May 27, 2016
Dear Peninsular Advisory Committee Members:
RE: St Pat’s High School
I am writing to suggest that the process for determining what should be built on the former St Pat’s High School has not been conducted with enough rigor or within a proper framework to ensure its final recommendations are valid and to ask that any decision about this property be deferred until after the Centre Plan is completed.
The public comments from the meeting that Councilor Watts held on May 21, 2014 to initiate discussion about possible outcomes for the St Pat’s High School site as documented here:
https://www.halifax.ca/council/agendasc/documents/140722ca1118.pdf are completely ignored in the final plan. Because these comments do not seem to be in the final report as presented for review by the PAC please find a brief summary of what the fifty+ people at this meeting emphasized as important:
- Retaining some public use of the space especially for an auditorium or performance space;
- Keeping, improving and connecting public open green space;
- Using the space to support community needs such as seniors housing, francophone community, or non-profits;
- Redeveloping for commercial, residential and community to complement the existing neighbourhood and Quinpool Road district- no highrises, beauty, green space, public space, pedestrian friendly;
- Reconfiguring roads and creating better options for pedestrians, cyclists and connectivity and deal with existing traffic problems.
As well “key design principles that include: urban openness that allows visual and physical access to traditionally private space, human scale, public open spaces, a variety of residential and commercial spaces, capturing the spirit of the existing neighbourhood, and creativity in design” as identified by the project consultant in July 2015 are largely ignored in the final outcome.
Similarly speakers at the public meeting on May 9, 2016 where the final report was presented (along with last minute new information) raised questions on these same still unresolved objections or concerns: the need for green space, problems with traffic, unjustified/unsupported density target of 272 persons/acre, height and mass, and (newly) wind. Lack of adequate modeling was the topic of an entire letter from me that seems also to have also been ignored.
Of broader and stronger concern still to the members of the public is the number of Development Agreement applications being undertaken in this exact area of Quinpool Road that as with St Pat’s are taking place in advance of the completion of the Centre Plan. There is therefore no context or broader vision for their isolated treatments; there is no consideration for the existing Regional Plan, LUB or Quinpool Road Business District plans. The outcome of this patchy process will preclude the outcome of the Centre Plan. Meetings for the St Pat’s process were ill-timed, with insufficient notification, held in the same timeframe as other public meetings for the Centre Plan and without advanced availability of materials for review.
There is also the role of the consultant in the St Pat’s process. The consultant’s report contained incorrect information and errors about existing density in the area, permitted density, and presently permitted height. Although the public identified these errors these were not corrected in a timely or public manner and most citizens and probably members of PAC remain unaware.
Beyond the errors in the report the consultant firm appears to have been in conflict of interest as at the same time they worked for a private developer with development applications in the Quinpool Road area. Their recommendation for the much higher density and greater height limit at the St Pat’s location well beyond what is presently permitted or supported by present plans or desire of citizens is now being referenced for other developments in the Quinpool Road area. For example minutes of the Planning Advisory Committee record that WSP’s recommendations for the St. Pat’s site did influence the Committee’s position on the Westwood property on Robie. “Mr. Hayter commented regarding height that the St. Pat’s site may be used as a guiding principle, as determined to be 18 stories.”
In summary, the public’s input has been ignored. Most egregiously the concern about high rises and the request for no high rises is a strongly recurring theme and yet the final report recommendation supports height between 7-18 storeys. This sets a precedent that will advance the interests of other clients/developers of the private consultant.
Based on the poverty of thought and lack of context for the St Pat’s report and recommendations we request that the decision for St Pat’s be deferred until such time as it can be incorporated into the Centre Plan and better respond to the desire and interest of the public trust. HRM has recently made the decision that it will await the sale of Bloomfield until after the Centre Plan, that is also a precedent.
Finally under the HRM Charter there is a requirement for effective public consultation when MPS amendments are being made-that implies two-way communication, a process in which the public’s questions are answered.
Peggy Cameron (by-email)
Co-chair, Friends of Halifax Common
Cc: Mayor and Council
Friends of Halifax Common