Comments on the Staff Report

September 5, 2016

Dear Mayor Savage and members of Council,

The Willow Tree Group is an association of residents living in the neighbourhoods north and south of Quinpool Road, near Robie St. We are also members of the Coalition for Responsible Development in HRM, a 15-member group of residents’ associations that, like ours, are concerned about the direction development in HRM is going and how decisions are being made.

We are writing today regarding the August 4 staff report on Cases 18966 and 19281, which was released to the public on September 2.

With respect to the staff recommendations on the Westwood property on Robie St., we would like to commend staff for recognizing the considerable negative impact the proposal in its current form would have had on the North and Central Common and surrounding neighbourhood. We would also like to express our support for staff’s recommendation that development on the site be limited to 6 storeys.

Without the prospect of an APL tower and a Westwood tower on adjacent properties, we agree it makes sense to separate these two development proposals, as the staff report recommends.

With respect to APL’s proposal on Quinpool, we continue to have serious concerns about allowing a 20-storey building on that site. At all the public meetings on this project, the public has consistently and overwhelmingly expressed opposition to that much height and density on the site. Please see survey results taken after the Public Information Meeting on the project.

The staff report mentions that support for height was received through an online survey and personal emails. Since this is completely contrary to what we heard in public, we would ask that members of Council and the public be provided with survey data and copies of submissions that were in support of this level of height in order to back up this claim. If this evidence is not forthcoming, we would urge you to base your decisions only on publically available information, which does not support height of this nature.

At 20 storeys, the APL building would not conform to MPS and LUB requirements regarding massing and compatibility with surrounding neighbourhoods. We have serious concerns about the winds that would be generated by a 20-storey building at an intersection that is already plagued by very high winds. We also believe that insufficient consideration has been given to the impact of shadows on the Common, as well as nearby Cogswell Park. Insufficient consideration has also been given traffic impacts of a dense residential building at one of the busiest corners in the city, to say nothing of the impacts of traffic to and from its parking garage on Parker St., which is a quiet one-way residential street.

Finally, we urge you not to approve any site-specific amendments to the MPS and LUB for either project as part of a Development Agreement process. Rather, we request that you approve Alternative 1 outlined on page 6 of the staff report: to direct staff to consider these two projects as part of the Centre Plan. We believe there are a number of good reasons for doing so:

  • The Centre Plan is able to draw upon much more extensive community consultations than the MPS/LUB amendment process. The staff report (p. 6) suggests that this tower would be the first step in a larger scheme for the entire Quinpool district: “buildings … increasing in height gradually from a low point at Oxford Street to the west to a high point at the corner of Quinpool and Robie.” This scheme has never been mentioned publicly and deserves proper discussion.
  • The Centre Plan allows for the discussion of wider issues such as affordability and housing need, local economic impact, and environmental impact (issues that are discussed in the Centre Plan document, “Halifax Housing Needs Assessment”), whereas site-specific amendments tend to focus more narrowly on issues of built form, such as height and massing.
  • Granting approval to build more than the LUB permits on this site is equivalent to handing the developer millions of dollars in additional profit. At this time there is no mechanism for the City to benefit from granting additional developments rights. However, if this proposal is considered under the Centre Plan, the City could receive direct financial benefit under bonusing mechanisms (as discussed in the Centre Plan document, “Density Bonusing Study”).

Sincerely,

Andrea Arbic (on behalf of the Willow Tree Group)