October 2013

 

Information Release

 


Convention Centre Developer Seeks Permission to Break the Rules


On Thursday October 24, 2013, at 7pm there will be a public information meeting at the Dal Computer Science Building to consider changing HRMbyDesign to allow the developer, Joe Ramia to build a larger building on the convention centre site. The development would violate nine provisions (in at least 20 ways) of the Downtown Halifax Land Use by-law (HRMbyDesign). The developer is seeking that the law be changed to match the building rather than have the building match the law. The proposed new building would block 26% more of the view and would break most building form rules in the book.

Some examples include of HRMbyDesign land use bylaw contraventions the developer want privilege, as well as public money for are: The east tower (Argyle/Grafton) is 64' wider and block 26% more of the view from Citadel HIll. It is 2 storeys less but will be 14' higher because the excavation has been reduced and more of the building is above ground. It does not conform to any bonus height; it does not conform to the View Plane zones; there has been no wind study completed; there has been no traffic study (up to 500 cars may exit along what is left of Grafton Street at the end of an event); the setback requirements are not met as the building will extend over Grafton Street; the building is many times higher than permitted at the street level and will block the sky; the towers are closer than permitted and wider and deeper than permitted.

(more…is in [ ]..this part below until the next section dated –July 23 on page 4 or 5)
[The Proposed Convention Centre versus the Downtown Halifax Land Use By-law
The proposed convention centre development proposed by Argyle Developments Limited (ADL) would not comply with the Downtown Halifax Land Use By-law (HRMbyDesign). It would violate nine provisions. Instead of changing the development to comply with the law, ADL is asking HRM to change the law to match the development. Here is a list of the provisions, including 20 ways that the proposed Nova Centre would not comply with the By-law (LUB). The legal provisions are in quotations in black and the lack of compliance is discussed in red.

“LUB: 7(15A) Notwithstanding any provision of this By-law except subsections (14) through (17) of section 8, a publically-sponsored convention centre together with retail, hotel, residential or office, and underground parking space, may be developed on the two blocks bounded by Argyle Street, Prince Street, Market Street and Sackville Street in accordance with the drawings attached as Appendix "B" to this By-law. For the purposes of this subsection, “publically-sponsored convention centre” means an establishment funded or otherwise financially supported by any or all levels of government which is used for the holding of conventions, seminars, workshops, trade shows, meetings or similar activities, and which may include dining and lodging facilities for the use of the participants as well as other compatible accessory facilities.”
This clause is a unique, last-minute exemption passed in 2009 for the previous design of the proposed convention centre. The new proposed design would not agree with Appendix “B”. The east tower (Argyle to Grafton Streets) would be 64 feet wider and would be deeper and each floor would have an area 2.23 times larger than allowed in 2009. It would have two fewer storeys but would be 14 feet higher, at 214 feet above Argyle Street. It would block 26% more of the view from Citadel Hill. The west tower (Grafton to Market Streets) would be deeper, and would increase in height by 16 feet, from the 14 storeys shown in the By-law to 16 storeys. Each floor of this tower would have an area 30% larger than allowed by Appendix “B”. By reducing the depth of the excavation, more of the building is proposed to be built above grade. The volume of the building above the grade of Grafton Street would increase by 30% compared to that in Schedule “B”.

LUB: “8(7) Notwithstanding subsection (6), the Maximum Pre-Bonus Heights specified on Map 4, may be exceeded to the Maximum Post-Bonus Height specified on Map 5, pursuant to Section 12.”
The maximum post-bonus height shown for these two blocks is 28 m (92 feet). Since the ADL proposal would not comply with Appendix “B”, any development on these two blocks must conform to all the remaining provisions of the By-law. Thus 28 m is the maximum height allowed. Neither of the proposed towers would comply. The volume of the proposed building above the 28-m limit would be 3.9 million cubic feet, which is 2.08 times as great as that shown in Appendix “B”.

LUB: “8(14) Notwithstanding any provision of this By-law, no building shall be erected, constructed, altered, reconstructed, or located in any zone so as to protrude through a View Plane except as permitted pursuant to Section 24 of the Halifax Peninsula Land Use By-law, as amended from time to time.”
According to the City map showing viewplanes, the height above sea level of the viewplane leaving this property near the corner of Argyle and Sackville Streets is 162 feet. According to the Argyle elevation, the height of the streetwall at this corner would be 93.5 feet plus 68.6 feet, or 162 feet. However, beyond a 9 foot stepback, the height rises by 5 feet to 167 feet. Unless the City map is significantly in error, it appears that portions of the proposed building would protrude through this viewplane, contrary to the by-law. An accurate survey should be obtained. Floor to ceiling heights of the lower storeys should be decreased.

LUB: “8(16) No building shall be constructed so that it is parallel to a view plane, unless such view plane is parallel to a street line.”
The southwest edge of the eastern tower would not comply.

LUB: “8(18) Any building or building addition resulting in a height exceeding 20 metres shall only be permitted following consideration of its wind impact pursuant to the performance standards in Schedule S-2.”
An adequate wind impact assessment has not been presented.

LUB: “9(1) Streetwalls shall have a streetline setback as specified on Map 6.”
The setback is the distance between the front of the building and the property line at the sidewalk. For these blocks Map 6 specifies a streetline setback of 0 to 1.5 m. Instead, on both sides of Grafton Street, the proposed “setback” would be negative, as the building would extend over the street. This does not comply. Grafton Street is part of the original street grid of the Halifax townsite, and has been public property since 1749. The developer proposes to build both over and under this public property. Other areas of the proposal would also not comply, because positive setbacks larger than 1.5 m are shown on levels L3, L4 and L5 in the plans.

LUB: “9(2) The maximum streetwall height shall be as specified on Map 7.”
The streetwall height is the height of the building nearest to the edge of the sidewalk. For these blocks Map 7 specifies a maximum streetwall height of 15.5 m (50.9 feet). This rule is important in order to provide pedestrians with a view of the sky, and to allow sunlight to fall on sidewalks. The proposal would not comply. For example the Prince Street elevation shows an 84’8” (25.8 m) streetwall height above Argyle Street, 66% higher than allowed. The Market Street elevation shows a 60 foot streetwall above Prince Street, 18% higher than allowed. The Argyle Street elevation shows an 80’4” (24.5 m) streetwall above Prince Street, 58% higher than allowed, and a 68’7” (20.9 m) streetwall above Sackville Street, 35% higher than allowed. The Sackville Street elevation shows that the east tower would have a streetwall height on Grafton Street of 50 m, 3.2 times higher than allowed. The west tower would have a streetwall height on Grafton Street of 54 m, 3.5 times higher than allowed. The proposal does not respect the streetwall height rules in the least.

LUB: “9(7) The following minimum stepbacks above the streetwall shall apply to buildings with streetwall setback requirements of 0 to 1.5 metres or 0 to 4.0 metres as identified on Map 6: (a) a minimum of 3 metres for that portion of a building that is a maximum of 33.5 metres in height; or (b) a minimum of 4.5 metres for that portion of a building that is greater than 33.5 metres in height.”
The stepback is the distance that parts of a building above the streetwall are stepped back horizontally from the streetwall. This rule is also important for providing pedestrians with views of the sky and for allowing sunlight to penetrate to the pedestrian realm. The elevation looking east from Grafton Street shows that the proposed east tower would be 205’9” (62.71 m) high, which would require a stepback of 4.5 m. The Sackville Street edge of the proposal would slope out, and the top would be stepped back only 1.42 m from Sackville Street, 68% less than required by the LUB. The Sackville and Prince Street elevations show that the west tower would not step back at all from Grafton Street, in clear violation of the LUB. The east tower would step back from Grafton by only 1.5 m, a third of the required stepback. This stepback would start at 50 m, much higher than required. The required stepback from Argyle Street would occur at 55.9 m, much higher than the 33.5 m required in the By-law. The stepbacks proposed are seriously deficient.

LUB: “10(8) Any portion of a high-rise building above a height of 33.5 metres shall be separated a minimum of 17 metres between the high-rise portion of other buildings or the same building on the same lot or the high-rise portion of the same building on the same lot, where one of the high-rise buildings is used for commercial purposes.”
The Prince Street elevation of the proposal shows that the proposed separation would be a minimum of 51’11” (15.8 m), which is less than the LUB requirement of 17 m. The proximity of these two buildings would create a “canyon” effect.

LUB: “(11) Notwithstanding subsection (10) any portion of a building above a height of 33.5 metres located in the Central Blocks, as identified on Map 8, shall be a maximum width of 38 metres and a maximum depth of 27.5 metres.”
The east tower is shown as 93.4 m wide, which would be 2.46 times as wide as normally allowed by the LUB. This tower is shown as 31.4 m deep, which would be 14% deeper than allowed by the LUB. The west tower is shown as 30.1 m deep, which would be 9% deeper than allowed by the LUB.

Excerpts from the Design Manual:
Design manual: “1.1b. The qualitative elements of an application (architectural design, streetscape presence, public realm contribution, sustainability, etc.) are subject to a discretionary approval resulting from a design review process. It is this discretionary process for which the Design Manual is intended. Additionally, the Design Manual contains criteria by which modest modifications to the quantitative elements of the Land Use By-law may be made through the design review process.”
“Precinct 6: Upper Central Downtown
“The following general criteria shall apply:
a. Encourage low to mid-rise mixed use development while respecting the historic block pattern.

b. Improve the appearance and street-level functionality of larger buildings such as the Metro Centre with street-oriented infill and landscaped roofs.

c. Encourage the historic downtown grid to be reinstated over the Metro Centre as redevelopment occurs.

d. Development must appropriately frame Citadel Hill through the provision of consistent, animated streetwalls of superior quality and design.

e. Improve public amenity along Brunswick Street and provide small areas of formal open space on the Citadel side of Brunswick Street as opportunities for views to the Harbour along east-west streets.

f. Require that vacant sites be developed in a way that provides a continuous streetwall and uninterrupted pedestrian experience.

g. Prohibit new surface parking lots of any kind.

h. Pedestrian activity and retail commerce shall be encouraged by the protection of sidewalks from weather through the use of canopies and awnings.

i. East-west streets shall provide views between the Citadel and the Harbour.

j. George Street shall be established as an important east-west street, a grand promenade, given the linkage between the Town Clock, the Grand Parade, and the Harbour.

k. Focus pedestrian activities at sidewalk level through the provision of weather protected sidewalks using well-designed canopies and awnings.

l. The Argyle Street and Blower Street area shall be reinforced as a vibrant area of low to mid-rise buildings, small-scale retail uses, restaurants, bars, potential for permanent sidewalk cafes, hotels, cultural uses, and residential uses.

m. As roofscapes are highly visible from the Citadel in this precinct, they shall be well-designed, carrying the architectural language of the building onto the roof. Flat roofs are required to be landscaped, with living “green roofs” given strong preference.”

Variances are allowed from some of the rules in the LUB, but only if the development follows the Design Manual. This is not a “low to mid rise” development that “respects the block pattern”, in the words of clause (a). So the development does not qualify for any variance. When clause 7(15A) was passed, some people thought that a convention centre would be a public benefit. Now, the Auditor General has shown that this claim of public benefits was faulty; no public benefit can be claimed. The ADL proposal does not respect HRMbyDesign, but would abuse it. The By-law should not be amended.]

July 23, 2013

Convention Centre Developer Requests Permission to proceed without Permits

An HRM Staff report recommends HRM council to request the province to suspend the normal rules in favour of a short-circuited approval process for the project. The developer claims that in response to what “the public wanted” at the (poorly-attended) public consultations he has made changes to the building. It is unclear as to why the developer would agree to the architect proceeding with design changes that break the law. This included having the ballroom straddle Grafton Street.

Although excavation and blasting have been proceeding at the site for months and Grafton Street has gone from being closed to disappeared, the developer has still not applied for a development permit, a building permit or permission for a street closure. HRM Staff and the province are asking Council to suspend the normal rules.

The convention centre is more important than democracy.

See reports at: http://www.halifax.ca/council/agendasc/documents/130723ca11113.pdf
http://www.halifax.ca/council/agendasc/documents/130723cai3.pdf


November 21, 2012

Provincial Auditor General, Jacques Lapointe doubts convention centre targets - new report
'The financial management of this organization is very poor,' says Lapointe, so the fact that the financial projections they put together would also be poor would at least be consistent,’ he said.

In today’s report, the auditor general said market projections for a new convention centre, provided to the government by Trade Centre Limited, lack the analysis and rigour expected for such a significant proposal.

The auditor general recommended that government obtain an independent second opinion on the 10-year market projections. Premier Dexter says he is satisfied with the market projections and rejected the recommendation. Liberal MLA Andrew Younger and Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie both support the AG’s recommendation for an independent review to verify the data before making a major commitment. Three levels of government have committed $163 million so far.

Mr. Lapointe reported that Trade Centre Limited's financial and operational activities were not appropriately managed. The Crown Corporation does not have an adequate internal control framework, travel and expense claims are not properly documented and are inconsistent with provincial rules. Certain Trade Centre Limited purchases were also found to be contrary to provincial procurement rules.

The audit analyzed the projections Trade Centre Limited provided government to support construction of a new convention centre in Halifax. The auditor general found Trade Centre Limited's projection of significant growth in convention business lacked support.


"Industry realities such as an excess supply of convention centre space, new competitors and a stagnant convention centre market have not been adequately considered and assessed."

Among other unsupported projections, the auditor general questioned assumptions that international convention business in Canada would continue to grow at pre-recession 1999-2008 levels and that most national convention business in eastern Canada will be split fairly evenly among Montreal, Ottawa, Quebec City and Halifax.


The full report is available at: www.oag-ns.ca.

September 2012
Convention Centre public consultations are a bust
Spoken word artist Tim Merry has received $200,000 (split between the province and the developer) to conduct public consultations on the proposed new convention centre but it has not ensured an audience. This week’s Coast reports attendance numbers at Sydney to be 23 (+9 following on line), 11 at Stellarton, including 5 consultants–Tim Merry, Rachel Derrah, TCL President Scott Ferguson, developer Joe Ramia and architect Noel Fowler (+7 on line) and 8 showed up for the Truro session. There are a total of 11 consultations scheduled.


Friday, July 19, 2012

HRM Auditor general slams Trade Centre Limited management of Metro Centre
Larry Munroe's report looks at the unauthorized takeover of ticket sales, among other issues.

HRM Auditor General Larry Munroe told the city's audit committee that Trade Centre Limited’s management of the Metro Centre is flawed and is costing the city a lot of money.

In its editorial for July 19 the Chronicle Herald describes what the AG revealed:
"If you were shocked by last year’s “cash-for-concerts” scandal — where HRM’s mayor and chief administrator lost $359,000 of taxpayers’ money in unauthorized loans to a concert promoter — the sequel is even worse. HRM auditor general Larry Munroe has delved further into the swamp of murky dealings between HRM and Trade Centre Limited, the provincial Crown corporation which has the contract to manage the city-owned Metro Centre.

In a report delivered Wednesday, he revealed that TCL unilaterally took over the Metro Centre’s box office six years ago, during the implementation process for new ticketing software. TCL altered the business arrangements to its advantage, without so much as a paper trail, the auditor found. Then it stonewalled the city and eventually came up with the dubious excuse that the changes were necessary because the box office was underperforming.

The upshot was that Metro Centre had ceased to take in all box-office revenues and cover all costs, while paying TCL a management fee. Instead, it began getting a commission of 40 cents per ticket sold — excluding skyboxes and season tickets — which TCL insisted would be revenue-neutral. But graphs presented by Mr. Munroe on Wednesday suggest the city has since missed out on big bucks in profit-sharing.

How could this have happened? Let us count the ways. Mr. Munroe said TCL’s contract to manage the Metro Centre is too vague and needs to be revisited, while the roles and responsibilities of its overseers need to be clarified. He also cites “the lack of organizational knowledge within HRM of what an efficiently and effectively run Halifax Metro Centre business model should look like.”
Furthermore, he said Metro Centre operations themselves are ripe for an audit, plus an external review focusing on whether the arena is achieving the best possible return for HRM. As for other HRM facilities run by third parties, those arrangements deserve a second look to make sure they’re up to snuff.

This advice is particularly pertinent, given that we’re on the verge of building the mother of all publicly funded and operated structures. The governance body for the new convention centre has yet to be fleshed out. Mr. Munroe’s review is all the ammunition you need to make the case that a board of highly experienced business professionals who cannot be bamboozled is what’s required."


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Media contact: Judy Haiven 491-8650, or 429-8868
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