Tag Archives: Centre Plan

FHC Submission to HRM Review of Regional Plan

We are deeply concerned about recent incursions into the Halifax Common…

The Halifax Common grant in 1763 was for 235 acres ” to and for the use of the inhabitants of the town of Halifax as Common, forever.” This entire area was to be considered for planning purposes in the 1994 Halifax Common Plan.

…from proposed multiple high rises (16-, 28-, 29- and 30-storey and ~900 cars – similar in mass to the Nova Centre) at the corner of Spring Garden Road and Robie Street; the expansion of major QE2 facilities onto parkland adjacent to the Natural History Museum and along Bell Road with two parking garages; the exclusive use of the Wanderer’s Grounds by a professional soccer team; the overwhelming use of the remaining open space of the Common of organized sports and programmed uses; the eviction of the Common Roots Urban Farm from the area and the slow progress of the Halifax Common Master Plan by HRM Staff begun in 2017 and that has been without significant public input for nearly two years. 

It is important to understand that the 240 acres of the Halifax Common from Robie to South Park and North Park Streets and Cunard to South Street, “given to the inhabitants of the Town of Halifax as Common forever,” in 1763, has deep historical significance; that it is one of the defining features of the urban form of Halifax; that it serves as a neighbourhood park in an area of increasing density under the Centre Plan; that Centre Plan Package B currently calls for no new green space; and most importantly that the diminishment of the Halifax Common has been going on for generations and will not stop with this generation unless given protection. 

While the city needs to increase density on the peninsula we believe that high-rises on and next to the Halifax Common are a most inappropriate and unnecessary built-form as these dominate the skyline, create shadows and wind, disrupt and demolish neighbourhoods as well as increase traffic. We are especially disappointed that the streetscapes on the perimeter of the Halifax Common will now be transformed into walls of high-rises. For example, two blocks adjacent to Quinpool Road on Robie Street may soon have five towers on the western edge despite enormous public opposition and against HRM staff recommendations.

We believe the process for determining the height of these buildings at these locations has been illegitimate and without any public benefit.  Where is the transparency for these decisions that one would expect in a democracy? What are the criteria apart from the drive of developers? Why is there no balance of interests?

A member of HRM Planning staff said during a recent Zoom meeting that unforeseen Covid restrictions on organized sports gave us a “unique social experiment” in which we caught a glimpse of a new vision of the Halifax Common, its spontaneous use by individuals and small groups for informal activities, and its full value to the people of Halifax. On a warm day, hundreds of people could be seen spread out over the Common, particularly on the broad spaces of the North Common. This must be protected. And the 20% of the Halifax Common that is surface parking must be renaturalized.

Protecting and adding new wilderness within HRM’s entirety and planning for a greenbelt should be a top priority, but adding thousands of residents to the Peninsula also requires that the city ensure there is new green space added to the urban core too. We recommend that HRM not sell any public lands on the Peninsula and work to incorporate the Centennial Pool lands, the site of the former School for the Blind and in future, the hospital properties on the South Common into new park area that can extend a green network through the Halifax Common in all directions for humans and creatures that move through this area. 

We also recommend a map be developed that shows potential green routing from the Halifax Harbour to the North West Arm and from Point Pleasant Park to Africville to create a vision of what our future can be and then work towards it. It is a climate crisis now, not in the future-we must work with nature to help handle its effects, to support biodiversity and to aid citizens’ physical and mental health. 

The Halifax Common as a gift to the people of Halifax must be protected. An example for this protection is the Provincial legislation given to the Dartmouth Common nearly thirty years ago. As executive members of the Friends of Halifax Common we request the Regional Plan take our recommendations as they are intended and that HRM Council and planning staff begin steps to give equal protection to the Halifax Common as the Dartmouth Common currently enjoys and take all opportunities to expand public open green space on the Peninsula. 

The enclosed  map from the 1994 Halifax Common Plan shows the boundary of the Halifax Common’s 240 acres and the area that Halifax committed to plan for and to recapture, to not give up and to retain. Let’s make this happen. 

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. Continue reading

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? Continue reading

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…”
Continue reading

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.