Response to Downtown Halifax Business Commission 6-page colour brochure about HRMbyDesign
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Reality: HRMbyDesign would nullify the policies that have protected the views between Citadel Hill and the Harbour, outside the view planes.
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.
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.
Reality: HRMbyDesign has delayed and weakened the Barrington Street Historic District Revitalization Plan, which was approved in principle by HRM Council in January, 2006.
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.”