Howard Epstein To Mayor Savage: Use Your Best Efforts

July 15, 2015
Halifax Mayor Mike Savage (Chronicle Herald Photo)Mayor Mike Savage
PO Box 1749, Halifax, NS B3J 3A5

Your Worship:
I am writing on behalf of Friends of Halifax Common to set out an important concern about the state of play in overall land-use planning in the Capital/Regional Centre. Our focus is on the Halifax Common, but some of the issues that illustrate problems that affect the Common are also of wider impact and concern.

Originating with the 2006 Regional Plan, a focus on the Centre has been adopted by Council. Unfortunately this has suffered from delay. It is worthwhile to recall the reasons for this focus in the Regional Plan: stemming general residential sprawl (especially with associated energy use for transportation); controlling the cost of hard and soft infrastructure; and a concern with the hollowing-out of downtowns. These remain valid concerns. Delay has come about through several steps: first, HRM By Design abandoned its initial focus on the whole of the Centre area and dealt for several years exclusively with the Halifax CBD; next, a ‘corridors’ policy was attempted as an interim measure; and in the meantime, Council and the community councils have been dealing with many individual site applications, approving much of what has been asked for.

The result of this has been not only delay in settling on a new Centre plan, but in a series of decisions that effectively pre-determine the results of what should be an open public planning process. Very little will be left to be determined, especially on the Halifax peninsula, if important, individual site-based decisions continue to be made. Continue reading

St Pat’s Background Report Inaccurate, Inadequate & Biased

HRM has posted a background report by WSP Canada Inc. about the former St. Patrick’s High School site (Quinpool 6067) in advance of Wendesday’s meeting. The three concept designs are not  yet avalable.  Errors and omissions in the report are detailed below. The report

St Pat's Process Flawed

St Pat’s Process Deeply Flawed (Photo-Rebecca Lau/Global News)

would be a very faulty basis for a public consultation and should be withdrawn and revised before the consultation starts.

The report is clearly biased towards a large scale development despite a 2013 Stantec Report commissioned by HRM determined that there is sufficient development capacity in the Regional Capital to meet density targets for the next 25 years. Presently there is equivalent to 20 empty blocks of land in the downtown, most used as parking lots and most with existing development agreements and yet  the report does not consider retaining this land as public open space.  Below is a list of the problems, followed by some discussion.

1.  The report does not mention the existing height limit on the property.
2.  The report has an inadequate discussion of the Quinpool Road Commercial Area Plan (QRCAP).
3.  The densities on surrounding blocks are calculated incorrectly.
4.  The wind consultants did not consider the effect of winds on Cogswell Park, between Windsor, Parker and Welsford Streets.
5.  The report starts with a density that is twice as great as the density allowed in this part of Halifax.

Discussion:

  1. The report does not mention the existing height limit on the property.

Continue reading

St Pat’s High School Property – Public Meeting- Wed. Jul. 22

There’s a public  open house to review and comment on three preliminary design options for St Pat’s High School on Wed., July 22, 6:30 – 9 p.m., Halifax Forum, Multi-Purpose Room

Why is the public meeting on such short notice and in the middle of vacation season?

Why is the public meeting on such short notice and in the middle of vacation season?

Can’t make it? 
Ask questions or make comments at: http://shapeyourcityhalifax.ca/quinpool6067.

Our questions? …..
1. Why is this very important public consultation meeting being scheduled on such short notice and in the middle of prime vacation time?

2. What is the urgency to sell and re-develop the St Pat’s high school site with such haste that a final design will be selected by September?

3. This area has many highrise developments being proposed -isn’t their approval and the approval for a St Pat’s project in advance of the Centre Plan precluding what the Centre Plan will be able to do?

4. Halifax has taken 21 years to begin the process of developing an integrated master plan for the Halifax Common.  St Pat’s highschool is common land in that it belongs to the public.  According to the 2013 Stantec Report commissioned by the city there is adequate land to meet all of our projected population growth for the next twenty years.  Why doesn’t the city land bank the St Pat’s site as common land to compensate for the loss of over 200 acres of the Halifax Common’s public open space ?

 

Herald Opinion – Halifax Common Takes Another Hit

Published June 22, 2015 –
On June 23, 1763, King George III granted 240 acres of common land “to and for the use of the inhabitants of the town of Halifax as Common forever.” Unwittingly, this year the city will commemorate the anniversary by cutting several mature trees to make way for a roundabout at the Cogswell/North Park/Ahern/Trollope intersection.This is a fitting tribute to the ongoing

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.

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 to protect it by not decreasing the amount of public open space or the amount of city-owned land, and to increase the amount of land under city ownership through recapture of lands.

Examples of 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.

Now, after a 21-year wait, this year’s municipal budget included money to begin the planning process. Time is not on the Common’s side. Developers are unjustifiably making extensive use Continue reading

CBC Radio Interview- Common’s Death by a Thousand Cuts

People walk up Citadel Hill through some thick fog on Thursday in Halifax-photo by Jeff Harper, Metro News

People walk up Citadel Hill through some thick fog on Thursday in Halifax-photo by Jeff Harper, Metro News

On the eve of the Halifax Common’s 252 anniversary CBC Mainstreet’s Stephanie Domet interviews Peggy Cameron.  The conversation outlines the many decisions that the city is making in advance of an integrated master plan for the Halifax Common.

There are no rules. Individual decisions outside of a plan are having a cumulative impact and are diminishing the Common.  These also preclude the outcome of any planning process related to the now promised Halifax Common Master Plan.

Concerned about what Common will be left for posterity?  Or that the Mayor and Council have no vision for the Common?
Email the Mayor and Council at:  clerks@halifax.ca.

(begins at 4:10)

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 http://engage.o2design.com/halifax/engage_map/ asking for regulations to protect the Halifax Common and all public open BLUE space. Continue reading