Originally Posted by eastcoastal
I don't know that significant public pressure could have changed this aspect of HRMbyDesign, but having attended many of the meetings, I can't say that I heard a lot of support for scrapping them.
Revisiting the viewplanes was brought up directly, by myself, at a meeting and the response was it wasn't part of the scope of the project, as dictated by HRM. I feel you're right though, there did not seem to be much public support for scrapping them.
I have come across very few by-laws with provisions written specifically so that they can not be varied, but given the way the height debates have played out in Halifax it's not surprising they were written that way. My problem is not with the idea of protecting some views from the Citadel, it's with the tool. The viewplanes have resulted directly in some very bad design decisions in Halifax: the angle of the Maritime Centre is pretty much a middle-finger to the intent behind the viewplanes; Bishop's Landing and Salter's Gate were both sunk into the ground to sneak in under the viewplane (the results at Salter's Gate are a disaster, Bishop's is only frustrating) and now we've redesigned a building that is already there in order to make no noticeable difference to the view from the Citadel. And the viewplanes do nothing to encourage a cohesive sky-line or good urban form in general. Yet they've become the basis for HRM by Design and a battle-ground for so many inane fights. Add in the economic consequences of making some land in downtown artificially cheap (four floors or bust) and some downtown land artificially expensive (twenty seven floors!!!) and it's bad policy.
The first thing would be to recognize that much of the views have been compromised or ruined (Maritime Centre, Fenwick). Holding on to all of the viewplanes after 40 years of growth doesn't make sense. Decide what views are still worth protecting and balance them versus other priorities. Come up with height standards that are simpler, related to other urban form considerations, and provide some flexibility. Basically do what HRM by Design set out to do without stacking more regulations on top of the viewplanes. Regulate height based on number of floors instead of metres, so developers don't drop their first floor 4 feet to get under an arbitrary height limit. Don't cut blocks and parcels in half with a viewplane, so buildings are contorted just to squeeze up against the viewplane.
It's not rocket science, HRM just needs to do it. There does seem to be a broad, but shallow support, for protecting views from the Citadel. I'm not sure that means there is broad support for the viewplanes specifically. Just because the Heritage Trust loves the viewplanes doesn't make them a good policy. There are better ways to protect the view and allow development, but no one is willing to even open the discussion.