Tag Archives: Willow Tree Group

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!

 

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

“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

Whose Interest is the City Serving?

The Halifax Common and the Parker-Welsford Street neighbourhood continue to be threatened by the proposed 30-storey Armoyen and 25-storey Chedrawe developments. It is disappointing  to have city staff pushing through the development agreement process for projects that are non-conforming to the MPS, the LUB, the Quinpool Road and Area Plan and 1994 Halifax Common Plan (see: PAC Minutes-Jan 25, 2016 ).  The Willow Tree Group‘s serious and credible

Developers' push for profit and all day darkness on the Oval.

Staff & Developers’ push for private profits, neighbourhood be damned.

work to draw attention to contraventions including height, scale, density, the negative effects on the Halifax Common, existing houses and from traffic, wind and shadow seems ignored.  All for the private interests & profit of exceptionalist developers. The
2013 Stantec Report, the city’s
recent Density Bonusing Study and  Turner Drake’s quarterly reports offer lots of evidence on why  building outside of plan is a bad idea.
Whose interest is the city serving?

“Amendments to an MPS are generally not considered unless it can be shown that circumstances have changed since the document was adopted to the extent that the original land use policy is no longer appropriate. Site-specific MPS amendment requests, in particular, require significant justification to be considered.”