CBC’s Bob Murphy Interviews Councillor Outhit, Joachim Stroink & Peggy Cameron

Please listen to the interview and then let CBC know what you think:
1-888-686-6246 or mainhfx@cbc.ca

HRM Councillor Shawn Cleary has crafted a deal for a new public hearing for a 25-storey proposal for George Armoyen at Robie and Quinpool instead of the 20-storey proposal presented to the public on January 16. Its more bad dealing- 25-storeys may get 10 affordable housing units for 15-years but the Centre Plan would have required 36 affordable housing units for 15-years.

And the public interest and opposition continue to be ignored. A recent opinion poll conducted for the Willow Tree Group by Corporate Research Associates found 52% support 16-storeys or less (26% support 16-storeys; 22% support the current building height of 10-storeys). And only 15% want 20-storeys and 10% want 25-storeys.

Existing regulations to protect the 2 & 3-storey neighbourhood’s affordable housing and Halifax Common by limiting the size, height, mass, density etc. are being ignored. The developer has misused HRM’s bogus on-line survey but HRM staff has not corrected this. Recent public submissions totaled 1038 against and 333 for, but the Clerk’s office counted 851 cards signed by opponents as 1. The common public participate but who is looking out for the common good?

The Draft Centre Plan Harms the Common- (some more)

Disruption to Halifax’s built environment proposed under the Centre Plan is of a scale equal to or greater than that of Cogswell and Africville together. Please attend the open houses (see schedule below) to inform yourself about the Centre Plan and provide feedback.
The Centre Plan is ignoring the on-going Halifax Common Master Plan Consultations

The draft Centre Plan threatens public enjoyment of the Halifax Common. The colours indicate increases to permitted height. This will lead to short or long-term demolitions of existing building and replacement with taller ones on and next to the Halifax Common.

and 1994 Halifax Common Plan.  Despite substantial evidence that high-rises are not the way to add density and that they kill liveability HRM continues to plan for high-rises at “Centres” next to (Robie & Quinpool ) or on (Southwest Spring Garden Road) the Halifax Common. And the plan increases heights for most of the perimeter of the Common for “Corridors” (traffic sewers) along Robie, Chebucto to Cunard, and along South Street. 
Although urban green space plays a huge role in mitigating the effect of climate change and nature improves mental and physical well-being HRM is not creating any new public green space for the peninsula just more shade and wind that will degrade what we have. Without knowing what the Plan will permit Capital Health or Dalhousie to do on the Halifax Common the Centre Plan is already drafting for continued incursions and enclosure of the Common. Especially troubling is the plan incentivizes short term or eventual demolition of hundreds of buildings and will result in on-going clashes with near-by properties.
A sensible solution to densifying the Centre Plan Area, would be to intensify land use development in areas where the character of the city would be the least affected. Examples include the 16 acre Cogswell Exchange, the large parcels of land designated as Future Growth Nodes (shopping malls and Shannon Park) or under-utilized commercial lots, vacant lots and automotive dealerships.
Instead the Centre Plan will disrupt many older, established neighbourhoods by increasing height limits along corridors (4-6 storeys), higher residential areas (4-6 storeys) and targeted growth areas (20-storeys). There is no consideration for the social, cultural, environmental, economic advantage of protecting Halifax’s built environment. Nor for protecting present or future opportunities for small-scale local businesses, women-owned businesses, affordability and diversity.
For details please see the interactive map.   Note, typical story height is 3.9 meters for offices, 3.1 meters for hotels or residences and 3.5 meters for mixed- use.

Open house meetings March 19-April 5:
Mon,  March 19, 6:30 – 8:30 pm: St. Joseph A. McKay Elementary School
Thurs March  22, 6-8 pm, NSCC Ivany (Waterfront) Campus
Mon,  March  26, 1-3 pm and 6 – 8 pm Dalhousie SUB
Wed,  March  28, 1-3 pm and 6 – 8 pm Mic Mac Aquatic Club
Tues  April 3   6 – 8pm Halifax Forum
Thurs April 5  1 – 3 and 6 – 8 pm Dartmouth North Community Centre

HRM’s recently released Centre Plan “Package A,” has plans for designated growth centres, corridors, higher order residential and future growth nodes. There are three documents: a planning strategy, a land-use bylaw and a design manual and a“Big Changes” summary


Sheldon MacLeod Interview – Did HRM’s Invalid Survey Fool the Quinpool Biz Assn.?

Listen to Sheldon’s MacLeod’s interview with FHC about misuse of HRM’s invalid survey to push for 25-storeys.

On a matter of conduct FHC calls for a new HRM report on the APL proposal before another public hearing to correct inaccuracies, biases, omissions & false statements – For now the process is meaningless.

At January 16th’s public hearing on APL’s proposed 20-storey highrise, Quinpool Road Mainstreet District Assn. used HRM’s invalid on-line survey to claim that the public support 25 storeys and decided to push for 5 more storeys.  That same invalid survey was used in HRM’s staff 2017 report report to council about proposed Willow Tree highrises as the top reason to recommend Armoyen’s proposed Willow Tree project even though HRM withdrew the 2014 survey because of acknowledged biases and misinformation.
“The online survey generally indicated support for increased heights for both properties.”  Who can you trust?

For more details see FHC’s March 4th Media Release: FOIPOP Recipient Uses Invalid HRM On-line Survey to Promote Height at Willow Tree Site Continue reading

Sheldon MacLeod Interview -Why is Quinpool Business Association Boycotting Neighbourhood?

FHC wonders why Quinpool Road Mainstreet District Association enthusiastically endorsed APL’s proposed 25-storey building at Robie & Quinpool at the public hearing meant to consider 20-storeys.

January 16’s public hearing for a 20-storey proposal became one on 25-storeys after a few affordable housing units were promised. HRM has no authority under its Charter to enforce affordable housing requirements and has no definition of affordability.

Residents oppose this block-buster project and have engaged with the Centre Plan and Halifax Common Master Plan processes in hopes of developing a vision for the district that respects existing neighbourhoods & the Halifax Common. The Business Association has sent a strong message that working with the city planners and residents is not their priority. Listen to this Sheldon MacLeod interview to learn more.

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 



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