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.
In looking at the problematic decisions that have been made I have in mind : Schedule Q approvals since 2012 for Young St, Robie St, Gottingen St, Bilby St, Almon St; Wellington St/Inglis St condos; the Vernon St/Quinpool Rd development; Carleton St highrise etc. And now Council has before it some significant proposals such as for the Willow Tree intersection (the Armoyan and Chedrawe proposals), for the St Pat’s High School site, for the St Pat’s- Alexandra School site, for allowing office uses in Dartmouth Crossing etc.
So many decisions are coming before Council before completion of revisions to the overall plans that cumulatively the situation is undermining one of the major purposes of the HRM Charter, ie to give the public an opportunity to play an effective role in the planning enterprise.
Not only are the overall plans delayed, but specialized planning, as for the Halifax Common, are also delayed.
We ask you to use your best efforts to move ahead with completion of the needed planning prior to taking any more significant site-specific decisions.
Friends of Halifax Common