Tag Archives: development agreement

HRM Council Approves Carbon Bombs for Carlton Block

On January 23 HRM Council voted to give the Dexel / Lawen development even more benefit but still without any public benefit in exchange. For almost a decade HRM Council and staff ignored public concerns about the Lawen and the Rouvalis families’ two projects and refused requests that the four towers be considered together. Citizens support the need for development and density but want better options. Now the combined impact on the existing/future affordability, climate, traffic, community, heritage, wind, shadow, noise etc. will only be understood in real time. HRM made no attempt to balance the private, for-profit interests of the developer with societal needs.  The HRM public hearing recording begins at 8:08 & the citizen speakers at 8:34 -Its worth the watch.  See details below the video.

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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…”
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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/

Comedian Cathy Jones says Halifax losing ‘its livability and its character’ due to high-rise developments

Comedian Cathy Jones says Halifax losing ‘its livability and its character’ due to high-rise developments

Comedian Cathy Jones speaks from the steps of city hall Thursday morning, asking Halifax regional council to step up to change proposed high-density developments for the block of Spring Garden Road and Robie, Carlton and College streets. – Francis Campbell

Cathy Jones thrives on an ability to make people laugh, to get a rise out of a live or TV audience. But the 64-year-old St. John’s-born comedian doesn’t see the proliferation of proposed highrise developments on peninsular Halifax as a laughing matter.

“My point here today is to challenge city council to do better for the city of Halifax,” Jones said Thursday from the steps of city hall. “Who is the city council working for? The people of this city elect a city council believing in some small way that they actually represent them, when in fact, the proposals of these kinds of buildings for our downtown are so off base.”

Jones referred to proposed developments as city duncity instead of density. She was talking particularly about two separate development proposals that would bring four towers of 30, 26, 20 and 16 storeys to a one-hectare block of property at Spring Garden Road and Robie, Carlton and College streets. The projects would accommodate two multi-use developments and would move the Cold Cure Institute building and the McCoy Building a short distance from their College Street foundations to 1452-1456 Carlton St. Several buildings would be demolished. Those developments are scheduled to be discussed at council Monday evening.

Jones also commented on the three developments that were approved late Wednesday night after regional council burned the midnight oil for three public meetings.

An eight-storey plus penthouse building on Wellington Street in south-end Halifax passed by a vote of 11-3 Wednesday. A redevelopment and addition to the corner of South Park Sreet and Victoria Road and a three-building, 100-unit development on a 72,000-square-foot property between Bayers Road and Young Street also passed.

“Last night, in the middle of the summer when many people are not in town, the city pushed through a proposal for three new highrises,” said Jones, who has lived in Halifax for nearly 26 years.

 a proportional 3-D-printed model of proposed developments at Spring Garden Road and Robie Streets developed by a volunteer citizen group.
A proportional 3-D-printed model of proposed developments at Spring Garden Road and Robie Streets developed by a volunteer citizen group.

“The city is losing all of its livability and its character and its practical community quality because of these monoliths that the city council is approving left, right and centre, going up without consulting properly the people who live here,” Jones said.

“When all the nice neighbourhoods are destroyed, the walkability and livable quality, nobody who used to live there will be living in these buildings. I have been on TV for 30 years and I couldn’t afford to live in one of these buildings. All over this city are people looking for housing, families who want to stay downtown.”

Development Options Halifax calls for all developments presently under consideration and proposed changes under the Centre Plan to be modeled before approval. They are asking citizens to sign a petition found HERE.

“I want the city to say, no, we’re not doing these developments,” said Peggy Cameron of Development Options. “I want them to recognize that this (Carlton developments) is a heritage neighbourhood. In 2012, 2016, the heritage trust asked for this whole neighbourhood to be considered for a heritage district, they were ignored. Yet, the city quite happily entertained two developers for four towers. It’s too massive, it’s too large, it’s 80 per cent the size of the Nova Centre and it’s not necessary.”

Hadrian Laing, an architectural student at Dalhousie University, has produced a 3D model of the Carlton development projects, showing what the block of property looks like now and what it will look if the developments go ahead. Laing said he has massed an alternative development proposal that would create 303 new residential units without exceeding nine storeys in height. It would also save a couple of existing buildings.

 An artist rendering of new developments at Spring Garden Road, Carlton, College and Robie streets.
An artist rendering of new developments at Spring Garden Road, Carlton, College and Robie streets.

Janet Brush, 72, a lifelong Halifax resident who now lives on London Street, said destroying buildings is not a sound idea.

“One thing that really outrages me is tearing down perfectly good buildings to put up these monoliths,” Brush said. “All that stuff goes in the landfill and there are empty spaces where they could allow something like this, like the old St. Pat’s site for example. To tear down perfectly good buildings is to me an outrage. Climate change, our landfills filling up, it’s just such a horrible waste. We have the technology to build buildings that will last thousands of years. We build buildings and tear them down.”

Jones, a veteran of the This Hour Has 22 Minutes satrical and parody comedy show, joked that she and her supporters were the new city council.

“As of 10:30 this morning we took over and we have a much better plan for the city,” Jones said.

None of the elected councillors or the mayor popped out of the city hall building to comment.

“I thought one or two would come out,” Brush said. “I am very disappointed, especially in the mayor (Mike Savage). I thought he was doing a good job the first few years but I’m beginning to change my mind on that.”

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Quinpool Road Mainstreet District Association Boycotts Residents

FHC’s executive has written to the Quinpool Rd. Mainstreet District Association to express dismay at their enthusiastic endorsement of APL’s proposed 25-storey project at Robie and Quinpool at the January 16th public hearing.  The Association is aware since the first public meeting that members of the public, largely residents of the neighbourhoods, were unanimously opposed to the project. At that time, the Association’s letter of support was the only one. The public’s opposition has only grown.

Source: draft Centre Plan (March 2017), 107; with heights added by the Willow Tree Group. APL’s project could not be built under the draft Centre Plan.

Demolition/construction at the new convention centre didn’t work out that well for local downtown businesses. FHC wonders if the Association is really representing their membership; why it supports a density dump of high-rises instead of in-fill or mid-rise developments that could add ~ 3,000 residents  and support more pedestrian activity; and, why it doesn’t respect the existing neighbourhoods and Halifax Common?

Please let any of your favourite Quinpool business owners know that you are concerned if they aren’t respecting their neighbourhoods and recognizing the Halifax Common as an asset that should be protected. Loyalty to businesses on Quinpool Road is a two-way street – many residents will note the Association’s support of APL as a betrayal. Why isn’t the Association working with residents to make a better plan for Quinpool?

Please read FHC’s letter here:2018 FHC Quinpool Road Business Commission 

 

 

Good News – Bad News Purcell’s Cove Backlands & Halifax Common

PAC meets Monday for input on Dexel’s proposed 14-storey highrise at Robie, Shirley, Peperell – directly across from the Common Roots Urban Farm and beside Hotel Atlantica. We need Halifax Common’s Master Plan not another high rise.

There’s good news- a few days ago HRM issued an RFP for the Master Plan for the Halifax Common. Next Council agreed to pay $4.1 million to help protect the Purcell’s Cove Backland. Mayor Savage’s statement, “As our city grows, it is more important than ever to preserve natural recreational spaces,” supports what many citizens believe and want. But planning for the preserving natural recreational spaces requires more than words.

Take the example of the Common Roots Urban Farm on the Central Common-it demonstrates the role nature can play in our lives- healing our spirit, minds and bodies and at the same time grow good food! Although Continue reading

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 Continue reading

Developer Delays May 23rd Public Hearing – FHC Requests New HRM Staff Report

For the public record, FHC is calling for a new HRM report before a public hearing to consider APL’s 20 or 29 storey skyscraper is held. Inaccuracies, biases, omissions and false statements need to be corrected and the significant input by citizens be respected, otherwise the process is meaningless.

For a second time developer APL has asked to delay the HRM Public Hearing for its 20 or 29-storey highrise at Robie and Quinpool. FHC has written City Hall to request a new HRM staff report  before HRM Council holds a Public Hearing. FHC’s concerns about accuracy, bias and comprehensiveness of analyses and statements by staff and councilors are included in an executive summary to Mayor Savage, Councillors, and Chief of Planning Bob Bjerke. See PDF:
2017, May FHC Mayor & Council, new APL staff report
A second document details all 16 items of concern. See PDF:
Attachment, new APL staff report required

Citizens have been almost unanimous in their opposition to both 20 and 29-storeys but their knowledge and input are being ignored. There is no justification for the project which cannot be built under existing regulations or under the draft Centre Plan. If the HRM Staff Report is not corrected, the process is meaningless. Both the April 25th and now May 23rd dates have been cancelled at the request of the developer.

April 25th Public Hearing on 20-storeys is About Taking from the Common

Imagine standing on the North or Central Common and looking to the west, to see a 20-storey building, (2 storeys taller than the new convention centre) blocking the sky.

HRM’s Public Hearing for Armoyan’s proposal for the Willow Tree is April 25th, 6 pm at City Hall. But Friends of Halifax Common 10-year effort to have HRM honour its 1994 commitment to develop an integrated master plan for the Halifax Common is ignored.

The 240 acre Halifax Common is a unique parcel granted by King George III in 1763 “to and for the use of the inhabitants of the Town of Halifax as Commons forever”. FHC acknowledges the blight of the legacy of colonialism, but uniquely, the Common belongs in equal measure for joint use to the inhabitants of the Town of Halifax, forever.

It is wrong for HRM Council to be taking decisions outside of the context of a master plan, on matters that have a long-term, bad implication for the Halifax Common. Of the 240 acre grant only the remnant of the North Continue reading

Please Comment on 18 Spot Re-Zoning Projects

There is worrisome trend for the developer tail to be wagging the HRM Centre Plan. And for some folks to not have to follow the rules. HRM is asking the public to comment on 18 projects (many on or near the Halifax Common), that break rules and will hand hundreds of millions of dollars in extra floor space for developers to rent or sell – is this the best way to plan a city? Continue reading

HRM Planning Information Meeting – Wednesday Dec 7th 19 proposals at 1 meeting

Please attend this important meeting and make comments on the 19 proposed developments…

The classic 3-storey Coburg Apartments, is an Edwardian-era building on the South Common that is under threat from the Two developers hope to erect 16 & 30 storey and 20 & 26 storey high-rises in the single block between Carlton, College, Robie and Spring Garden Road under debelopment agreement applications. targeted growth area- Spring Garden Road bounded by Robie, College, Summer Streets and Camp Hill Cemetery.

The classic 3-storey Coburg Apartments, an Edwardian-era building at Spring Garden and Robie, on the South Common,  is one of a dozen+ buildings that will be demolished by two developers if their plans for 16 & 30 storey and 20 & 26 storey high-rises in the single block between Carlton, College, Robie and Spring Garden Road are approved.

Most of the 19 proposals are for highrises that break existing height restrictions and are out-of -scale with neighbourhoods. They’ll cause dozens of affordable small-scale, mixed-use residential units, commercial spaces & historic houses to be demolished. This will harm Halifax’s Common in various ways. Examples are:

  • 13 storey on Robie, Cunard – Compton
  • 14 storey on Robie St, Pepperell – Shirley
  • 16 & 30 storey on Spring Garden Rd & Robie west of Carlton
  • 20 & 26 storey on College & Robie St west of Carlton

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Centre Plan – The Good, the Bad and the Just Plain Stupid

There’s one good change for the Halifax Common in the draft Centre Plan but the rest seems like more bad news…
The Good The draft Centre Plan designates the Halifax Common a “Cultural Landscape” (p 54) but now it needs to make it meaningful by adopting the 1994 Halifax Common Plan as part of the Municipal Planning Strategy so the primary goals to not give up and to re-capture open space on Halifax’s Common are met not just platitudes.

The Bad Robie Street and a dozen other streets such as Cunard, Agricola, Chebucto are designated as “Corridors” with a goal of “redevelopment of new housing, commercial spaces and job opportunities in mixed use buildings” (p 96). By increasing permitted building heights to 4-6 storeys along Robie Street, the Centre Plan will create an incentive for developers to chew through a long-established, small-scale, mixed-use, Continue reading

HRM Planning Jamboree – Developers Take a Lesson from The Donald

 Mr. Trump in 1980 with a model of Trump Tower. Though it was built with 58 floors, he billed it as having 68 floors. Credit Don Hogan Charles/The New York Times

Mr. Trump in 1980 with a model of Trump Tower. Though it was built with 58 floors, he billed it as having 68 floors. Credit Don Hogan Charles/The New York Times

If  you’ve been watching the Halifax development scene maybe you weren’t surprized about the US election. You already know there are no rules.  A one-stop shopping jamboree for 18 new development agreement applications, with an open house style HRM Public Information Meeting on Wednesday, December 7, 12–2 and 6–8, at the Atlantica Hotel will determine the fate of a neighbourhood near you. If approved, many of the proposals will impact the Halifax Common, its perimeter and existing small scale mixed-use residential units, commercial spaces and heritage houses. Some example proposals include:

  • 13 storey tower at Robie between Cunard and Compton (NW corner of North Common);
  • 14 storey tower on Robie at Pepperell (near Common Roots Farm);
  • 16 & 30 storey towers at Spring Garden Road west of Carlton St.;
  • 20 & 26 storey towers on College, between Robie and Carlton St.

Yup, it feels like we’re living a paragraph out of a book that The Donald wrote. Got some architecturally note-worthy property? Go ahead demolish it. Want to replace it with a building that’s too tall for the lot size and doesn’t match the zoning?  Win approval by promising mixed-use, retail, office and residential. Want even more height?  Get more storeys in exchange for a “public” atrium, call it “public space” and put in kiosks to sell your own stuff. Or add art and parking. Maybe a bench? The higher, the richer. Don’t fuss, go ahead wreck the character of the neighbourhood. Call it densification, colour it walkable and sell it as sustainable.  Of course the developers can plan how the city will look – don’t they own the land? Don’t they make the rules?
This week Centre Plan presentations and consultations are at Dartmouth Sportsplex on November 16 & Dal on 17th.  December 2nd is the deadline to submit comments. Details here: https://centreplan.ca/

“Centre Plan Headed in Wrong Direction”

Letter to the HRM Community Design Advisory Committee by Dalhousie professor Steve Parcell, for Wednesday Aug. 23 meeting.

Dear CDAC,
My comments below are in two parts. The first section is new, addressed to you. The second section (with its attachment) is a copy of my comments on the Centre Plan growth scenarios that were sent to planhrm@halifax.ca two weeks ago. (I don’t know if the Planning department forwards a copy of the comments they receive to you.)

1. Comments for CDAC, 20 August 2016
I’ve read Howard Epstein’s letter to CDAC. I agree with him that the Centre Plan is headed in the wrong direction.

As a member of the Willow Tree Group (which has been monitoring proposals around Robie and Quinpool for several years), I’ve been struck by the significant mismatch between the implicit urban vision of the Planning department and responses by the public. This predates Continue reading