Protecting our homes and neighbourhoods in District 7

centreplandraft

Like the last election I’ve made 30 promises this campaign, progressive ideas that focus on our neighbourhood priorities, supports stronger communities, and builds a better HRM. This is a detail policy blog that outlines three of those promises.

We need to protect and preserve family-oriented residential neighbourhoods in District 7 and HRM’s regional centre.

Recent rapid growth in Halifax has lead to some questionable developments in our historically residential neighbourhoods of low-rise, wood frame houses and flats.

District 7 residents are not against development or change. We want to make sure it happens in the right place so it adds to our community.

I’ve worked hard to address problems as they came to light.

Changes to the R-2A zone have stopped ugly and inappropriate developments with too many units. We’ve started the process to protect Young Avenue. The Schmidtville and Old South Suburb heritage districts will be fully instated in the fall. And the Centre Plan draft will be presented in September.

We also need enforcement to protect our residential neighbourhoods. Last week Council passed by-law M-200, which increases controls on landlords and the penalties they will face if they don’t comply. It also sets the table for landlord licensing.

The Centre Plan will revise all our area’s planning strategies and land-use by-laws. We spend a lot of time hearing where development should be allowed. I think what’s more important is that the plan will say where development shouldn’t be allowed.

The Centre Plan must maintain family-oriented residential neighbourhoods. Existing rules should be strengthened. Front yards shouldn’t be allowed to become parking lots. Back yards should be required to have green space. I love the idea of quiet density (such as granny suites and carriage houses), but this needs to be done sensitively and carefully. Strong rules must be put in place to prohibit large multi-unit apartment buildings in these areas.

Our neighbours often feel variances allowed by development officers damage our community. Variances should only be allowed in special circumstances where literal enforcement of the rules would cause unnecessary hardship. Some variances should only be granted by Council. Variances should be granted sparingly – and shouldn’t be considered precedents for future decisions.

Finally, we are facing an unprecedented loss of heritage buildings. We need action to stem the tide.

HRM needs more staff, to speed registrations and creation of conservation districts, and more money, for tax relief or grants for registered heritage properties. HRM’s heritage concerns are different than the rest of the province. We need new and stronger heritage protection. We need tiers of protection, and to tie those tiers to incentives. We must create some form of short-term protection for buildings that may become heritage properties. We need the ability to stop demolition early in the registration process.

Commitments:

  1. Complete the Centre Plan and include strong protection for residential (R1, R2) areas.
  2. Restrict the ability of staff to approve variances and spell out that a variance decision does not create a precedent.
  3. Invest more resources in HRM’s heritage staff and programming, and get the province to allow HRM to create new, stronger heritage protection rules than the provincial act currently allows.
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