Tag Archives: Willow Tree

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. 

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

Time to care for Canada’s oldest, besieged Common – Chronicle Herald Op Ed

Rick Howe Interview – Council Caves on Willow Tree Tower

HRM Council approved 25 storeys at Quinpool /Robie.

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…

FHC’s Presentation to Council at Willow Tree Public Hearing

Present rules restrict Armco’s 11-storey building at Robie and Quinpool to its present size to protect the Halifax Common and its neighbourhood.

June 19, 2018

Dear Mayor and Council,

Friends of Halifax Common oppose this proposed 25-storey tower. Further we believe this project is the wrong focus for HRM staff, Council and the public at this time.

FHC has closely followed or participated in the ~ 20 “events” that have led to today’s extra public hearing. These included public information meetings, Peninsula Advisory Committee meetings, a survey, HRM staff reports and supplementary reports, Community Council and Council of the Whole reviews and votes and scheduled, cancelled and re-scheduled public hearings. FHC’s major review and request for a new comprehensive staff report submitted in May 2017 has been ignored.

This project’s consumption of HRM staff and Mayor and council resources paid for by the public tax dollar has all been to ensure that the desired profit of an unsolicited project owned by a single developer can be met and has proceeded without disclosure of any business case or financial evidence.

The proposed tower should not be considered for many reasons.

  • It breaks 10 Halifax Peninsula Land Use By-laws under the Municipal Planning Strategy and could not be built under the draft Centre Plan.
  • HRM staff have recommended against this height-they are your professionals.
  • The majority of the public oppose the building and its not just a small vocal minority as asserted by the developer. An independent CRA poll found that over half of those polled supported 16 storeys or less and only 10% supported 25-storeys.
  • Densification can happen but this project is not needed- Grant Wanzel and Steve Parcell, professors from Dalhousie’s School of architecture as members of the Willow Tree Group found that ~3000 residents could be added to the Quinpool Road area with in-fill and buildings of between 4-6 storeys. And under the Regional Plan 125 persons/acre can be accommodated in a 3-storey building or in 3 storeys of residential on a commercial base in the Quinpool Corridor.
  • And finally other buildings can be and are being built without controversy because they conform to existing planning rules- a recent example is the 11-storey commercial and apartment building constructed by Ross Cantwell on Gottingen St., built as of right.

Ad hoc decision making that gives preferential treatment to individual developers instead of balancing it with the public interest is not the way to plan for the future of our city.

In 1994 the City of Halifax adopted the Halifax Common Plan which was the outcome of a public consultation process stemming from citizen frustration over ad hoc decisions It committed the city to develop a masterplan for the 235 acre Halifax Common in conjunction with overall planning of the city. The long term management plan was to encompass a vision that ensured protection of the Halifax Common and the recapture and the retention of Halifax Common land. Buildings that were meant to return to the Halifax Common included the CBC TV, the QEHS, the Grace Maternity,

It is a problem that HRM is making this decision about this individual developer’s 25-storey project without first following through on its commitment made with the 1994 Halifax Common plan – that is to complete the master plan and to do it within the context of planning for the city. This building and other proposed high rises under the draft Centre Plan and several individual Development Agreement processes in the works will have a huge and negative impact on the Halifax Common with increased wind, traffic, blocking the western sky and in this case a permanent shadow on afternoon skates on the Oval.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if staff resources and council time was focused on planning for our city? What if the priority was not that the owner of APL meets his desired profit but to complete the master plan for the Halifax Common and the draft Centre Plan?

Thank you,

Peggy Cameron
Co-chair, Friends of Halifax Common

Willow Tree Tower Ignores Planning Process and Common Interest

May 22, 2018

Dear Mayor and Council,
Re case 18966- 25-storey Armco Project

As members of the Friends of Halifax Common we write to ask that you not proceed with further steps towards approving a 25-storey ARMCO building at the corner of Quinpool and Robie.

We remind you that at the January 16th public hearing was for 20-storeys. At that time there were ~1039 submissions against the 20-storey project and dozens of members of the public who spoke against the development at that meeting and previous meetings. 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 1/10 of those surveyed supporting the 25-storey option.

We ask that you respect your own on-going planning processes; for the Centre Plan; and for the Masterplan for the Halifax Common. These processes ensure that an integrated plan is developed with a balance of benefits.

We remind you that a few affordable housing units is not a sufficient trade for how much the public is being asked to give up for this project. The residents of the adjacent Parker Street will have their affordable housing units sadly degraded if this project proceeds. The Halifax Common will be affected by winds that degrade the experience of recreational users of the fields. There will be a permanent afternoon shadow during winter skates on the Oval.

Please seek a balance of benefits and turn down this 25-storey option.

Your truly,
Friends of Halifax Common