Update #43 – On car lots, historic mansions, and the importance of good planning


 “The best time to have a culture change in how you build a city was 10 minutes ago. The second best time is now.” – Brent Toderian in Local Express.

The past two weeks have really underlined 1) the absolute importance of good & up-to-date planning, and 2) that if you chose one public engagement with the City this year, the Centre Plan is absolutely critical.

The last few months have seen a lot of hard learning for residents about planning and municipal government.

Over the last week I’ve been writing and speaking a lot about Save Young Avenue and the proposed expansion of the Steele Honda dealership on Robie.  Normally, city planning is boring, but only until a heritage mansion is bulldozed, or a residential neighbourhood threatened!

In a nutshell, here is the problem:

  • Zoning is passed by Council through a complicated and lengthy public process (governed by provincial statute) that creates a “Land Use Bylaw” or LUB.
  • Zoning is important, powerful, and long lasting – most of the zoning on the peninsula was originally conceived in the 50s, and refined and clarified in the late 70s and early 80s.
  • If someone wants to construct a building that is allowed under that zoning, they can, and Council doesn’t get to vote on it.  In effect, Council ALREADY voted on it when the zoning was adopted.  At that point, all someone needs in order to build is a permit.
  • Building and demolition permits are issued by the Building Inspector under the authority of the provincial Building Code Act.  Council has no role. Even if 100% of Council is against something being built or demolished, Council does not have the power to suspend or cancel a permit that was lawfully issued.
  • Even if the LUB is changed later, once a permit has been issued it is grandfathered as it was lawfully issued.

I often talk about how Council’s job is to set the strategic direction for the municipality and monitor the outcomes, not micromanage the day-to-day operation.  What has been starkly outlined over the last few weeks is that, even if Council chose to, it has neither the legal authority to micromanage development, nor the tools to stop development on a dime.

Changing the LUB is not a quick process, and frankly, it shouldn’t be!  Planning should be done with clear, measurable outcomes, should capture the community’s values and aspirations, and should ultimately create a framework that enables their realization.  Good planning is thoughtful and comprehensive, not reactive and knee jerk.

Unfortunately, the plans and LUB on the peninsula no longer reflect our hopes and dreams for good urban development, complete streets, and safe mixed-use communities.  Residents need to be aware that “legacy zoning” from 50 and 70 years ago allows development to happen that no longer makes sense.  The current zoning is so old that most residents have either forgotten about it, or moved in well after it was adopted.

The issues on Young Avenue and on Robie Street highlight the extent of the problem.  What is happening on Young and proposed for Robie is allowed under the LUB.  It is “by right” and has been for fifty years.

But the problems are deeper than that.  They range from R-2A delivering ugly, too dense, poorly thought out multi-unit apartments on Victoria Road, to a loop hole that allows three units in the R2 zone even when the lot isn’t really big enough, to large intact streets of single family homes being zoned for various types of commercial use that no longer makes sense for those neighbourhoods.

Basically, people have the right to build the “idealized” 1970s version of Halifax, and most folks who live here and are aware of that version are absolutely horrified.

So what does this all mean?

We need to make sure we update the plans, and that the LUB reflects what is important to us about our neighbourhoods, both in the peninsula and in Dartmouth inside the circumferential.  The process to do this has started.  It is the Centre Plan. 

The Centre Plan is underway, and the central themes under discussion include allowable uses, affordable housing, protection of employment land, and appropriate building size and location. Here is the link to the website with information on public meetings and studies: http://shapeyourcityhalifax.ca/centre-plan-intro

There are a series of Neighbourhood Workshops starting this week.  See below for dates and locations.

This is your opportunity to change the plans and re-write the LUB, to help identify where we want to see development and where we want to see the residential low-rise neighbourhoods protected.

It is not about being against development and change, it is about making sure it happens in the right place, and adds to rather than takes away from our communities.  I urge you to get involved.


Participatory Budgeting Proposal Deadline – EXTENDED TO May 9
The deadline for submission for projects to be considered for the District 7 Capital Funds community vote is midnight , Monday May 9, 2016. Please email proposals to melody.campbell@halifax.ca  or mail to Melody Campbell, Council Support Office, PO Box 1749 Halifax, NS B3J 3A. If you have any questions, please contact Melody at 902-490-2012.

Gorsebrook Park Renewal Public Engagement
Thursday, May 19, 7pm – B221, Burke Building, Saint Mary’s University
Please join the Sierra Club Canada Foundation in a discussion on how to improve Gorsebrook Park through tree planting and stormwater capture efforts.  Councillor Mason will also attend to show planned maintenance for the park in 2016 and recruit residents to come and help with a park cleanup tentatively planned for Saturday June 4.

Be Prepared, Join the JEM
Wednesday, May 25th – Creative Lab Room, Halifax Central Library, 7:00 p.m.
We are looking for people to join us who have an interest in emergency planning in the downtown and south end. We continue to work on establishing a formal Joint Emergency Management(JEM) team. This is a community-based volunteer organization that works with HRM’s EMO (Emergency Measures Organization). This is great way for involved citizens to educate friends, family and neighbours in preparedness for emergencies. JEM’s motto is “neighbours helping neighbours”. During emergencies, residents in affected communities need to be prepared to help themselves and to assist others. Come join us! More info at https://wayemason.ca/jem


I welcome all feedback on issues before Community Council and Regional Council, and on any municipal issue. If you would like to send your comments to all Regional Councillors please email the Clerk’s Office (clerks@halifax.ca) so that your comments are shared and are part of the public record.

Centre Plan Workshops
May 2, May 3, May 5, and May 11 | St. Mary’s Boat Club & Various Locations
Join the HRM Planning and Development team for a focused workshop on the Centre Plan, and share your knowledge about neighborhoods throughout the Regional Centre.  The St. Mary’s Boat Club meetings on May 5 focus specifically on Halifax South and Downtown; the afternoon workshop will be held from 1-3pm and the evening workshop will be from 6-8pm.


For more information, please visit http://shapeyourcityhalifax.ca/centre-plan-intro

Former St Pat’s High School (6067 Quinpool Rd) Public Information Meeting – May 9
The District 7&8 Planning Advisory Committee will be holding a public information meeting on proposed zoning changes for the former site of St Pat’s High on Monday May 9 at 7pm at the Olympic Centre, 2304 Hunter St.  Information on the proposed changes will be available the week prior to the meeting.

Public Open House – Case 20040 Downtown Halifax
May 18, 2016 7pm | 1592 Barrington Street, Halifax, NS
There will be a Public Open House on May 18th regarding a pre-application for substantive site plan approval by Lydon-Lynch Architects for the lands located at 1663/1665 Barrington Street, Halifax, to permit a renovation and addition to the building. Representatives of the project will be on hand to discuss the issues related to the proposed building, and the meeting is open to anyone looking for more information or to express any concerns/comments. For more information, please contact Eugene Pieczonka at Lydon Lynch Architects at 902-377-2000 or email Eugene@lydonlynch.ca


Bike Week Grants Deadline – May 1
Halifax Bike Week will be held June 3-12; this year the theme is “Connecting Communities”.  If you are interested in organizing an event and/or seeking funding for an event, please visit www.halifax.ca/bikeweek/

Open City 5.0
May 7, 2016 | Various
The annual Open City celebration of local shops, restaurants and attractions is back for another year on Saturday, May 7th. Restaurants will be offering Back Door takeout, retailers will have shopping deals, and there will be plenty of music and art throughout the city. For more information on this celebration of everything local, please visit http://www.ilovelocalhfx.ca/v1/

Nova Scotia Craft Beer Week
May 6-15, 2016
Join the Craft Brewer’s Association of Nova Scotia May 6-15 as they celebrate Nova Scotia’s world-class craft beer with 10-days of beer-related activities including a kitchen party, keg racing, science of beer seminars, beer cocktail competitions, and more! For a full listing of events, please visit http://nscraftbeer.ca/events/

HRM Youth Survey Deadline – May 7
The Parks and Recreation department is reaching out to youth aged 13-24 to help create a Youth Plan for HRM. The objective of the plan is to ensure that municipal programs and services are meeting the needs of our youth, and will provide the basis for service offerings over the next 5 years. If you want to participate in the survey, you can find it at www.halifax.ca/youth – deadline for completing the survey is May 7th. Survey participants will have the chance to win some great prizes, including the Grand Prize of two iPad Minis!

100 in 1 Day Event Workshop
May 11, 2016 6-8pm | Halifax Central Library
100in1Day is a community based event that encourages local residents to do community building activities in their local neighborhoods – this year it is taking place on June 4th. The workshop on May 11th will feature information sessions for groups who are interested in organizing an event. For more details, please visit the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/events/1298032160212833/1299281573421225/ or visit the website https://halifax.100in1day.ca/

Jane’s Walks – May 7-8
Wonderful community led walks that explore our neighbourhoods.  Brochures are available at public libraries and at facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=janes%20walks%20halifax

HRM Youth Survey Deadline – May 7
The Parks and Recreation department is reaching out to youth aged 13 to 24 years old to help create a Youth Plan for the Halifax Regional Municipality.  The overall objective of the Youth Plan is to ensure that municipal programs and services are meeting the needs of our youth, and will provide the basis for service offerings over the next three to five years.  Young residents within the targeted age group are encouraged to participate in this process by completing a survey, which focuses on recreation & sport, art programming, and leadership and job readiness. The survey is live now at www.halifax.ca/youth and will close on May 7.  Survey participants will have the opportunity to win some great prizes, including the Grand Prize of one of two iPad Minis! The draw is open to residents of the Halifax Regional Municipality, 13 to 24 years old, who have completed the survey. Some restrictions apply.

Halifax Community Investment Fund Bursary Award Deadline – May 9
HCIF Bursary awards are available for students in Grade 12, who will graduate from high school; hold the General Education Diploma (GED); and/or mature students that have been accepted into a Post-Secondary Program and whose permanent residence is on the streets or in the area of Halifax bounded by Cogswell, North Park/Agricola, North and Barrington Streets.  HCIF Bursaries are awarded on the basis of financial need, community volunteer work and leadership activities, and educational achievement and awards.  Completed applications and reference letters must be received by the HCIF or postmarked by Monday, May 9.  For more info: http://Hcif.ca/our-programs

Adsum Film Screening – Gimme Shelter – May 10
An exclusive screening of the movie, Gimme Shelter, on Tuesday May 10 from 6:00-9:00 pm at the Spatz Theater, 1855 Trollope St.  The movie will be followed by a panel discussion and reception.  Tickets are $12 adults and $6 HS students.  Contact Adsum at 902-423-5049 or website for tickets: http://www.adsumforwomen.org/adsum-event/gimme-shelter-screening

School Board Review of 5 North End Schools Public Meeting #2 – May 12
The 2nd in a series of 3 meetings organized by HRSB to explore the future of North End Schools (Joe Howe, St Joe’s A McKay, St Stephen’s, Highland Park, Oxford) will take place on Thursday May 12 from 6:30 to 9:00 pm at Highland Park Jr High Gym, 3479 Robie St.  This meeting will focus on options for the future.  For more info: http://www.hrsb.ca/school-review/school-review-citadel-high-family-schools

Municipal Election Candidate Workshops – May 16
HRM has organized several workshops for prospective candidates for the upcoming fall election.  The workshop on the peninsula is scheduled for Monday May 16 at 7 pm at the Central Library, Room 301.  To register and for more information on the other workshops please go to: http://www.halifax.ca/election/CandidateInfoSessions.php

Scotiabank Bluenose Marathon – May 20-22, 2016
The Scotiabank Blue Nose Marathon is back for another year and is taking place May 20-22nd in Halifax! The Marathon is the largest east of Ottawa, with over 13,000 runners and walkers taking part each year. There are options for all levels, including a full marathon, half marathon, 5KM and Youth Run. For more information, please visit http://bluenosemarathon.com/

Livable Cities for the 21st Century Public Talk – May 31
Free public talk by Jan Gehl: Livable Cities for the 21st Century on Tuesday, May31,from 12:30-1:50 pm Dal Planning School, Medjuck Building – 5410 Spring Garden Rd.

100 in 1 Day Event – June 4
100in1Day is a community based event that encourages local residents to do community building activities in their local neighbourhoods.  The 100 in 1 day event will be on Saturday, June 4th.  For more info visit the website: https://halifax.100in1day.ca/ or facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1298032160212833/1299281573421225/

Doors Open – June 4-5
The Doors Open Halifax Heritage Society has organized close to 30 venues for this year’s event. Buildings in Halifax and area will open their doors to the public for free and invite them to view interiors not usually accessible on Sat June 4 and Sunday June 5 from 10am to 4 pm. People will have a chance to explore a variety of venues that represent the dynamics of history, culture and the industry that has shaped the region. This is a family-friendly event.  For more info:  http://doorsopenhalifax.com/

Curbside Giveaway – June 4-5
The aim of this weekend event is to reduce the amount of garbage ending up in HRM’s landfill by diverting unwanted items to be re-used by placing re-usable household items at the curb in front of your home. For more info: http://www.halifax.ca/recycle/cgaw.php

School Board Review of 5 North End Schools Public Meeting #3 – June 7
The last in a series of 3 meetings organized by HRSB to explore the future of North End Schools (Joe Howe, St Joe’s A McKay, St Stephen’s, Highland Park, Oxford) will take place on Tuesday June 7 from 6:30 to 9:00 pm at Citadel High School Cafeteria.  This meeting will review a draft recommendation.  For more info: http://www.hrsb.ca/school-review/school-review-citadel-high-family-schools


Interactive Map for Hydrant and Catch Basin Location
If you need to find one during a storm, to keep clear of snow or for insurance purposes here is a helpful tool:  http://www.halifax.ca/hrwc/hydrant-catch-basin.php

Heating Assistance Rebate Program
Service Nova Scotia administers a Heating Assistance Rebate Program (HARP) for lower income residents to help with heating costs.  For more info on eligibility and application form please google http://homeheatinghelp.ca  or call 902-424-5200

Free Assessment and Energy Efficiency Upgrades for Low Income Homes
The HomeWarming program offers a no-charge energy assessment and free home upgrades such as draft-proofing and insulation to income-qualified homeowners to help reduce heating and power bills. HomeWarming is sponsored by Nova Scotia Power and the Province of Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia Power has volunteered to fund $37 million for a 10-year low-income energy efficiency program for electrically heated homes to be delivered by the Clean Foundation.  For more info:   http://homewarming.ca/  or call 1-877-434-2136

Crosswalk Guards Needed for Halifax Peninsula
Halifax Regional Police is currently looking for crosswalk guards for various locations on the Halifax peninsula.  Crosswalk Guards are responsible for providing a safe and secure crosswalk for elementary children at designated school crosswalks in HRM. Currently there is a need for spare crosswalk guards.   For further information please call 902-490-5168 or send a resume to naussj@halifax.ca

Active Transportation Priorities Plan
Making Connections: 2014-2019 Halifax Active Transportation Priorities Plan. For more information: http://www.halifax.ca/ActiveTransportation/documents/AT_Plan_Final_July222014.pdf

For info on the Macdonald Bike Lane access improvement options go to: http://www.halifax.ca/council/agendasc/documents/150922ca1117.pdf

Update on Urban Forest Master Plan
For an update on trees being planted in the north end please go to: http://www.halifax.ca/property/UFMP/