Response to Downtown Halifax Business Commission 6-page colour brochure about HRMbyDesign

by Beverly Miller - 2009

*(DHBC - Downtown Halifax Business Commission)

  1. DHBC* claims: “The ‘Ten Big Moves for Downtown Halifax’ are the result of extensive consultations.”

Reality: The Big Moves were produced by Toronto consultants with little local public input. These consultants sold a very similar bunch of “moves” to downtown Regina.

  1. DHBC claims: “Since the 1970s, peninsula Halifax has lost 25,000 residents to suburban neighbourhoods.”

Reality: One has to go back to the 1950s to find that large a population on the peninsula. Then it was the result of post-war overcrowding. In the past 50 years, there has been a large increase in student population on the peninsula. Students are often not counted in the census. If they were counted, the decline in population would be less.

  1. DHBC claims: “The new approvals process will provide the clarity and predictability required to stimulate new residential and commercial development.”

Reality: The new process is not clear or predictable. At present one needs to consider 68 pages of policies for a typical site downtown. HRMbyDesign has the same number of pages of policies, plus 44 pages of new land use by-law regulations, plus 76 pages of design guidelines, plus 29 pages of attachments, plus, in part of the area, a 73 page conservation district plan. Many of these provisions are confusing and contradictory. Experts say demand is the limitation on development downtown, not the process.

  1. DHBC claims: “The protection and preservation of these heritage resources is a key pillar of HRMbyDESIGN.”

Reality: HRMbyDesign would eliminate the key pillars protecting heritage downtown. It would increase the as-of-right height limits, creating an incentive for a speculator to buy a heritage building, knock it down, and replace it by a taller building. It would eliminate many of the key policies protecting heritage buildings, including eliminating the commitment to seek to preserve the heritage buildings.

  1. DHBC claims: “A variety of high quality open spaces are proposed …”

Reality: There are no firm plans for any public open space, or for any vegetation or trees, despite the many pictures in the DHBC brochure. Apartments and mixed residential-commercial zones, which now provide open space at ground level, would no longer be required to do so. This plan would not guarantee any amenities, but would guarantee developers the right to construct high buildings.

  1. DHBC claims: “Filling in existing vacant lots and gaps in the street walls is a key objective of HRMbyDesign.”

Reality: HRMbyDesign would allow construction of very tall buildings on a small number of lots to satisfy the demand for space. This would leave many of the present vacant lots vacant.

  1. DHBC claim: “Reinforce visual connections and civic pride”

Reality: HRMbyDesign would nullify the policies that have protected the views between Citadel Hill and the Harbour, outside the view planes.

  1. DHBC claims: “We need to stop the endless legal appeals that hamper speedy, good quality development in the downtown.”

Reality: Nova Scotia has the lowest rate of planning appeals in the country. Many of the appeals are launched by developers. HRMbyDesign would eliminate appeals by citizens trying to ensure good quality development, but would continue to allow appeals by developers.

  1. DHBC claims: “We need to repopulate the Halifax peninsula and Dartmouth, to provide opportunities for people to live near where they work.”

Reality: The proposed Plan applies only in a small area downtown, and not to the rest of the peninsula or Dartmouth. Criteria for room sizes would be dropped, allowing all the residential space to be luxury condominiums. Most people who work downtown would not be able to afford to live in these condominiums.

  1. DHBC claim: “We need to create cohesive protected heritage conservation districts.”

Reality: HRMbyDesign has delayed and weakened the Barrington Street Historic District Revitalization Plan, which was approved in principle by HRM Council in January, 2006.

  1. DHBC claim: “We need to protect the integrity of existing residential neighbourhoods.”

Reality: HRMbyDesign would greatly increase the height limits at the south ends of Barrington and Hollis Streets, putting these neighbourhoods at risk. Buildings in the area would no longer need to have a residential component

12. DHBC states: “Preserving our natural and built heritage assets is essential in showcasing our city on the world stage.”
Reality: We agree, but HRMbyDesign would put these assets at greater risk.