Nova Scotia

Halifax's long-awaited Centre Plan approved

The Centre Plan will regulate new development in Halifax and Dartmouth. The so-called "Package A" deals with multi-unit developments in peninsular Halifax and sections of Dartmouth.

'This will provide more certainty for everyone,' says Coun. Shawn Cleary

The proposed Centre Plan will govern new developments on peninsula Halifax and in parts of Dartmouth. (Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press)

At long last, Halifax regional council has approved the first part of its plan to regulate new development in Halifax and Dartmouth.

The Centre Plan has been four years in the making. The so-called "Package A" deals with multi-unit developments in peninsular Halifax and sections of Dartmouth.

"This is a great day," Coun. Waye Mason said on Wednesday.

"This will provide more certainty for everyone," added Coun. Shawn Cleary.

Several of the concerns raised at a public hearing Tuesday night will be dealt with when the second part of the Centre Plan — which covers established residential neighbourhoods and park land — is worked out.

It's expected to be ready for regional council by fall 2020.

More details on an affordable housing strategy should be ready this spring.

Public hearing held

On Tuesday, Halifax developers criticized new incentives for affordable housing in the municipality's proposed Centre Plan.

The plan currently envisions a formula for fees a developer would have to pay in exchange for extra height allowances.

The money would be kept in a reserve account and given out in grants to co-op housing projects and non-profit housing associations.

"As it is proposed, it will hurt small and medium-scale developers," Cesar Saleh of WM Fares Group told the hearing.

Municipal planner Kaisa Tota said Tuesday that an earlier proposal had envisioned developers receiving extra height allowances for their projects in exchange for a certain number of affordable housing units.

But developers complained that idea would negatively impact 70 per cent of the industry. Halifax municipal planners were also concerned about overseeing who gets the affordable units and for how long.

"We went back to the drawing board," said Tota. "We didn't want to risk coming to council with a proposal that would be difficult to implement."

Unhappiness with new proposal

Municipal staff then came up with the system of upfront fees. But that is not going over well with developers, either.

"The question is what do you do with this money?" said Alex Halef, with developer BANC Group. "We don't know, which is part of the problem."

Peter Polley, a home builder, said he believed it would negatively affect housing affordability in the city.

"I would urge council to defer the adoption of the current density bonus provision of the Centre Plan until more work is done on an affordable housing plan," he said.

There was also close to a dozen individual property owners at Tuesday's hearing who had concerns about the impact of the Centre Plan on their sites.

One of them was Canada Lands, the federal Crown corporation overseeing the redevelopment of Shannon Park, a 36-hectare site in Dartmouth.

A director with Canada Lands, Chris Millier, said the current version of the Centre Plan calls for a collector road to be built right through Shannon Park, joining Windmill Road to the Bedford Institute of Oceanography.

"It isn't consistent with urban design principles," Millier said. "We envision a street grid for a pedestrian-oriented neighbourhood."

About the Author

Pam Berman

Reporter

Pam Berman is CBC Nova Scotia's municipal affairs reporter. She's been a journalist for almost 35 years and has covered Halifax regional council since 1997. That includes four municipal elections, 19 budgets and countless meetings. Story ideas can be sent to pam.berman@cbc.ca

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