WORDS – my five minutes on the Skye proposal

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Mr Mayor I am pleased move this motion and support staff’s recommendation that council not move to first reading.

As staff just outlined there are five amendments that would be required to allow this proposal to go forward.

The discussion today is about trust.

Does council trust that we got it right when we passed the Regional Municipal Planning Strategy, the Halifax MPS, the Downtown Halifax Secondary MPS, and the Downtown Halifax land use bylaw, none of which are more that six years old?

We should trust.  When it comes to downtown, these plans have led us to a vision of the future of the core of the city, called HRMbyDesign

Not so long ago, in 2009, Council and HRM staff went to the developers and the community with the premise – let’s have clear and consistent development rules for downtown.

In order for this system to work everyone involved had to give a little to get a little.

Rather than fighting house to house, development to development, over every proposal, we agreed as a community and a municipality to develop a vision of what downtown should look like.

The watchdog that protects the plans integrity is our Design Review Committee, and that design review committee has recommended we reject Skye.

Why did we create HRM By Design?  What are its goals?

We tell the world it “Establishes a clear and compelling vision for our city’s future.” And specifically that it “Brings clarity and predictability to development review processes.”

HRM by Design gives us a modern, up to date, visionary plan for our downtown.

We now have clear development rules and despite difficult global economic conditions, and after just three years, we are starting to see the results.

HRMbyDesign is pro-business.  We gave the business and development communities what they asked for, clear and predictable rules.  Look at the well articulate stance taken by designers, architects, citizens, business people, and the downtown business development commission in their letters to council, urging council to have confidence in the plan.

Council has a specific goal of spreading development around downtown.  HRMbyDesign has limits and rules in place to encourage infill in all the empty lots downtown.  Focusing this much development on one small site will not help replace all the “missing teeth” in downtown, it will in fact make it more difficult for other developments to prosper.

HRMbyDesign is not against height.  The site in question could go to 20 stories as of right.  Over on the Cogswell site we will be able to see 25-30 stories.  We can build tall buildings in Halifax, we can even build tall buildings on the applicants site.

Council has rightly examined applications and allowed exceptions under Policy 89 in the past.  The test for “public good” is quite high, and rightly so.  The public good has to be significant and clearly enumerated.  Building a building and paying taxes is not enough to be considered for this exception.

Some say “we should let citizens have their say”.  Council has already done so – through the extensive and well received public hearings and citizen engagement that created HRMbyDesign.  HRM has invested staff time, taxpayers money and citizens have invested their time under the clear promise that the result would be a plan we would all live within.  We’ve had the public consultation, to move ahead with this project is in fact to ignore the voice of the public.

Even if we got parts of it wrong, even if we need to change the height limits, the right way to do that is in two years during the HRMbyDesign review process.

Rather than allow this one exemption, and open the floodgates to many future exemptions to the plan, we need to look at the whole plan as a plan.

This decision will set the tone for all of our development plans.  This impacts development plans and community plans throughout HRM.

How will any citizen trust our plans if they can be overturned whenever a big dollar development is proposed?  Every gas station, every quarry is fair game to be considered.  Citizens have trusted us to uphold these plans, and we have an obligation to follow through.

Council has the right to send any proposal to a development agreement process, but I just don’t feel there is a compelling case to do so with this proposal.

Mr Mayor, fellow councillors, I urge you to have confidence  in Council’s plans, in our staff, in the Design Review Committee, and in the many citizens, developers and business people who worked on this plan.  Have confidence, and vote yes to the motion.

CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY

 

  • So well and rightly stated Waye. No more Cowboys in HRM. Twisting the words of a former Prime Minister, A process is a process is a process!!

  • Bob Angus

    Well put Wayne. This is a good decision made today.

  • Keith P.

    Off to a flying start I see! Unfortunately you followed the example of our outgoing Komedy Kouncil and have made a terrible mistake. Nothing like this proposal was foreseen by the proponents of the deeply flawed HRM by Design process. Now that it has come to pass, you have told a $350 million investment in our dilapidated downtown it is not welcome. Shameful.

  • scott

    from what I know about great city design I think this would
    fall outside the basic Architectull principles for design. I agree in the past
    the council was slow and perhaps even incompetent on its approach to down town.
    A healthy city, province and region needs a vibrant down town (density). Approving
    things for the sack of growth swings the pendulum in the other direction. By
    North American standards we have an old city. Keeping some of the past and it’s
    character adds flavor and substance to our city. Blending the historical past
    and it’s beautiful architecture with the new shows thought full character on
    the part of the citizenry. Can we get it perfect? I don’t think so, but we have
    put a lot of consultation, money and time into HRM by design. I also don’t
    think we should use HRM by design with the strictness off a 1940’s school
    teacher but we should use it. In short sky seems to fall outside this and if
    the previous comment is accurate and you can get the same density from a
    shorter building. Why not? Scott.

  • so glad to have sensible representation on the council, thanks Waye!

  • keyplayer

    Well, KeithP and other growth-at-any-cost yahoos, the Halifax skyline has already been badly damaged by inappropriate wildcat «erections» which are a BLOT on this historic city. So long as RED-NECKED MONEY calls all the shots we are doomed to suffer more and more egregiously ugly 30-storey glass and steel 20-year-expiry SHACKS.

  • keyplayer

    Thank you Waye for being a voice of MODERATION and THOUGHTFUL consideration. Yes, we need progress but we don’t need the city to be overrun by greedy profiteers with the taste and intellect of a slug.

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