Nova Scotia

Steele Auto Group to bulldoze north-end Halifax neighbourhood

A Halifax neighbourhood is at risk of being bulldozed, as Steele Auto Group snaps up two dozen properties and plans to demolish homes.

Car dealer to demolish 17 buildings around its Robie Street Colonial Honda location

The company that owns Colonial Honda on Robie Street has bought up surrounding properties. (Google Maps)

A north-end Halifax neighbourhood is at risk of being bulldozed, as a car dealership buys up property and plans to demolish homes.

Steele Auto Group now owns 25 properties on May Street, Fern Lane, Robie Street, McCully Street and North Street, under two different company names, all surrounding its existing Colonial Honda dealership on Robie Street. 

The company has demolition permits for 17 of those properties, the majority of which are residential homes. 

Steele plans to expand dealership parking and display, company president Dave MacRitchie said by email Friday afternoon. The company has submitted a development pitch to the municipal planning department, which includes no building construction, he said.

Homeowner refuses to sell

The neighbourhood has a couple of holdouts. 

A homeowner on May Street told CBC News she turned down an offer from the car company. Bonita Fraser bought her blue row house 23 years ago, after her first husband died. 

Bonita Fraser said she turned down an offer from Steele to buy her house. (Bonita Fraser/Facebook)

She said her home, assessed at $229,800, is almost paid off, in time for her to retire and leave it to her daughter.

"It's not feasible to sell my house for market value," Fraser said. "It would put me in the hole in my older years."

She said Steele's offer was not enough to allow her to buy a new home in her current neighbourhood. 

The properties are zoned as C-2, which permits any business, "except when the operation of same would cause a nuisance or a hazard to the public," according to the municipality's land-use bylaws. Adult entertainment businesses, junkyards and amusement centres are also prohibited.

The Halifax neighbourhood affected by the property purchases and proposed demolitions. (CBC News Graphics)

Homes not Hondas

Fraser and her neighbours have created a Facebook campaign called Homes not Hondas to fight against the development. The group is hoping to convince the company to reconsider its plans.

"If you don't look out, people, it might be happening in your neighbourhood," Fraser said. 

The owner of an antique shop that borders the dealership on McCully Street also says he has refused to sell for the price offered. 

Steele Auto Group has not bought three rows houses on May Street in Halifax. (CBC)

Purchases recent

Property records show the two Steele-affiliated companies, Dynamic Properties Company Limited and 3293629 Nova Scotia Limited, bought the mixed residential properties between February and April.

Permits to demolish 17 properties were issued a little more than a week ago, records show. Those records also indicate Steele only bought the property on which the Honda dealership sits in February.

The company hired Dartmouth's BD Stevens firm to design a lot "mindful of the residential component of our neighbourhood and include creating green buffers to enhance the surrounding areas," MacRitchie said in an email. 

'Marked improvement'

He said the company is trying to "blend with the mixed use neighbourhood."

"We've come to observe that many of the rental properties we have acquired had a high vacancy rate, and several have bylaw citations for appearance," MacRitchie wrote.

"Some neighbours with whom we have been meeting see our plans as a marked improvement over the existing condition of the properties."

MacRitchie would not comment on specific leases. The Woodbury Veterinary Hospital rents the building at the corner of Robie Street and North Street, and a demolition permit for that property has not been issued by the municipality.

About the Author

Rachel Ward

Journalist

Rachel Ward is a journalist with CBC Calgary. You can reach her with questions or story ideas at rachel.ward@cbc.ca.

With files from Pam Berman

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.