Nova Scotia

Height rule waived for Halifax YMCA proposal

Halifax regional council voted unanimously in favour of amendments to existing design rules in Halifax that would allow changes to be made to the CBC and YMCA buildings.

Council votes in favour of amending HRM by Design rules

Dozens of people spoke at a public hearing Tuesday to discuss the YMCA project on South Park Street in Halifax. (CBC)

Halifax regional council voted unanimously in favour of amendments to the redevelopment plans of the CBC and YMCA buildings on the corner of South Park and Sackville streets.

Those amendments, if the project moves forward, would allow the project to be double the current height limit allowed in downtown Halifax.

It passed 20-0 following a public hearing that lasted more than four hours Tuesday night.

"The peninsula has been dying for years," said Coun. Dawn Sloane, who said downtown needs the project.

"This is the best for our residents," she added.

But Coun. Bob Harvey was concerned about the planning aspects.

"It's the 17-storey elephant on the corner of Sackville Street in the room," he said. "My concern is the exception will soon become the rule."

Coun. Bill Karsten said he would not only lend support, but was honoured to do so for such a worthy cause.

Coun. Jennifer Watts, who was previously opposed to the development, said she would also vote to support the proposal.

"I'm willing to take a risk on this," she said.

Coun. Barry Dalrymple said he thinks the evidence of the public benefit was overwhelming.

"This has everything I think the downtown has needed for a very long time," he said.

Prior to the vote, residents stepped up to the microphone to speak at a public hearing to discuss the redevelopment proposal of the CBC and YMCA buildings.

A number of them were in support of making changes to existing rules of HRM by Design to allow for the development.

Residents have their say

"The building is no longer sustainable in its current condition. It has been serving our community for 60 years and it is tired," said Suzanne McDonough.

"We all know that health care costs are going through a crisis and the YMCA is a community that offers prevention and care to people of all conditions."

"For love nor money, I can't think why anyone would not want something like this for our city, because it reaches out to Halifax, like me — low income people that need something like this to be a part of our city," said Garth Wooster.

The public hearing was to give Halifax regional council an idea of how the public felt about a building that would be 49 metres high — twice as high as the current limit.

The YMCA wants to change the area's height limit from 23 to 49 metres. (YMCA)

There were some people against the development.

"The idea was that there would be a blueprint — a plan — and the developers would have to conform to that plan," said Alan Parrish.

"What's happened is we've got a project coming forward and the amendment of the plan is conforming to the development, which is backwards."

Part of the concern for those against the project is the view planes to the Public Gardens and Citadel Hill would be altered.

The facility would include a fitness centre, daycare, retail and office space and possibly residential space.

"This mixed-use development will be providing a $22-million … recreation centre at no cost to the capital or operating budgets of HRM," said Bette Watson-Borg, president and CEO of the Halifax/Dartmouth YMCA.