Tag Archives: Centre Plan

2020 – FHC Centre Plan Submission

A Park within a Park was promised In return for the School for the Blind lands  with 200 trees, 200 parking places, a scented garden & a landcaped path along a block of Tower Road that was de-listed. The public reluctantly agreed to the plan but the promises weren’t fulfilled.

Dear Centre Plan Staff,

Please find included in this email two previous submissions from Friends of Halifax Common (2018 & 2016) . Our suggestions seem even more relevant in this time so we ask that you will please take the time to re-read these.

Green Space: As the Centre Plan intends to add 15-30,000 new residents to the area it is imperative that there be greater attention given to protecting existing green space and to increase it. This is for all the benefits known — human mental and physical health, safe social distancing, improved walkability and active transportation, habitat, gardening, coping with climate change etc.

Health Benefits: A 2016 World Health Organization[i] report suggests sizes of and distance from green space. ie 5 minutes from 1ha is one standard. It also emphasizes connectivity as well as buffer zones for green space – these should be adopted as goals of the Centre Plan. Why not envision a network of green space from Point Pleasant Park to Africville and from the North West Arm to the Halifax Harbour that traverses the Halifax Common? Why not daylight Freshwater Brook as a landscaped route through the city[ii]? This is happening around the world[iii] and has been considered for Freshwater since 2006[iv]. The Centre Plan should create these opportunities.

Also attached is a landscape design of the proposed Park within the Park (see illustration) that Peter Klynstra created and which the province and the city used to convince very reluctant citizens that the grounds of former School for the Blind should be converted to a parking lot for 200 cars with 200 trees. The block of Tower Road that was closed was supposed to be a landscaped path. None of this was ever fulfilled. This is an example of where the Centre Plan needs to be planning for recapturing public open space on the Halifax Common as per the 1994 Halifax Common plan. This should be scheduled on a timeframe to be accomplished within three years.

Approximately 20% of the Common is used for parking-that is about to increase with two new parking garages planned as part of the QEII re-development.

Contrast that with Paris, where the Mayor was recently re-elected with a promise to remove 60,000 parking spots. The goal has recently been increased to 70,000. All with the intention to create a city with clean air where citizens walk, bike or use public transportation to move about. How can the Centre Plan propose to be reducing reliance on cars when it has no targets or timelines for doing so?

Corridors, Emissions and Health: It is a major concern that the Centre Plan is premised on Corridors which concentrates people living next to major transportation routes. One outcome is the very serious health concern that the Halifax Common is surrounded by major driving routes and that the new developments on and next to it have large parking capacity for cars. Electrification is not coming any time soon-Halifax has just ordered 150 new diesel buses. The health of people walking or playing on the Common is at risk.

Vehicle pollution is deadly.[i] Dr. Michael Brauer, a Canadian expert on air quality recommends that people live at least 150m from major transportation routes-this is not news. Traffic pollution was recently noted for the first time as the cause of death of a 9-year old girl.[ii] Canada traffic emissions are a principal source of air pollution and the leading cause for us having one of the world’s highest rates of new childhood asthma. It is also linked to other lung diseases, higher risk of dementia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and MS. And of course traffic also leads to motor vehicle and pedestrian collisions.

Protect the Halifax Common: It is also a major disappointment that the Centre Plan has not protected the Halifax Common by focusing on a built form that would minimize the impact of development on the Common. The fixation with high rises is unnecessary, costly to neighbourhoods due to demolitions, superblockers that lack of porosity, wind and shade, loss of privacy and unaffordability. This is not promoting the scale of development that the city needs-the missing middle in distributed density. It is not a sustainable plan for moving forward. The attached illustration demonstrates different ways to achieve capacity for 300 units. The exact glass, steel and concrete building developers in Halifax are constructing are what New York city is banning[i].

Common Writ Large: Some final questions about the public common writ large:

  • Solar Rights: How does the Centre Plan intend to protect solar rights for existing or future installations?
  • Rights of Way: Will there be a process to identify public rights of ways that should be retained? -for example the former Garrick Street that transects O’Regan’s was promised to retain a public right of way by Mayor Walter Fitzgerald when it was traded to O’Regan’s for frontage on Robie Street. Another example is the steps in front of St David’s Church that lead between Grafton and Queen Street. Another is access through St Pat’s and St Pat’s Alexandra.
  • Lighting Design: Is there a detailed lighting design guide that minimizes light trespass, pollution and night blindness[ii]? And that reduces impact on birds?
  • Trees, canopy, pervious surfaces: Is there a plan to protect trees from development and to ensure that the tree canopy remains and that impervious surfaces are not increased?

FHC executive would be pleased to meet with you to discuss these ideas and sincerely hope that you can take them in the spirit that they are offered.


Peggy Cameron,
for Friends of Halifax Common

[i] Urban green spaces and health— A review of evidence https://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/321971/Urban-green-spaces-and-health-review-evidence.pdf?ua=1

[ii] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/sep/14/utrecht-restores-historic-canal-made-into-motorway-in-1970s
[iii] https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/aug/29/river-runs-global-movement-daylight-urban-rivers
[iv] https://www.halifaxcommon.ca/freshwater-brook-sawmill-river/
[v] health-deadly-https://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/air-pollution-study-1.5339472
[vi] https://r.search.yahoo.com/_ylt=AwrEeGGXau5fTB0ArxUXFwx.;_ylu=Y29sbwNiZjEEcG9zAzMEdnRpZAMEc2VjA3Ny/RV=2/RE=1609489175/RO=10/RU=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cbc.ca%2fnews%2fworld%2fcoroner-rules-air-pollution-contributed-to-young-girls-death-1.5845117/RK=2/RS=BBAAYRXLH7f2ecYe065LT7UqAXo-
[vii] https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/mayor-bill-de-blasio-nyc-is-going-to-ban-glass-and-steel-skyscrapers
[viii] https://www.toronto.ca/city-government/planning-development/official-plan-guidelines/design-guidelines/best-practices-for-effective-lighting/

Cancel the Proposed WSP 23-storey high-rise

The Westwood high-rise tower at 2032-2050 Robie Street has already been turned down by HRM Mayor and Council. Height for this location was to be restricted to 6-storeys. The Development Agreement is discretionary-Mayor and Council should cancel the project.

Dear HRM Planners, Mayor and Council
Re: Cancel the Proposed WSP high-rise- Case 22927

The proposed Westwood high-rise tower at 2032-2050 Robie Street has already been turned down by HRM Mayor and Council. Height for this location was to be restricted to 6-storeys. Council’s decision to allow a Development Agreement is discretionary and should be cancelled. It is effectively raising the dead. This Development Agreement not only denies the earlier council decision and staff recommendations to limit the height to 6 storeys, it makes a mockery of public participation by voiding the historic and more recent input of citizens. 

Values reflected by statements such as Councillor Smith’s June 2019 motion “In recognition of the substantial investment made in the preparation of a planning applications for the site located at 2032- 2050 Robie Street, Halifax” beg the question whose interest are Mayor, Council and staff representing?  The owner’s investment of money in thinking about what to do with their land is not a legitimate basis for approving a project.

Are residents of the area being given recognition for their substantial investment in their homes, livelihoods, neighbourhoods, community services and time to participate in HRM planning consultations and processes?

Regulations and policies put in place under the Regional Plan through the efforts of Councillor Nick Meagher in the early 1990s were intended and did restrict high-rise developments so as to protect the Halifax Common and the Quinpool Road Business district. These had the full support of the area residents and merchants. This development is not necessary and will cause harm.

Necessity- The Willow Tree Group found that mid-rise (five-storey) development along Quinpool Road would allow for 2,500–2,800 new bachelor, 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom residential units. Distributed density with multiple developers is a form of gentle/hidden density and in-fill that is now the preferred form for getting densification done right as determined in a 2020 report by Ryerson University’s City Building Institute—”Density Done Right”—distributed density with mid-rise, townhouses and has multiple advantages over high-rises which in fact contribute to “tall and sprawl”. (See attachment.)

Harm-Objections from staff and council against the original proposal included: property is located mid-block; backs on the existing low-density buildings on Parker Street; frontage only on a single street; shallow property depth; shadows on the adjacent Commons to the east; contextual fit of the proposed building heights; massing of the buildings; setbacks; spacing between towers; density.

To these could be added: parking, traffic, congestion, pedestrian safety and air pollution associated with vehicular emissions; neighbourhood stability; wind and shade; noise and privacy; property values and housing affordability; concentration of rental market to the exclusion of smaller developers; greenhouse gas emissions associated with demolition, construction and operation; over concentration of development in a single area rather than distributed; disrespect for meaningful public participation and public process; mismatch between populations density and provision of services (water, waste water etc)

Cumulative Impact- These aforementioned problems are not all single issues about the one development but many should be considered cumulatively along with the two other towers on this block, the Atlantica Hotel and Dexel building south of Quinpool, the unknown QEII Redevelopment and the unrevealed St Pat’s High School site.

That is how do these all work together? What is the desired density? What is the cumulative effect of shadow and wind on the Halifax Common, Cogswell Park and the neighbourhood? What is the cumulative impact of the vehicles associated with all of these developments within close proximity of one Halifax’s busiest intersections and hospital emergency entrance and exit? What is the impact on affordable housing in the area-especially Parker Street where 12-14 buildings seem to be now zoned as a future service lane? Where is the 3-D model?

Citizen Opposition- We remind you that at the public hearing for APL’s 20-storeys there were ~1039 submissions in opposition and dozens of members of the public who spoke against that development. And just prior to the public hearing an independent Corporate Research Associate poll indicated that the majority of HRM residents (52%) supported 16-storeys or less with only 1/10 of those surveyed supporting the 25-storey option. Despite this opposition Mayor and Council approved a 25-storey building. Adding this 23-storey Westwood proposal would form a wall of high-rises, standing between the unwanted 25-storey building and next to the Welsford high-rise.

Although urban green space plays a huge role in mitigating the effect of climate change and nature improves mental and physical well-being HRM’s Centre Plan is not creating any new public green space for the Peninsula. It should therefore not consider permitting further degradation of either the Halifax Common or Cogswell Park with more shade, wind, noise, blocked views, traffic, pollution, for a project that does not add anything to the public realm but only takes full advantage of over-taxing the public’s socially provided greenspaces.

Please do not approve this proposal. Please take this as an opportunity to re-think Centre Plan policy for this site.

Thank you,

Peggy Cameron
Co-chair, Friends of Halifax Common

Density Done Right—A 2020 report by Ryerson University’s City Building Institute finds … “distributed density with mid-rise, townhouses and has multiple advantages over high-rises which in fact contribute to “tall and sprawl”. https://archive.citybuildinginstitute.ca/portfolio/density-done-right/


FHC Requests HRM Auditor General Review Public Consultative Process as a Charter Matter

August, 2020-Letter to HRM Auditor General
Re- Review of HRM Planning’s public consultative process as a Charter matter
This letter (accompanied by 10 brief case studies) is to request that HRM Auditor General conduct a review of HRM Planning Department’s public engagement process and outcomes with respect to HRM planning and council votes. In writing to you we wish to note that we are aware of your July 2018 report to HRM Council on the operation of the Planning Department with respect to development agreements. We are prompted to write regarding a crucial aspect of the operations of that Department not addressed in the report, namely public participation.
The HRM Charter, Part VIII, s.208 states: “The purpose of this Part is to …(c) establish a consultative process to ensure the right of the public…to participate in the formulation of planning strategies…”
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Herald Op Ed: Why do HRM’s mayor and council hold the Common in such contempt?

K’JIPUKTUK (Halifax) On June 23, the Halifax Common, Canada’s oldest and largest, turned 257. There is good news.

A pedestrian walks across the Halifax Common in early March. “Although HRM’s Centre Plan intends to add 15,000-30,000 new citizens to the Centre Plan area, it has not designated any new urban parks and it includes no green networks. This is intentional, not an oversight.” Photo: Ryan Taplin

The 1994 Halifax Common Masterplan goals committed to by the city continue to be front and fore in citizens’ present-day desires. This is reflected in findings of the public consultation for the new masterplan begun in 2017 — plan for the entire Halifax Common; keep it open with green, natural landscapes and water features; minimize development; limit imposing structures; create a sense of connection; include walking and cycling paths; rebalance uses — recreation, arts, events, growing food; ensure access, diversity, inclusion, safety, youth, family.

But the rest is bad.

Unfortunately, the draft Halifax Masterplan, last seen in June 2019, does not plan for the entire Common, but only the city-owned property. This continues governments’ well-established pattern of diminishing, degrading or selling off the public’s land. Immediately before the consultation, the city was silent on the sale of the CBC-TV lands and was secretive on its privatization of the Wanderers’ Grounds.

Presently, the COVID-19 pandemic has us reorganizing society and economy with new forms for work, school and leisure that are still evolving. That public open space is vital to mental and physical health is increasingly evident as people seek to escape small apartments, to exercise or to enjoy a connection to nature. And the need for space for safe social distancing to walk or bike has cities around the world investing millions to create permanent bike lanes and new parks. 

But although HRM’s Centre Plan intends to add 15,000-30,000 new citizens to the Centre Plan area, it has not designated any new urban parks and it includes no green networks. This is intentional, not an oversight.

One positive outcome from COVID-19 worldwide is less traffic and parking demand and lower greenhouse gas emissions — nearly half because of transportation, primarily trucks and cars. The Halifax Common’s 240 acres is about  20 to 25 per cent parking lots. There is an obvious opportunity to re-naturalize, re-wild or landscape them to create new park space, and a cheap, efficient way to deal with major impacts from climate change (i.e., stormwater, flood management, heat waves, carbon sink) and pollution. New habitat, revitalization of dead zones and increased citizens’ care for and interest in nature are important side benefits.

But Mayor Mike Savage and council have no plans to change this usage. In fact, they recently approved plans for a new eight-storey parking garage by the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History. That’s despite about 3,000 citizens petitioning against the garage and for protection of the Halifax Common. 

Along with a second parking garage on the former CBC-TV site, a total of at least 1,500 cars will now congest one of the city’s most walked, biked, played-on areas at the confluence of Citadel High, the Nova Scotia Museum, Bengal Lancers, Wanderers’ Grounds, skate park, soccer field, Oval, children’s playground and a proposed new aquatic centre. These will now face a wall of parking garages, enjoy a soundscape of traffic and emergency vehicles and endure the health harms of toxic emissions.

But what of citizens’ desire to minimize development, limit imposing structures and keep the Common open? 

Well, a minimum of 10 new highrises, between eight and 30- storeys, are in the works on or around the Common through development agreements. And in exchange for the hundreds of millions of dollars in development rights (i.e., profit) handed to developers, affordable housing unit numbers are going backwards. 

Councillor Shawn Cleary’s motion for 25 storeys at the Willow Tree in exchange for 10 units for 15 years has now been cashed out for $1.8 million; Coun. Lindell Smith’s motion for 23 -storeys next door will net $180,000 and Coun. Waye Mason’s support for 16-, 22-, 26- and 30-storey towers will destroy about 100 affordable housing and small-scale commercial units that won’t be replaced. 

Passing the Centre Plan formally increases height limits in Designated Growth Areas and Corridors. This further incentivizes the demolition of thousands of unique small-scale Halifax buildings and character streetscapes, such as those by the Halifax Common on Robie or along South Street.

Planning for demolition rather than deep energy retrofits or infill also harms the collective Common. Thirty-nine per cent of GHG emissions come from building and construction, adding to climate change. And citizens living, walking or cycling by traffic corridors are well understood to suffer detrimental health impacts (asthma, lung function, strokes, heart attacks, cancers) from associated air pollution and noise, such that experts suggest residences and parks be set back 150 metres (a block) from traffic corridors.  

HRM recently reversed its decision to purchase diesel buses and now will go with an entirely electric fleet. It also recently reversed an earlier decision to purchase an armoured vehicle. It is presently looking into changing the zoning of 136 acres for sale to protect the Williams Lake Backlands area. And HRM just adopted its HalifACT 2050 climate change plan. Why does it continue to be so difficult for the mayor and council to protect the Halifax Common?

The Common is physically at the heart of the peninsula and thus of HRM. How can councillors continue to fail to listen to the public’s voice?

Peggy Cameron is co-chair, Friends of Halifax Common.
Please support local media!-https://www.thechronicleherald.ca/opinion/local-perspectives/peggy-cameron-why-do-hrms-mayor-and-council-hold-the-common-in-such-contempt-467838/

Rick Howe – Province’s Parkade Unplanned

It’s time to write the Premier- premier@gov.ns.ca. Tell him that the Provincial government’s announcement for a parking garage and steam plant surrounding the Nova Scotia Museum on the Halifax Common needs to be called off -it is unplanned, unnecessary and destructive. Rick Howe’s recent interview with Beverly Miller gives a good overview of the situation:

The July 1968 agreement for sale of this parcel of Common land was for a Nova Scotia museum and no other purpose. Neither does this use conform with the 1994 Halifax Common Plan or the 2008 Memorandum of Understanding governing the condition of sale of the former Queen Elizabeth High School lands. Nor were such uses considered as part of the recent Centre Plan or the Masterplan for the Halifax Common. Tell the premier to protect the Halifax Common, not destroy it. Please copy your email to Mayor Savage (mayor@halifax.ca), your Councillor and your MLA.

Op Ed – HRM Centre Plan Process Sidelines Citizens

Community engagement has been sparse over the three-year development of the Centre Plan. photo- Ryan Taplin

Chronicle Herald, Reader’s Corner The Centre Plan process began back in 2016. The idea, based on a study commissioned by HRM and done by Stantec, was to add population density on the peninsula and in central Dartmouth to make better use of our civic infrastructure and make it more economical.

Sound good? City council certainly thought so. It established a huge planning infrastructure to begin the process and to redraw the neighbourhoods of central Dartmouth and of the peninsula.

That was almost four years ago, and council is finally expected to send the plan to a vote for approval sometime in September. This will be a mammoth change in the neighbourhood plans for the affected urban areas, and yet very few people seem to have ever heard of it.

What went wrong here? Continue reading