Tag Archives: spot-rezoning

Planning A Carlton Street Super Block Isn’t Urgent – It’s Premature, Piecemeal and Peculiar.

Why exactly are Mayor Savage and HRM Council following the lead of the Lawen/Dexel and Rouvalis developers who want to break rules and jump ahead of HRM’s planning process to build 16, 20, 26 and 30-storey towers on the Carlton Street block of the Halifax Common? Listen to Rick Howe’s interview with FHC director Howard Epstein about his letter to Mayor and Council to hear some of the many reasons why the proposed super blockers should be deferred or defeated.

Read the letter here: FHC Director Howard Epstein’s letter of Jan 28th to Mayor and Council re: Carlton Street


 

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Epstein-HRM council should respect the Common, as it has Lake Banook

A man bikes in the rain on the Halifax Common. The Armoury which will begin a restoration valued at $17 million is in the background. (Chronicle Herald photo)

Chronicle Herald

by Howard Epstein
Jan 15, 2018

Harbour East Council (Councillors Streatch, Hendsbee, Karsten, Nicoll and Austin) recently rejected a 15-storey proposal for Graham’s Corner beside Lake Banook, and has put off a follow-up proposal at nine storeys.

All of the reasons offered apply to the full HRM council’s consideration this week of the APL proposal for the Willow Tree intersection beside the Halifax Common. And then some.

In the Banook case, neighbourhood incompatibility played a large role. So, too, for the Willow Tree neighbourhood. Parker, Welsford, Williams, and Compton streets, as well as Robie Street itself, constitute a vibrant residential nook, full of family homes that will be seriously negatively affected if rules are changed to allow a 20-storey building.

The Banook case illustrated exactly why the existing zoning restrictions were put in place. So, too, for the Willow Tree neighbourhood.

At the time, Alderman Nick Meagher, who served on council for 33 years until his retirement in 1995, had the foresight to have height, mass, and density regulations adopted that allow for some intensification of use, but cap it at 10 storeys.

This allowed for protection of the small-scale, densely packed, and stable neighbourhoods and local businesses that have traditionally characterized the overall area.

The Banook case took into account negative impacts on the lake itself as a public amenity. So, too, for the Common and the Willow Tree proposal. They are both important destinations that provide a pleasant visual experience because of the sense of open space and sky.

The Common has a greater diversity of passive and active recreational users and pedestrians. It is used year-round.

The area of The Common that remains as public open space is significantly smaller than Lake Banook and so negative impacts are greater.

The Banook nine-storey proposal would cast shadow in the morning but not in summer when the sun is high. The APL 20-storey proposal is on the western edge of the Common and at least twice the height – it will cast a significant shadow. It will especially shadow the Oval, during afternoon winter skating.

The Banook proposal is for less mass and density than the APL proposal. The Willow Tree proposal would violate at least seven bylaws that are designed to protect public open space and neighbourhoods. Overall, it is too much of an impact.

There are many reasons not to change the planning rules to allow the APL proposal to go forward.

It is not only a question of consistency with the Lake Banook case approach. The draft Centre Plan would not allow the project. It is not a sensible environmental basis for development to allow demolition of a building if that can be avoided.

Density to fill foreseeable needs can be achieved at heights of three to six storeys. Six storeys is all that HRM staff see as appropriate immediately next door, which raises another point of inconsistency of approach.

The 1994 Halifax Common Master Plan is in the process of being revised: adjacent lots should not be on the agenda while that process is at work.

We ask council to leave intact the Municipal Planning Strategy policies for the Willow Tree site, and await the Centre Plan and Common Master Plan processes.

Howard Epstein writes on behalf of Friends of the Halifax Common. He is a retired HRM councillor, MLA and lawyer. He taught land-use planning law at Dalhousie University for many years and is author of Land-Use Planning, a law textbook.

This article was published on Jan 15 in the Chronicle Herald

Speak or Write for the Common Good – City Hall, 6pm Tues Jan 16

Save the date George Armoyan’s APL proposal for 20- 25- or 29- storeys at Quinpool, Robie & Parker next the the Halifax Common has a Public Hearing on Tuesday January 16th, 6pm at City Hall

Please attend – this tower is bad news for the Halifax Common and bad news for the neighbourhoods. It will cause shadows on the Oval for the entire afternoon skating season (see image) and year-round gusty winds at Robie-Quinpool-Parker and across the Common. It will loom over adjacent properties and the public open space at the Common and Parker St Park.

Twenty storeys isn’t allowed under present rules or under new draft Centre Plan rules but APL wants the Mayor and Council to break at least 7 rules that safeguard the public interest and protect the Halifax Common. Examples are…

  • Height: 2 – 4 times what’s allowed
  • Setbacks: not far enough from other properties or streets
  • On-site parking: less than required
  • Density: 4.7 times what’s allowed
  • Context: not compatible with neighbourhoods or Westwood’s 6-storey Robie St proposal.
  • Land-scaped open space: not enough
  • Traffic: too much

Don’t let HRM ignore the rules and the input of hundreds of common citizens who have told them to wait for the Centre Plan and finish the promised Master Plan for the Halifax Common. Respect the process. Respect the Plans.

This building harms the area and isn’t necessary. Densification doesn’t mean destroying neighbourhoods or public open space. And demolition isn’t sustainable; it takes 10-80 years for a new building that is 30% more efficient to overcome through efficient operation, the negative climate change impacts relating to construction. Renovation would use half as many materials and create twice as many jobs. Mid-rise (5-storey) development along Quinpool could create 2,500-2,800 new residential units that would easily blend with the main street.

Come and speak directly to the Mayor and Council before they decide. Ask them to make a decision to benefit the Common good not a private developer. If you can’t attend the public hearing please contact your Councillor AND write clerks@halifax.ca

Help spread the word with social media. Ask others for Help!

 

Tell Council APL’s Proposal Needs to Start Over

Tomorrow (Tuesday Nov 14) APL is coming back to HRM Council arguing that their business case for Willow Tree only works at 25-storeys, not the 20-storeys that Council voted to bring to a public hearing. Please tell your Councillor not to yield to the developer’s pressure.
 
FHC agrees with Councillors Waye Mason and Lindell Smith who understand that APL’s now proposed 25-storey building for the Willow Tree is a new proposal and should start from the beginning of the application process. 
 

Source: draft Centre Plan (March 2017), 107; with heights added by the Willow Tree Group

This is a fundamental change from the 20-storeys Council had previously voted to recommend go toa public hearing and it should go back to square one, said FHC’S Howard Epstein. And if 6-storeys is the right height for Westwood Develoment’s building next door on the Cruikshank property, there’s no reason why even 20-storeys should have been considered, let alone 25.

It isn’t just about the single issue of the height of the building-it is about the documented reasons and legitimate concerns of the many citizens who’ve participated and the need for more and better consideration of what the location can and should accommodate.
 
Let’s bring a bit of balance in representing the interests of citizens as well as those of developers. The Centre Plan is a draft only form at this time. What it proposes for this area has not been approved by the public or by the Mayor and Council – nor should it be. The RFP for the Masterplan for the Halifax Common has just be awarded.
 
This is an opportunity to do the right thing and start over with a process that benefits the Common not a private developer. Write or call your Councillor, asap!

Urgent-Common Neighbourhood Under Threat at Cunard, Robie & Compton

WTG Info sheet on proposal to demolish 7 mixed-use small-scale historic buildings and build an 8-storey apartment block at the NW corner of the Halifax Common- in the Cunard/ Robie/Compton neighbourhood.

What:  Please attend HRM’s Public meeting to give feedback on the proposed Tony’s Pizza development.

When: Wed. Oct. 11th, 7 pm

Where: Halifax Forum (Maritime Hall)

Can’t attend? Please write the clerks@halifax.ca about Case 20577

Details: Abe Salloum (owner of Tony’s Pizza) wants to demolish 7 buildings on Cunard St, Robie St, & Compton Ave. and erect an 8-storey apartment block with its parking garage in the Compton neighbourhood. The proposed block-buster building is not permitted. Because its height, density, multi-unit use, and commercial use (the same as The Keep, under construction at Quinpool/Vernon) aren’t allowed he and architect WM Fares want city hall to change the rules to match his building using a planning loop-hole. 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.

Does Halifax need Missing “Gentle Density” or Armoyan’s 20-storeys?

FHC’s latest letter to City Council asking them to not approve a 20- or 29-storey highrise at Robie & Quinpool, at City Hall’s April 25th public hearing included Brent Toderian’s

Brent Toderian, former Vancouver city planner now advocates for what his photo shows Halifax already has, “gentle density”.

“Canadian Cities need more gentle density to address housing crunch” article from Halifax Metro. The former Vancouver city planner writes that ground-oriented housing that’s denser than a detached house is the “missing middle” in housing needs.
Something has changed since Mr. Toderian’s keynote speach for the Dexel Group’s 2016 PR campaign promoting towers on the single block of the Halifax Common at Robie, College, Spring Garden and Carlton. Now it seems he would agree that 16-, 23-, 26- and 30-storey highrises are the wrong kind of game changer as they are not conducive to “preserving community building blocks” as part of planning for resilient, diverse, complete and affordable neighbourhoods. But as he describes, this same block is an ideal candidate for in-fill within the middle of the block that would respectfully compliment the existing mixed-use, small-scale historic neighbourhood. Continue reading

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

Write to Stop 20+ or 29-storeys at Quinpool/Robie

Armoyan’s proposal comes before Council on Tuesday, March 21. As a next step, a public-hearing date will be scheduled. Please write to say: re Case 18966: Do not approve APL’s 20 or 29-storey tower at Robie & Quinpool at this time. Wait for the Centre Plan.

Dear Mayor and Council:
Please say “No!” to the proposed 20- or 29-storey Armoyan tower at Robie & Quinpool. What’s there, a 10-storey office tower, is what’s permitted. Don’t spot-rezone to advantage a private developer. Wait for the Centre Plan. Wait for the Halifax Common Master-plan.

To date, 120 individual written submissions, 3 community group submissions and a Willow Tree survey have opposed increased height at this corner. That’s 99%+ of all participants. Evidence in HRM’s staff report recommending 20-storeys (2 storeys higher than the convention centre) at this site is thin, biased and misleading.

Citizens’ right to peaceful enjoyment of their neighbourhoods, the Halifax Common, the Oval, the Common Roots Urban Farm or the skate park must be respected. Regulations for height restrictions at this corner exist precisely to protect the area against more or higher towers, wind, shade, blocked views, traffic etc. The existing towers are non-conforming anomalies, mistakes that should never be repeated or made worse.

Respect the citizens. We support responsible development; that is why you must respect the regulations and stick to the Plan.

Keep the Common Good.

Yours truly,
Name & Address

 

“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

Are Dexel Developers Slick Marketers Using Brent Toderian & Bob Bjerke?

FHC’s belief that protecting the Halifax Common must be a top priority as the population in the urban core grows is supported by growing evidence of the social, health and environmental benefits of public open space. Sadly Dexel Construction’s private consultation for a 28+/- tower on Halifax Common land at

Developments at the Willow Tree and along South Park and Spring Garden Road are popular with develpers looking to sell luxurious views.

Developments at the Willow Tree, along South Park and Spring Garden Road are sought after by developers using individual development agreement applications and looking to sell luxurious views for maximum profit.   See details at: www.willowtreehalifax.wordpress.com/exceeding-limits

Spring Garden Rd, Carleton and Robie where the present height restriction is 35 feet/2.5 storeys, is just the latest threat by developers wanting to maximize profits by building their private towers next to or on public open space. At Dexel’s May 2016 presentation, Density Done Well, Vancouver’s former chief planner Brent Toderian a paid Dexel consultant and highrise advocate, left out significant information in his love-in for Dexel’s “game- Continue reading

Write to Protect the Halifax Common

This year Halifax will commemorate the June 23rd anniversary of the 240 acre Halifax Common grant from King George III by cutting several mature trees to make way for a roundabout at the Cogswell/NorthPark/Ahern/Trollope intersection.  Its a fitting tribute

View towards Cunard & North Park

View towards Cunard & North Park

to the on-going onslaught of the Common whereby less than 30 acres remain as public open space. And it suits the City’s habit of ignoring the 1994 Halifax Common Plan.

Now after a 21-year wait this year’s municipal budget includes money to begin the planning process. Time is not on the side of the Common.

Developers are unjustifiably making extensive use of the Development Agreement (DA) application process to ignore the Regional Plan’s existing controls that regulate size, mass, height and set back of buildings  for spot-rezoning. Right now there are DA applications for 25-, 28-, 18-, 11-, 24-storey buildings adjacent to the Halifax Common. And an 18-storey building approved next to Camphill Cemetery on Carleton St. and a 30-storey building proposed for Spring Garden Road at Carleton are on Halifax Common land.

By approving DAs for out-of-scale buildings, the Mayor and Council are allowing developers to preclude not just the Halifax Common Master Plan process, but also the Centre Plan and the Halifax Green Network processes. We have yet to ever hear about an Integrated Transportation Strategy and where roundabouts would rank against other priorities such as commuter rail.

Please write the Mayor and Council at clerks@halifax.ca to ask that they stick to the existing rules until new plans are complete. And send comments to the Halifax Green Network https://engage.o2design.com/halifax/engage_map/ asking for regulations to protect the Halifax Common and all public open BLUE space. Continue reading

Halifax Common vs. Block Buster Highrises

 Presently there are 2 proposals by 2 developers for 3 block-buster towers of 28, 24 and 12 storeys near the Willow Tree intersection. (For comparison, Fenwick Towers is 32 storeys and Bell Aliant is 22 storeys) These highrises are not permitted under present planning regulations, set a bad precedent and will harm the Halifax Common experience.  Please read below to learn what the implications are and how you can be involved.
The proposed developments will block  the common view of the western sky and will increase wind, shadow and traffic.

The proposed developments will block the common view of the western sky and will increase wind, shadow and traffic.

Block-Busting – When developers apply for special exemptions or changes to smaller parcels of land that ignore an existing master plan and are at odds with a big picture view of what is permitted under existing zoning regulations its known as block-busting or spot-rezoning.
Continue reading