise).  
  • Green space and trees are infrastructure! They play a vital role in storm water management, air clearing, temperature regulation, climate mitigation, traffic calming and best of all beauty!
  • Using public money to cut trees, demolish buildings and turn Robie into a cross town connector is not a transportation solution! Bidirectional overhead signals to reallocate existing road space as used on the MacDonald Bridge or Chebucto Road are cheap, fast and work!

FHC to HRM Community Planning & Economic Develoment Standing Committee

The Wanderers Grounds was fully used by amateur players like this QEHS football team (2015) before HRM paid hundreds of thousands for field upgrades, lights and on-going utility/maintenance for a professional private for-profit soccer team takeover.

Dear HRM CPED Committee Members:
Re- Wanderers Grounds – FHC Comments
FHC’s FOIPOP information received Sept 11and attached below shows that the Wanderers Grounds was used almost exclusively by Derek Martin/SEA activities with virtually nothing for amateur players. This is similar to two previous FOIPOPs. Martin/SEA private-for-profit stadium is consistently shutting out amateur players year after year.
ARG-23.24-00118 – Response Letter 00118 – Responsive Record (In Full)

HRM’s 2017 staff report wrote: Continue reading

FHC Response to HRM’s ‘in principle’ Halifax Common Master Plan

We invite you to read these detailed comments on the ‘in principle’ Halifax Common Master Plan (the “Plan”) that FHC recently sent to HRM staff.  Collectively it took us thousands of hours. It is comprehensive and worth a look!  (There is a short summary below the map.)

Halifax Common with its boundaries between Robie, Cunard, Park and South Streets, as well as land leased to the Horticultural Society for the Public Gardens, area used for cricket grounds, area used for military exercising grounds, and the water-course from the Egg Pond to the Public Garden pond to Freshwater Brook (water features aren’t labelled).

Continue reading

Chronicle Herald: Rally Against Robie Street demolitions

[Stephen Cooke | Posted: April 9, 2022] While a portable speaker played the sound of Joni Mitchell singing “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot,” Haligonians dismayed by the recent destruction of historic homes on Robie Street gathered in front of the rubble-strewn site across from Camp Hill Cemetery.

Organized by the citizens’ group Development Options Halifax, the rally at the corner of Robie and Bliss streets was held to make residents aware of impending changes to the neighbourhood, and to request they take action against ongoing developments that are changing the character of the city at the expense of affordable housing, the environment and reducing congestion on its streets.

Continue reading

Lloyd Alter: Groundbreaking Study Highlights How Design and Development Decisions Affect Embodied Carbon


Groundbreaking study on embodied carbon comparing new build to retrofit and addition in Halifax Canada ignored by city, author told to ‘stop making things up.” Should be studied closely, big implications.” writes Lloyd Alter, well-known author at Treehugger in a review of the new report, Buildings For a Climate Crisis, by Peggy Cameron. “The lessons of a study from Halifax, Canada can be applied anywhere,”

Read Alter’s review of the study.

Download Buildings For the Climate Crisis

Image: Halifax Waterfront. Henryk Sadura/ Getty Images

Continue reading

Thank you to 500+ Citizens Who Petitioned For Changes to Centre Plan

A round of applause in gratitude to the 500+ citizens who asked the Mayor and Council Plan for All Citizens by making changes to the Centre Plan before adopting it. Unfortunately they voted unanimously to approve the Plan on Tuesday October 26th, 2021)) . How sad that they ignored our ask for better options to be included in the Plan. These were that it…

Article on Canadian politeness (sorry if it looks like a bank promo) :https://www.huffpost.com/archive/ca/entry/canadians-say-thank-you_b_11727136
Picture from: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_cultural_differences_shape_your_gratitude

  • Protect and create affordable housing;
  • Create 3-D models for public consultation in advance of adopting the Plan; 
  • Reduce demolitions – promote renovation and in-fill for distributed density; 
  • Reduce ‘extreme’ densification by lowering proposed building heights in Corridors, Targeted Growth Areas etc.;
  • Create and protect public parks – we need public open space!
  • Tackle the climate crisis with carbon budgets for all building/construction & operations;
  • Require public amenities such as daycares, community centres, recreational facilities etc.
    Be proud that you are on the public record as a person that supports a plan with a vision. We hope you’ll continue to ask the Mayor and Council to amend the plan and create more balance between the interests of society and thoes of private developers.
    Let others know https://www.facebook.com/pg/halifaxcommon/posts/

FHC Submission to HRM Review of Regional Plan

We are deeply concerned about recent incursions into the Halifax Common…

The Halifax Common grant in 1763 was for 235 acres ” to and for the use of the inhabitants of the town of Halifax as Common, forever.” This entire area was to be considered for planning purposes in the 1994 Halifax Common Plan.

…from proposed multiple high rises (16-, 28-, 29- and 30-storey and ~900 cars – similar in mass to the Nova Centre) at the corner of Spring Garden Road and Robie Street; the expansion of major QE2 facilities onto parkland adjacent to the Natural History Museum and along Bell Road with two parking garages; the exclusive use of the Wanderer’s Grounds by a professional soccer team; the overwhelming use of the remaining open space of the Common of organized sports and programmed uses; the eviction of the Common Roots Urban Farm from the area and the slow progress of the Halifax Common Master Plan by HRM Staff begun in 2017 and that has been without significant public input for nearly two years. Continue reading

2020 – FHC Centre Plan Submission

Dear Centre Plan Staff,

Please find included in this email two previous submissions from Friends of Halifax Common

In return for the School for the Blind park, the public was promised a fully landscaped Park within a Park (200 trees & 200 parking places), a scented garden and a land-scaped path along the block of Tower Road the public reluctantly agreed to give to the VG. Maybe the VG Parking lot can be a new urban farm?

(2018 & 2016) . Our suggestions seem even more relevant in this time so we ask that you will please take the time to re-read these.

Green Space: As the Centre Plan intends to add 15-30,000 new residents to the area it is imperative that there be greater attention given to protecting existing green space and to increase it. This is for all the benefits known — human mental and physical health, safe social distancing, improved walkability and active transportation, habitat, gardening, coping with climate change etc.

Health Benefits: A 2016 World Health Organization[i] report suggests sizes of and distance from green space. ie 5 minutes from 1ha is one standard. It also emphasizes connectivity as well as buffer zones for green space – these should be adopted as goals of the Centre Plan. Continue reading

Cancel the Proposed WSP 23-storey high-rise-Case 22927

The Westwood high-rise tower at 2032-2050 Robie Street has already been turned down by HRM Mayor and Council. Height for this location was to be restricted to 6-storeys. The Development Agreement is discretionary-Mayor and Council should cancel the project.

Dear HRM Planners, Mayor and Council
Re: Cancel the Proposed WSP high-rise- Case 22927

The proposed Westwood high-rise tower at 2032-2050 Robie Street has already been turned down by HRM Mayor and Council. Height for this location was to be restricted to 6-storeys. Council’s decision to allow a Development Agreement is discretionary and should be cancelled. It is effectively raising the dead. This Development Agreement not only denies the earlier council decision and staff recommendations to limit the height to 6 storeys, it makes a mockery of public participation by voiding the historic and more recent input of citizens. 

Values reflected by statements such as Councillor Smith’s June 2019 motion In recognition of the substantial investment made in the preparation of a planning applications for the site located at 2032- 2050 Robie Street, Halifax beg the question whose interest are Mayor, Council and staff representing?  The owner’s investment of money in thinking about what to do with their land is not a legitimate basis for approving a project. Continue reading

FHC Requests HRM Auditor General Review Public Consultative Process as a Charter Matter

August, 2020-Letter to HRM Auditor General
Re- Review of HRM Planning’s public consultative process as a Charter matter
This letter (accompanied by 10 brief case studies) is to request that HRM Auditor General conduct a review of HRM Planning Department’s public engagement process and outcomes with respect to HRM planning and council votes. In writing to you we wish to note that we are aware of your July 2018 report to HRM Council on the operation of the Planning Department with respect to development agreements. We are prompted to write regarding a crucial aspect of the operations of that Department not addressed in the report, namely public participation.
The HRM Charter, Part VIII, s.208 states: “The purpose of this Part is to …(c) establish a consultative process to ensure the right of the public…to participate in the formulation of planning strategies…”
Continue reading

Herald Op Ed: Why do HRM’s mayor and council hold the Common in such contempt?

K’JIPUKTUK (Halifax) On June 23, the Halifax Common, Canada’s oldest and largest, turned 257. There is good news.

A pedestrian walks across the Halifax Common in early March. “Although HRM’s Centre Plan intends to add 15,000-30,000 new citizens to the Centre Plan area, it has not designated any new urban parks and it includes no green networks. This is intentional, not an oversight.” Photo: Ryan Taplin

The 1994 Halifax Common Masterplan goals committed to by the city continue to be front and fore in citizens’ present-day desires. This is reflected in findings of the public consultation for the new masterplan begun in 2017 — plan for the entire Halifax Common; keep it open with green, natural landscapes and water features; minimize development; limit imposing structures; create a sense of connection; include walking and cycling paths; rebalance uses — recreation, arts, events, growing food; ensure access, diversity, inclusion, safety, youth, family.

But the rest is bad.

Unfortunately, the draft Halifax Masterplan, last seen in June 2019, does not plan for the entire Common, but only the city-owned property. This continues governments’ well-established pattern of diminishing, degrading or selling off the public’s land. Immediately before the consultation, the city was silent on the sale of the CBC-TV lands and was secretive on its privatization of the Wanderers’ Grounds.

Presently, the COVID-19 pandemic has us reorganizing society and economy with new forms for work, school and leisure that are still evolving. That public open space is vital to mental and physical health is increasingly evident as people seek to escape small apartments, to exercise or to enjoy a connection to nature. And the need for space for safe social distancing to walk or bike has cities around the world investing millions to create permanent bike lanes and new parks. 

But although HRM’s Centre Plan intends to add 15,000-30,000 new citizens to the Centre Plan area, it has not designated any new urban parks and it includes no green networks. This is intentional, not an oversight.

One positive outcome from COVID-19 worldwide is less traffic and parking demand and lower greenhouse gas emissions — nearly half because of transportation, primarily trucks and cars. The Halifax Common’s 240 acres is about  20 to 25 per cent parking lots. There is an obvious opportunity to re-naturalize, re-wild or landscape them to create new park space, and a cheap, efficient way to deal with major impacts from climate change (i.e., stormwater, flood management, heat waves, carbon sink) and pollution. New habitat, revitalization of dead zones and increased citizens’ care for and interest in nature are important side benefits.

But Mayor Mike Savage and council have no plans to change this usage. In fact, they recently approved plans for a new eight-storey parking garage by the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History. That’s despite about 3,000 citizens petitioning against the garage and for protection of the Halifax Common. 

Along with a second parking garage on the former CBC-TV site, a total of at least 1,500 cars will now congest one of the city’s most walked, biked, played-on areas at the confluence of Citadel High, the Nova Scotia Museum, Bengal Lancers, Wanderers’ Grounds, skate park, soccer field, Oval, children’s playground and a proposed new aquatic centre. These will now face a wall of parking garages, enjoy a soundscape of traffic and emergency vehicles and endure the health harms of toxic emissions.

But what of citizens’ desire to minimize development, limit imposing structures and keep the Common open? 

Well, a minimum of 10 new highrises, between eight and 30- storeys, are in the works on or around the Common through development agreements. And in exchange for the hundreds of millions of dollars in development rights (i.e., profit) handed to developers, affordable housing unit numbers are going backwards. 

Councillor Shawn Cleary’s motion for 25 storeys at the Willow Tree in exchange for 10 units for 15 years has now been cashed out for $1.8 million; Coun. Lindell Smith’s motion for 23 -storeys next door will net $180,000 and Coun. Waye Mason’s support for 16-, 22-, 26- and 30-storey towers will destroy about 100 affordable housing and small-scale commercial units that won’t be replaced. 

Passing the Centre Plan formally increases height limits in Designated Growth Areas and Corridors. This further incentivizes the demolition of thousands of unique small-scale Halifax buildings and character streetscapes, such as those by the Halifax Common on Robie or along South Street.

Planning for demolition rather than deep energy retrofits or infill also harms the collective Common. Thirty-nine per cent of GHG emissions come from building and construction, adding to climate change. And citizens living, walking or cycling by traffic corridors are well understood to suffer detrimental health impacts (asthma, lung function, strokes, heart attacks, cancers) from associated air pollution and noise, such that experts suggest residences and parks be set back 150 metres (a block) from traffic corridors.  

HRM recently reversed its decision to purchase diesel buses and now will go with an entirely electric fleet. It also recently reversed an earlier decision to purchase an armoured vehicle. It is presently looking into changing the zoning of 136 acres for sale to protect the Williams Lake Backlands area. And HRM just adopted its HalifACT 2050 climate change plan. Why does it continue to be so difficult for the mayor and council to protect the Halifax Common?

The Common is physically at the heart of the peninsula and thus of HRM. How can councillors continue to fail to listen to the public’s voice?

Peggy Cameron is co-chair, Friends of Halifax Common.
Please support local media!-https://www.thechronicleherald.ca/opinion/local-perspectives/peggy-cameron-why-do-hrms-mayor-and-council-hold-the-common-in-such-contempt-467838/

Rick Howe – Province’s Parkade Unplanned

It’s time to write the Premier- premier@gov.ns.ca. Tell him that the Provincial government’s announcement for a parking garage and steam plant surrounding the Nova Scotia Museum on the Halifax Common needs to be called off -it is unplanned, unnecessary and destructive. Rick Howe’s recent interview with Beverly Miller gives a good overview of the situation:

The July 1968 agreement for sale of this parcel of Common land was for a Nova Scotia museum and no other purpose. Neither does this use conform with the 1994 Halifax Common Plan or the 2008 Memorandum of Understanding governing the condition of sale of the former Queen Elizabeth High School lands. Nor were such uses considered as part of the recent Centre Plan or the Masterplan for the Halifax Common. Tell the premier to protect the Halifax Common, not destroy it. Please copy your email to Mayor Savage (mayor@halifax.ca), your Councillor and your MLA.

Op Ed – HRM Centre Plan Process Sidelines Citizens

Community engagement has been sparse over the three-year development of the Centre Plan. photo- Ryan Taplin

Chronicle Herald, Reader’s Corner The Centre Plan process began back in 2016. The idea, based on a study commissioned by HRM and done by Stantec, was to add population density on the peninsula and in central Dartmouth to make better use of our civic infrastructure and make it more economical.

Sound good? City council certainly thought so. It established a huge planning infrastructure to begin the process and to redraw the neighbourhoods of central Dartmouth and of the peninsula.

That was almost four years ago, and council is finally expected to send the plan to a vote for approval sometime in September. This will be a mammoth change in the neighbourhood plans for the affected urban areas, and yet very few people seem to have ever heard of it.

What went wrong here? Continue reading

Unanimous Approval of Carlton St Developments New Low In City Governance

This small-scale mixed use block on Spring Garden Rd is part of 12 buildings & 80 – 100 affordable housing & commercial units to be demolished in the historic Carlton St neighbourhood. As building & construction produce ~40% of greenhouse gas emissions UK architects recently set a policy of upgrading existing buildings for extended uses as a more carbon efficient alternative to demolition and new build.

Mayor Savage and Council’s unanimous approval of two proposal for four towers in historic Carlton Street’s neighbourhood is a new low in city governance. Eight hundred+ citizens petitioned against the proposals and a dozen+ speakers at July 15th’s special meeting spoke in opposition. HRM ignored Development Options Halifax’s requests to present a 3-D model showing the neighbourhood with the proposed developments and a better option 9-storey model that would have retained 10 of the 12 buildings now slated for demolition.
Listen to Rick Howe’s interview with Peggy Cameron to learn more about how democratic process and the Centre Plan are seriously off the rails in HRM…


HOWARD EPSTEIN: HRM council is kowtowing to developers

Chronicle Herald, July 8, 2019

This is the council that is making Halifax unlivable.

The main problems are in the unaffordability of housing and congested transportation. Council is not doing its basic job.

Its consideration of the two proposals for the Spring Garden Road/Robie Street/Carlton/College Street block illustrates the problem.

Not that this is the only example. Think of the clutch of 20- to 30-storey skyscrapers council has approved in the last few years. The Willow Tree. Kings Wharf. Various ones on Robie Street and Young Street.

After the first few, one councillor noted that the public had stopped coming to hearings to object. The councillor drew the incorrect conclusion that high-rises have become acceptable to residents. That is not so. We have just come to see that this council is so completely uncritical of development proposals that there is virtually no point in attending, to put better ideas forward.

Council shows no interest in thinking about what is in the best interests of the overall community. Council does show that it is prepared to say “yes, sir, yes, sir” to almost any proposal that the developers put forward.

There is an obvious list of needed priorities that council ought to be attending to before pulling out all the stops to accommodate the dreams of riches that developers have. Affordable housing. Green space. Public transportation. Energy efficiencies. Climate change.

Why does council ignore these essential matters?

Let’s leave aside the contributions to election campaigns.

What council and staff reports suggest is that this is what’s driving their decisions: demand for housing, construction jobs, more taxes, and no municipal risk (meaning, if developers want to build it, why not let them?).

Each of these is erroneous thinking.

* There is demand for housing. The issue is form and affordability. All demand for housing for the foreseeable future in HRM is already met by pre-existing approved lots (2013 Stantec study, ‘Quantifying the Costs and Benefits of Alternative Growth Scenarios’, @ Table 3.6, available online). If something different is needed, it could be through low-rise buildings compatible with existing neighbourhoods.

* Construction jobs can be achieved through alternative styles of housing. Renovations and infill generate jobs.

* More taxation is not at all guaranteed. Commercial space in the central business district has been overbuilt. That is why there is a 20 per cent vacancy rate. And why owners have asked for a lower tax rate, which shifts tax burden to the residential homeowner, since HRM expenditures will not go down.

* Risk is actually present. Not for HRM as a government, but for all of us who own houses and businesses, and who try to live here. Wind from skyscrapers make walking unpleasant, and in the steep downtown streets, dangerous. Shadows make for unpleasant canyons without sunlight, and ruin solar energy options. The housing is not affordable. The housing is not aimed at families with children. To the limited extent it is, where are the new neighbourhood parks and playgrounds for the families?

It is well-documented that there are overall environmental benefits from maintaining and renovating existing buildings compared to new construction (K. Rosenfield, The Greenest Building, 2012).

I understand the push for densification of the Halifax peninsula and central Dartmouth. Major employers, services and attractions are here (universities, hospitals, the port, the navy, government offices, the shipyard, restaurants, bars, entertainment, etc.). People want to live reasonably handy to work if at all possible. Commuting is time-consuming, expensive and irritating.

But, again, the affordability and style of housing is key. Densification can be achieved at a much lower height by looking at how we can build neighbourhoods that are pleasant, livable, and affordable. The communal effort that gave us the Hydrostone, and the maintenance of Schmidtville, are our precedents.

Council is now engaged in rushing through lots of proposals before the Centre Plan comes into effect. But the draft Centre Plan itself has many major flaws.

What is driving the Centre Plan is not innovative ways to strengthen our community. It is the fact that the developers in our midst have bought up various blocks, and the locations they own are the sites the Centre Plan is designating for high-rises.

This is not a council that is planning for the overall benefit of the community. This is a council that has fallen in love with one segment of the community. Definitely time for a change.

Howard Epstein is a former HRM councillor and MLA. He lives in Halifax.