Nova Scotia

Halifax car dealership defends demolition plans with webpage

A car dealership planning to bulldoze north-end Halifax homes is defending its expansion on a new webpage about the development.

'We have invested significantly in the business and the neighbourhood,' says Steele Auto Group

Steele Auto Group owns Colonial Honda on Robie Street, and has bought a number of properties surrounding the dealership. (Rachel Ward/CBC)

A car dealership planning to bulldoze north-end Halifax homes is defending its expansion on a new webpage about the development.

As of Wednesday, Steele Auto Group has been granted 19 demolition permits for recently purchased properties surrounding its Colonial Honda dealership on Robie Street.

The dealership's plans have sparked community pushback, including from a former city planner who argues all dealerships should move off the peninsula

"We have invested significantly in the business and the neighbourhood, so it is no longer economically feasible or practical to move the dealership to another location at this point in time," the online statement from Steele says

"[A]t some point in the future we'd be interested in participating in a conversation with HRM planners and others to review longer term considerations."

Steele Auto Group posted several photos of designs of the dealership expansion. (Steele Auto Group)

Steele plans to build a parking lot and display area without constructing any new buildings, the statement said. 

Fourteen of the properties it has bought have "a high vacancy rate, and several had bylaw citations for appearance," the company said.

Push for new rules

The municipality is looking at redoing all zoning in the urban core through the Centre Plan Project.

Jennifer Watts, municipal councillor for the area, has been encouraging people to attend public consultations in the coming weeks. Options "really don't exist" to stop Steele's plans, which are within zoning guidelines, Watts previously told CBC News

The affected area is mostly occupied by homes or rental properties, but its C2 commercial zoning allows any business, with only a few exemptions. 

The area affected is Fern Lane, May Street, McCully Street, North Street and Robie Street.

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

Moving dealerships would cost

Any broad decision to move dealerships off the peninsula would have to be taken with great consideration, according to the Nova Scotia Automobile Dealers' Association. 

"These are, as they stand currently, significant investments both in real estate and buildings," executive vice president John Sutherland told CBC News.

"They do form a significant part of the city tax base, as well. The prospect of moving them, there would be a cost."

Steele Auto Group says it will put up green buffers around the outside of the expanded dealership. (Steele Auto Group)

Steele dealership previously told CBC that neighbours saw the parking lot as a "marked improvement" over the existing rental properties. 

"We will be making improvements to the existing space with a design befitting the area and respectful of our surroundings," Steele said in the statement, accompanied by two artist renditions of the expansion. 

The company said they've met with neighbours and are compliant with the Residential Tenancies Act of Nova Scotia. 

Steele now owns rental properties along Robie Street near its dealership. (CBC)

No timeline yet

The statement from Steele does not include a timeline for the demolition of the properties, but construction management and development plans has been submitted to the city.

The plans have been developed by architect Mark Hughs and engineering firm BD Stevens, Steele president Dave MacRitchie said by email Wednesday.

Steele has declined CBC's requests for interviews.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rachel Ward

Journalist

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

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