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  #21  
Old Posted Dec 8, 2014, 4:27 AM
counterfactual counterfactual is offline
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Originally Posted by spaustin View Post
Partially correct. Density bonusing, when it comes, in the Centre Plan area must be accompanied by affordable housing. The city has no choice there as the amendments to the charter passed by the NDP said affordable housing must be part of the mix. In the Downtown Secondary Plan (what we often call HRMbyDesign), density bonusing can be for any number of things. Affordable housing is just one of them. So far, the uptake from developers has been good on a lot of the other categories, but not on the affordable housing side. Not sure if they just don't want to include affordable units in their developments or its the problem of defining affordable on the city side or if it's a combination of both. So far, it seems ineffective and my hunch is developers aren't interested in doing it.

I think density bonusing for affordable housing is a good idea, but it seems unlikely that it will make a substantial contribution to affordability in Halifax. I'm not convinced that compelling developers to include affordable units would be the best approach either. We're not Vancouver. The scale of development is obviously a lot smaller here and the profits earned are less as well. Really, I think the city and province need to get back into actually creating affordable housing. Take the development of the old Sobeys site on Gottingen. That's been in the works for years now and, my understanding, is project financing has been one of the hurdles. What if there had been a city fund to help? What if it had planning priority? If the city had a revolving fund to loan money to non-profits who want to build housing and prioritized affordable projects in the planning queue, that would likely do a lot more than density bonusing or trying to force developers into building units. Just my two cents anyway.
Wait. So in the coming Centre Plan, there will be *no* density bonusing for proposals-- for example, no greater height allowances-- for *any* reason unless affordable housing is also a part of the proposal? Even if many other public benefits are included... no density bonusing?

I support affordable housing, but this seems like a blockheaded idea for a city that has struggled to promote even a meager amount of development on the Peninsula for decades.

Has there been even a modest study on the impact such a requirement might have on development in the Centre Plan area, especially since developers have, for obvious reasons, been hesitant from offering it in the HRMxD covered core?

The obvious reason is what someone123 mentioned earlier: NIMBYism. I mean, the SpiritPlace proposal was basically killed by northend NIMBYs because they feared it might bring young people and single moms to the neighborhood even though it was essentially a development for seniors (particularly in the BGLAD community).

If you are going to make affordable housing a part of EVERY development via density bonusing, then you better not be killing proposals based on lame/hare brained "public consultation" sessions where three people show up with placards to harangue the developer and strongarm community councils.
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  #22  
Old Posted Dec 8, 2014, 2:14 PM
OldDartmouthMark OldDartmouthMark is offline
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Originally Posted by spaustin View Post
Partially correct. Density bonusing, when it comes, in the Centre Plan area must be accompanied by affordable housing. The city has no choice there as the amendments to the charter passed by the NDP said affordable housing must be part of the mix. In the Downtown Secondary Plan (what we often call HRMbyDesign), density bonusing can be for any number of things. Affordable housing is just one of them. So far, the uptake from developers has been good on a lot of the other categories, but not on the affordable housing side. Not sure if they just don't want to include affordable units in their developments or its the problem of defining affordable on the city side or if it's a combination of both. So far, it seems ineffective and my hunch is developers aren't interested in doing it.

I think density bonusing for affordable housing is a good idea, but it seems unlikely that it will make a substantial contribution to affordability in Halifax. I'm not convinced that compelling developers to include affordable units would be the best approach either. We're not Vancouver. The scale of development is obviously a lot smaller here and the profits earned are less as well. Really, I think the city and province need to get back into actually creating affordable housing. Take the development of the old Sobeys site on Gottingen. That's been in the works for years now and, my understanding, is project financing has been one of the hurdles. What if there had been a city fund to help? What if it had planning priority? If the city had a revolving fund to loan money to non-profits who want to build housing and prioritized affordable projects in the planning queue, that would likely do a lot more than density bonusing or trying to force developers into building units. Just my two cents anyway.
Thanks to you and Hali87 for bringing more clarity to this issue.
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  #23  
Old Posted Dec 8, 2014, 2:16 PM
OldDartmouthMark OldDartmouthMark is offline
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Originally Posted by Colin May View Post
My career opportunity arose in Canada.
My comment was a reference to certain cities in the US which require any development to provide a percentage of units for lower income persons. The developer doesn't pick the units and doesn't pick the tenant/s - a seperate agency makes such decisions. In a condo the owners of units would't know which units were occupied by low income persons.
It was suggested to me, by a representative of a developer, that such a provision in HRM would be acceptable if it applied to all developments.
HRM has chosen to ignore such a provision and prefers to barter for the ill defined ' public benefit'.
At City Hall 'Be Bold' is regarded as a slogan, not a call to action.
That's interesting, Colin. Which cities are these? Are they comparable to Halifax in size and population?
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  #24  
Old Posted Dec 8, 2014, 2:20 PM
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Originally Posted by counterfactual View Post
Wait. So in the coming Centre Plan, there will be *no* density bonusing for proposals-- for example, no greater height allowances-- for *any* reason unless affordable housing is also a part of the proposal? Even if many other public benefits are included... no density bonusing?

I support affordable housing, but this seems like a blockheaded idea for a city that has struggled to promote even a meager amount of development on the Peninsula for decades.

Has there been even a modest study on the impact such a requirement might have on development in the Centre Plan area, especially since developers have, for obvious reasons, been hesitant from offering it in the HRMxD covered core?

The obvious reason is what someone123 mentioned earlier: NIMBYism. I mean, the SpiritPlace proposal was basically killed by northend NIMBYs because they feared it might bring young people and single moms to the neighborhood even though it was essentially a development for seniors (particularly in the BGLAD community).

If you are going to make affordable housing a part of EVERY development via density bonusing, then you better not be killing proposals based on lame/hare brained "public consultation" sessions where three people show up with placards to harangue the developer and strongarm community councils.
This is what happens when people elect left-leaning NDP council members like MasonWatts. We get the govt we deserve.
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  #25  
Old Posted Dec 8, 2014, 6:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Keith P. View Post
This is what happens when people elect left-leaning NDP council members like MasonWatts. We get the govt we deserve.
The optimist believes that we live in the best of all possible worlds;
the pessimist fears this is true.
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  #26  
Old Posted Dec 8, 2014, 6:47 PM
Colin May Colin May is offline
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Originally Posted by OldDartmouthMark View Post
That's interesting, Colin. Which cities are these? Are they comparable to Halifax in size and population?
Planners have more knowledge than I and often give US cities/municipalities as examples. Such rules also include provision of housing for those with disabilities. We have to figure out how to maintain diversity of the population without pushing certain groups out of the urban core.
Time for HRM to bring together developers, planners and citizens in a public forum longer than a few hours. Waiting for the province or the feds is not the answer.

Here is a good link : http://wcel.org/density-bonus

" In many cases, a non-profit housing organization takes over the management of bonus dwelling units designated for non-market housing. For example, a 62-unit project in Sidney included the construction of six non-profit units in exchange for two of the market units. The non-profit units were allocated to the Capital Region Housing Corporation. "

and this paper :http://munkschool.utoronto.ca/imfg/u...line_final.pdf

http://www.ci.encinitas.ca.us/index....=%2Findex.aspx

and here : http://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/publicati...o/socio046.pdf

Last edited by Colin May; Dec 8, 2014 at 7:01 PM.
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  #27  
Old Posted Dec 8, 2014, 9:52 PM
OldDartmouthMark OldDartmouthMark is offline
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Originally Posted by Colin May View Post
Planners have more knowledge than I and often give US cities/municipalities as examples. Such rules also include provision of housing for those with disabilities. We have to figure out how to maintain diversity of the population without pushing certain groups out of the urban core.
Time for HRM to bring together developers, planners and citizens in a public forum longer than a few hours. Waiting for the province or the feds is not the answer.

Here is a good link : http://wcel.org/density-bonus

" In many cases, a non-profit housing organization takes over the management of bonus dwelling units designated for non-market housing. For example, a 62-unit project in Sidney included the construction of six non-profit units in exchange for two of the market units. The non-profit units were allocated to the Capital Region Housing Corporation. "

and this paper :http://munkschool.utoronto.ca/imfg/u...line_final.pdf

http://www.ci.encinitas.ca.us/index....=%2Findex.aspx

and here : http://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/publicati...o/socio046.pdf
Thanks!
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  #28  
Old Posted Dec 10, 2014, 1:46 PM
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So council ok'd this to move forward, but there was some discussion about whether or not there should be a neighbourhood-specific set of planning rules. I didn't pay attention to council yesterday, but my second-hand gleanings are:

Watts, it seems, felt it was too big, and wanted to slow things down and look at instituting a set of design standards specifically for this area. I’m not sure why that would be desirable, since this area will soon be covered under the centre plan.

The Karsten and other councillors went on the offensive and the other extreme, saying that context is unimportant and saying “yes” to development is.

I wouldn’t agree with either of those perspectives (context is always important, but I think this project fits great in its context).

If anyone listened to the council stream or has any insight into this, I’d be curious to know any more, especially about Watts’ rationale for a local set of planning rules, or why some councillors deemed the project too dense. (I know a lot of people would dogpile on that notion, but six storeys on a residential side street IS quite significant, and would be considered pretty big in any city in the country. I've got no problem with it though.)
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  #29  
Old Posted Dec 10, 2014, 4:13 PM
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If anyone listened to the council stream or has any insight into this, I’d be curious to know any more, especially about Watts’ rationale for a local set of planning rules, or why some councillors deemed the project too dense.
I'd like to think there's a higher rationale for Watts' suggestion but from what I've seen she's a classic BANANA councillor -- there is always one or excuse or another for why something shouldn't be built on the peninsula. Her opposition is not limited to projects on residential side streets.
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  #30  
Old Posted Dec 10, 2014, 4:20 PM
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I bet if someone came along with a proposal to build a 2 storey rowhouse development (with vinyl siding and faux brick) Watts would be ecstatic. It's all about that HUMAN scale with her it seems...

Honestly why fight every god damn development that comes through here? I bet if this were proposed in St. Catherine's or London (comparably sized cities to Halifax), there wouldn't be nearly the uproar. We are truly lucky that developers even bother building lots of stuff here because of the way the (vocal) public and council often treat them.
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  #31  
Old Posted Dec 10, 2014, 4:53 PM
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Originally Posted by mcmcclassic View Post
I bet if this were proposed in St. Catherine's or London (comparably sized cities to Halifax), there wouldn't be nearly the uproar.
Oh there would definitely be opposition, guaranteed.

In fact, in London, they oppose three-storey buildings in the city centre..

In St. Catharines, four storeys gets their ire up, and council kowtows.

How many times must I insist that Halifax isn't uniquely anti-development before people believe me? Really, the degree of NIMBYism and opposition seen here is completely normal for any city. Visit the other local forums and read all the folks on there complaining about the same thing we complain about here.

In fact, on Ossington Avenue in Toronto (a major inner-city commercial street in a dense, city-centre neighbourhood) residents actually pushed recently for exactly what it sounds like Watts is advocating—a localized planning rulebook that would result in scaled-down projects. The local councillor championed it, and it was successfully passed.

What I'm curious to know is if anyone watched the meeting or has a sense of the particulars of the discussion. I don't understand what Watts was proposing because I just saw a few tweets about it. assume I would disagree with her on this, but I want to know the particulars of her argument before I decide...
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  #32  
Old Posted Dec 10, 2014, 5:00 PM
Hali87 Hali87 is offline
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Originally Posted by counterfactual View Post
The obvious reason is what someone123 mentioned earlier: NIMBYism. I mean, the SpiritPlace proposal was basically killed by northend NIMBYs because they feared it might bring young people and single moms to the neighborhood even though it was essentially a development for seniors (particularly in the BGLAD community).
Any quotes to support this assertion? Spirit Place was very explicitly aimed at retirees... were there honestly people who claimed that students and single moms would be living there? Everyone I know in the area who opposed the project opposed it because of its height, or because they wanted to see the church building preserved and reused.

I think NIMBYism/developer ambivalence is a major reason why affordable housing is required for density bonusing under the Centre Plan. If it was an option, and no developers wanted to do it, then there would be no affordable housing being built in the core, aside from the occasional non-profit project. This way, the affordable housing is (in theory) distributed geographically and if ALL new developments need to do it, then it's not as big a deal. It creates a culture in which people who move into new buildings do so knowing that not all of the people who live around them will be in their income bracket. I don't see anything wrong with this - I think (hope?) that the "people with money should not have to be exposed to people with less money" sentiment is exaggerated and that most people here do not think like this.

That said, I wish developers had the option to contribute into a fund for transit and AT infrastructure, either as an alternative to affordable housing, or as a separate bonus. This would increase the overall affordability of an area as well, because individual transportation costs could be lower.
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  #33  
Old Posted Dec 10, 2014, 5:01 PM
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Oh there would definitely be opposition, guaranteed.

In fact, in London, they oppose three-storey buildings in the city centre..

In St. Catharines, four storeys gets their ire up, and council kowtows.

How many times must I insist that Halifax isn't uniquely anti-development before people believe me? Really, the degree of NIMBYism and opposition seen here is completely normal for any city. Visit the other local forums and read all the folks on there complaining about the same thing we complain about here.

In fact, on Ossington Avenue in Toronto (a major inner-city commercial street in a dense, city-centre neighbourhood) residents actually pushed recently for exactly what it sounds like Watts is advocating—a localized planning rulebook that would result in scaled-down projects. The local councillor championed it, and it was successfully passed.

What I'm curious to know is if anyone watched the meeting or has a sense of the particulars of the discussion. I don't understand what Watts was proposing because I just saw a few tweets about it. assume I would disagree with her on this, but I want to know the particulars of her argument before I decide...
Those were some solid examples of NIMBYism indeed. I get that we are no different than anywhere else in terms of NIMBYs, but I just don't understand what people want overall in a city in terms of density.

A big stink gets made over infill on the Penninsula, yet no one bats an eye (including council) when a bigger, taller, denser development is proposed in the suburbs (Mount Royale, Larry Uteck for example). Honestly those types of communities are what kill city centers - why aren't more people fighting them? The answer? They're usually not in anyone's backyard...
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  #34  
Old Posted Dec 10, 2014, 5:14 PM
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Those were some solid examples of NIMBYism indeed. I get that we are no different than anywhere else in terms of NIMBYs, but I just don't understand what people want overall in a city in terms of density.

A big stink gets made over infill on the Penninsula, yet no one bats an eye (including council) when a bigger, taller, denser development is proposed in the suburbs (Mount Royale, Larry Uteck for example). Honestly those types of communities are what kill city centers - why aren't more people fighting them? The answer? They're usually not in anyone's backyard...
I guess there are fewer people around out there, and developments aren't right up against other people's property?

I know what you mean though—it does feel backwards to have 12-20 storey buildings going up on suburban arterials running our of town, and yet have spitting matches over the equivalent of walk-ups in the inner city. There were a few comments on social media referring to the Roberts/Maynard project indicating that "not all density is good density." This is true—that's what Frank Gehry's desire to drop three 80-90 storey towers onto one block of downtown Toronto is probably not such a hot idea. Locally, Skye would've been too much density in one place, in relation to the local market. (Not so much that it would've been too much density, but it would've dried up the condo market in other parts of town due to all the units it would've brought on-market).

But this is a low-rise infill project. It's at the tall end for a low-rise, but it's not like it's slamming extreme intensification down into a low-density area. It's a moderately dense project in the urban core. Which is why I'm curious to understand the rationale behind a neighbourhood-specific planning regime, and why the centre plan isn't considered sufficient...
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  #35  
Old Posted Dec 10, 2014, 5:16 PM
counterfactual counterfactual is offline
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Any quotes to support this assertion? Spirit Place was very explicitly aimed at retirees... were there honestly people who claimed that students and single moms would be living there? Everyone I know in the area who opposed the project opposed it because of its height, or because they wanted to see the church building preserved and reused.

I think NIMBYism/developer ambivalence is a major reason why affordable housing is required for density bonusing under the Centre Plan. If it was an option, and no developers wanted to do it, then there would be no affordable housing being built in the core, aside from the occasional non-profit project. This way, the affordable housing is (in theory) distributed geographically and if ALL new developments need to do it, then it's not as big a deal. It creates a culture in which people who move into new buildings do so knowing that not all of the people who live around them will be in their income bracket. I don't see anything wrong with this - I think (hope?) that the "people with money should not have to be exposed to people with less money" sentiment is exaggerated and that most people here do not think like this.

That said, I wish developers had the option to contribute into a fund for transit and AT infrastructure, either as an alternative to affordable housing, or as a separate bonus. This would increase the overall affordability of an area as well, because individual transportation costs could be lower.
Re: SpiritPlace - just go back and read that thread. Here's a great quote from Alp, who attending all public hearings:

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That is REALLY disappointing. This project is so appropriate for this site.

I worked an internship related to this project, attended both public information meetings and the reasoning against the project was the usual overblown NIMBYism. The project isn't tall and it blends in nicely with the existing houses and adjacent apartment building.

I recall one woman turned to me and voiced her concern that, because the church could not legally discriminate against who moved into the seniors residences, unsavoury characters like SINGLE MOTHERS might move into the neighbourhood. Via an old folks home.

Another person speaking against the project burst into tears at the podium for no particular reason.

At least in Toronto they have a strategy of adding midrise density along busier streets, and in those areas taller buildings flank areas of single-family homes without causing any sort of traffic issue or urban decay or whatever. The added density helps support local businesses and other amenities.

These NIMBYs are inadvertently making the traffic situation on the peninsula worse. Developers look at situations like this, think "why bother?" and throw up another apartment building in Clayton Park where everyone drives into town.

Then the city spends billions to widen highways and build new bridges and people wonder why their taxes are so high and other services are cut.

These protracted debates over seven storey buildings are so trivial...a building of this size is nothing, particularly with all the setbacks and the placement of the lowrise chapel. This project has an appropriate design, an admirable social aspect and it's an inventive way for the church to adapt to a shrinking congregation size...really a shame.

What options do they have now? Can they appeal?
Emphasis added mine. If some people are *explicit* in stating bigoted concerns about single moms, how much of the broader NIMBY sentiment might just be as bigoted, but implicit or veiled? How much of NIMBYism stated as being about these bizarre concerns about wind, shadows, height, but, in reality, are really about bigoted views on certain "unsavoury" groups moving into the neighborhood of wealthy property owners? I think you'd be naive not to realize a lot of NIMBYism is really a product of such attitudes. If you "burst into tears" about a new proposal but do not articulate the reason for your tears, I bet you all the money in your pockets it's because the person is ashamed of saying, explicitly, the true reason for those tears; they don't want to suffer the socia stigma of anti-BGLAD, anti-seniors, anti-single-mom, or anti-whatever they oppose...

As for the rest, I am also supportive of public housing and understand your reasoning about why you'd make it mandatory and no an option (for NIMBYism). But then, that only works if you don't ensure that entire developments are killed due to NIMBY concerns. Unfortunately, this has happened plenty in this city. Spirit Place is just one clear and obvious example.
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  #36  
Old Posted Dec 10, 2014, 5:57 PM
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Well, I have a feeling somebody who can't keep it together without bawling at a municipal planning meeting has some deeper issues. There are definitely some characters who show up to these things. I'd like to think the anti-single mother sentiment is a fringe thing.

The "I'll know it when I see it" attitude around density is problematic because people don't tend to clearly articulate what they want or what they think would be workable. There is no reasonable way for developers to make these people happy. This is my biggest complaint about Watts. Maybe I've just missed it, but she doesn't seem to have a vision for the urban core that works for anybody but current homeowners.
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  #37  
Old Posted Dec 10, 2014, 6:00 PM
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This human scale thing keeps coming up and to me is a non-starter. Human scale isn't just about the height of the building - it's about the design of the building at the street level (the street wall height, the uses at grade and how well the building blends with the street).

So you can have a 4 storey building (which some might say is human scale in terms of height) but I would argue isn't because the interface at the street and uses there are poorly designed and create blank walls or dead space. So really - why is it being discussed? My issue with the 'process' for planning applications is why even debate whether this should be evaluated at this point at all?

I'm not sure if this is the process (if I'm wrong, please advise) but as I understand it - you pay your fee and then administration does an 'initial review' and then recommends to council whether it should proceed. Council can say no and that's it - no go and I don't think applicants get their money back. That to me, seems wrong - the current process gives Council 3 'kicks' at the can to say no if that is the majority will. Initial application, 1st reading and then at public hearing. The only benefit (to council) of the ability to say no at initial application is that I don't believe it's appealable by the applicant.

To me - if you submit an application, there shouldn't be any initial application - it should just begin and be fully reviewed and go through the negotiation process. If there are complaints of how long DA's take - take this part out of the process. Council can still say no at 1st reading and at public hearing - so what is the impact of taking away the initiation report? Plus, staff resources are used more efficiently.

In terms of Watt's comments for the general area - this is an area where, to me, having any single detached dwellings is a bad idea. This should be an area where parcel consolidation is encouraged and rezoning to some level of multi occurs (particularly the houses along Woodwill and Harris). The tallest, most intense stuff should front to Agricola, with shorter as you get towards the block before Gottingen. 8 stories in terms of the existing context around there isn't out of the realm of possibility considering its all mainly 4 storey apartment buildings and older commercial/industrial uses.
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  #38  
Old Posted Dec 10, 2014, 6:23 PM
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Well, I have a feeling somebody who can't keep it together without bawling at a municipal planning meeting has some deeper issues. There are definitely some characters who show up to these things. I'd like to think the anti-single mother sentiment is a fringe thing.

The "I'll know it when I see it" attitude around density is problematic because people don't tend to clearly articulate what they want or what they think would be workable. There is no reasonable way for developers to make these people happy. This is my biggest complaint about Watts. Maybe I've just missed it, but she doesn't seem to have a vision for the urban core that works for anybody but current homeowners.
You haven't missed her vision, because she really doesn't have one. She has a re-election strategy, not a vision. She just opposes every proposed development at every stage, at all times. I think she's decided that it's a winning re-election formula and just sticks with it.

And, unfortunately, she does keep winning.

And when a councillor is so cluelessly single-minded, then they become polarizing. Such an approach polarizes more fair-minded councillors, making them angry and more "pro-development" than they would otherwise be. And the happy compromise in the middle is lost.

Watts creates the same problems that the NS Anti Development Trust causes -- they oppose every single development, and so developers do not consult with them, or try to work out a compromise. They know that any such efforts will be useless. And so, developers are polarized against the Trust and also heritage issues more generally, and so a proper compromise is lost. It's more productive to sue and humiliate the Trust, because you cannot work with them. They will sue you and oppose you no matter what steps you take to preserve heritage.
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  #39  
Old Posted Dec 10, 2014, 6:27 PM
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As for the rest, I am also supportive of public housing and understand your reasoning about why you'd make it mandatory and no an option (for NIMBYism). But then, that only works if you don't ensure that entire developments are killed due to NIMBY concerns. Unfortunately, this has happened plenty in this city. Spirit Place is just one clear and obvious example.
I'm pretty sure the point of Centre Plan is that projects that meet the criteria (and are within the designated corridors) get approved more or less automatically. Similar principle to the HRMbD (CP is technically just another phase of HRMbD).

That being said, Windsor Street is not one of the corridors that the original Centre Plan was looking at. I think the goal is to have the to-be-adopted version be more comprehensive and cover the whole core region, but one of the underlying principles is that intensification will be greatly facilitated on some streets but strongly discouraged on most.
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Old Posted Dec 10, 2014, 6:28 PM
Colin May Colin May is offline
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So council ok'd this to move forward, but there was some discussion about whether or not there should be a neighbourhood-specific set of planning rules. I didn't pay attention to council yesterday, but my second-hand gleanings are:

Watts, it seems, felt it was too big, and wanted to slow things down and look at instituting a set of design standards specifically for this area. I’m not sure why that would be desirable, since this area will soon be covered under the centre plan.

The Karsten and other councillors went on the offensive and the other extreme, saying that context is unimportant and saying “yes” to development is.

I wouldn’t agree with either of those perspectives (context is always important, but I think this project fits great in its context).

If anyone listened to the council stream or has any insight into this, I’d be curious to know any more, especially about Watts’ rationale for a local set of planning rules, or why some councillors deemed the project too dense. (I know a lot of people would dogpile on that notion, but six storeys on a residential side street IS quite significant, and would be considered pretty big in any city in the country. I've got no problem with it though.)
She was asking for a delay whilst the centre plan is put together and citizens ahve a chance to help decide what a neighbourhood looks like.
Such a project would be met with a resounding NO in Toronto and a resounding YES if on a main thoroughfare.
Too many of the councillors are of a mind to approve anything - and they live in an R-1 zone. They are adherents of "Build it and they will come. More development means more taxes. Just build anything, except where I live"
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