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.
The trend for developers to occupy public blue space next to public green space such as the Halifax Common, its parks, graveyards or gardens each with unparalleled, exclusive or sought-after views is clear.

Through illegitimate DAs and outside of plans and planning process the Mayor and Council are privatizing the public’s view and giving developers free commercial zoning benefits to make money through luxury-priced rent or sale of the view. The paying occupant enjoys the view of open space, sky and light, trees, landmarks and historic wide streets. The public will experience the blocked view, walls of highrises, shadows, wind, traffic and cumulative effect of multiple bad planning decisions that degrade neighbourhoods and public open space.

Primarily justified as a driver for densification these DAs are unnecessary. Presently over 5,000 condo units, a 6.35 year supply, are approved or under construction in central Halifax and Dartmouth.  An additional 5,000+ units in or through the DA process, gives a 12.5 year supply.

Examples of other Common giveaways include the lands of the former Queen Elizabeth High School, Grace Maternity Hospital and Civic Hospital, School for the Blind and its adjacent block of Tower Road as well as the side-yards of All Saints Cathedral. Next will be the CBC-TV and the Victoria General Hospital lands. And decisions for the permanent Oval, the Oval building, the roundabouts and several public art projects were all outside of an integrated Halifax Common Master Plan.