In June HRM Council ignored public opinion and staff advice to vote 10 to 6 in favour of George Armoyen’s 25-storey tower at Robie and Quinpool. The building will degrade the neighbourhood and the Halifax Common. And the decision assures an elite class of developers that democratically derived rules don’t matter to Council. Hear a quick review…
We need nature. Whether its a plant or a park, the evidence that public open space has important physical and mental health benefits is growing. But even-tho the Centre Plan wants 30,000+ new residents within HRM’s urban core we are shrinking the Common. On April 24, one day before a public consultation for the Halifax Common, Mayor and Council approved a private pop-up stadium on the Wanderers Grounds. While the field has been used by sports teams since the 1880s it was for amateur players. Now amateur soccer, rugby, football, Frisbee players will have 20% less field time-which by they pay for- so a developer can profit from our Common.
The Halifax Master Plan consultations needs to take inspiration from the work of others by starting with the 1994 Halifax Common plan, planning for the entire Common and expanding our green space.
CBC’s Bob Murphy interviews Common Roots Urban Farm’s Jayme Melrose about its impending move from the former QEHS site on the Halifax Common. FHC’s Peggy Cameron follows (at 09:40) to describe the search for a new location as a chance for the city to expand its parks and live up to its past commitments. More green space is essential for the Farm, for our health, and for our growing population.
The draft Centre Plan proposes adding 33,000 new residents in the next 15 years without any new public parks. Three examples using government-owned land to expand Common green space and relocate the Urban Farm are:
- St Pat’s on Quinpool- next to St Vincent’s seniors complex is an excellent sunny central location for the Farm. And plan to continue with green network extending to the North West Arm.
- The Cogwell Interchange near the Centennial Pool (and a new outdoor pool nearby) as plan to extend a green network to the Halifax Harbour
- The Park Within a Park at the former School for the Blind, now the VG Parking lot on the South Common; a commitment for 200 trees and 200 parking places, a scented garden, a small playground and a landscaped block of Tower Road promised in 1986. See more here https://www.halifaxcommon.ca/common-roots-urban-farm-needs-a-home-think-big/
Common Roots Urban Farm will need a new home after this growing season. Plan to attend the public engagement session – Wed, April 11, 7-9 pm, at Citadel High’s Atrium to explore ideas for its future.
Its time to think bigger! That’s how we got the Urban Farm in the first place. Back in 2007 HRM and Capital Health brokered a land swap for the Queen Elizabeth High site even though it was to return to the Halifax Common. The backroom deal was done before any public consultation. FHC challenged the sale of the Common and managed to convince some smart folks at Capital Health that a good interim use would be a farm/garden. Then FHC introduced them to gardening doula Jayme Melrose and slowly after a genuine public engagement process and a lot of hard work the Common Roots Urban Farm grew.
We need more Common not less. Despite growing evidence that public open space is vital for health and well-being HRM’s draft Centre Plan proposes adding 33,000 new residents in the next 15 years without any new public green space or parks, just higher buildings & more shade, especially on and near the Common. And the Health Authority which sits on 50-60 acres of Halifax Common isn’t clear it places any value on open space (unless you count parking lots).
While other cities around the world are creating new parks HRM can only imagine how to sell, give or trade its public lands, surplus schools and even streets on the Peninsula for development.
We are losing ground. The Halifax Common’s open space is already about 20% of the original 235-acre grant. Recently, without any public process, HRM rushed to support a private-for-profit-pop-up-stadium for a professional soccer team on the newly refurbished Wanderer’s Grounds, even though the field is fully booked with amateur players. And days before the consultation for the Halifax Common Master Plan was announced, HRM silently watched Capital Health purchase the CBC TV Building instead of ensuring its return to the Common. There easily another dozen other examples of HRM approved losses.
We can increase public green space by using city-owned land to extend the Halifax Common and expand its green network. Here are 3 ideas for three directions.
- West- Selling the former St Pat’s High School site is short-sighted. On Quinpool, next to St Vincent’s seniors’ home it would be a perfect new location for the Farm. Planning for the future it could be the start of a green route all the way to the North West Arm.
- East- Create a green park on the Cogswell Interchange that goes from the Halifax Common to the Halifax Harbour. Place the Farm on the Centennial Pool parking lot with a new outdoor pool nearby.
- South- Have the city and province honour their 1986 commitment that the former School for the Blind site would a landscaped Park within a Park and public pathway. (see image)
HRM is too careless with our Common. Short term profit is no match for the long-term pay-back of expanding our city’s green space and improving our health, habitat and especially our ability to weather climate change.
So far HRM has not included either the Health Authority, Dalhousie or private lands on the Common in the public consultation process for the Common’s Masterplan. Again this ignores the 1994 Halifax Common Plan. It also pretends that HRM cannot assume its normal government role to regulate planning throughout the entire Common. Being hands-off does not protect the Common but it certainly serves the purposes of developers be they private or institutional.
Its time to cultivate a green attitude. Faced with a dwindling Halifax Common its pretty clear that if we want a Common we better be prepared to defend the Common. Giving away the Common is a bad HRM habit. Every bit counts. So speak up and ask for more not less!
FB event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/374118636330757/everyone who appreciates the farm to help envision the farm’s future at a public engagement session on April 11.
Please listen to the interview and then let CBC know what you think:
1-888-686-6246 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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?
Listen to Sheldon’s MacLeod’s interview with FHC about misuse of HRM’s invalid survey to push for 25-storeys.
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