HRM awaits planning change
By AMY PUGSLEY FRASER City Hall Reporter
Mon. Jun 16 - 4:31 AM
The province "sideswiped" Halifax by failing to pass key legislation relating to HRM by Design during the spring session, a regional councillor says.
Four amendments central to HRM by Design, an effort to streamline development projects in downtown Halifax, were meant to be passed during the spring sitting of the legislature but the House closed last week without the amendments going through.
"This has been a two-year process and the largest public process in HRM’s history," Coun. Sue Uteck (Northwest Arm-South End) said Thursday in an interview after the annual general meeting of the Downtown Halifax Business Commission.
"We were quite sideswiped by the province."
Premier Rodney MacDonald has said repeatedly that downtown Halifax needs help, she pointed out, and yet the province failed to pass the legislation.
The executive director of the business commission said he, too, laments the shelving of the four amendments.
In an address to about 60 people at the Carleton bar, Paul MacKinnon said the commission was pushing for solutions to the problems downtown developers experience.
"For too many years, downtown Halifax has been caught in a morass of development red tape," he said. "New developments were stalled or appealed, and heritage buildings were rotting from lack of investment.
"This situation is untenable."
HRM by Design will bring clarity for developers wanting to build in the downtown and introduce better design guidelines, Mr. MacKinnon said.
The amendments were to include giving the city control over things like building design, creating a design review committee to look at applications instead of regional council doing it, making council — not the Utility and Review Board —an appeal body for development proposals, and deleting the review board from the downtown Halifax planning process.
As well, there were provisions to increase the length of time it takes to get a demolition permit to two years from one.
Mr. MacKinnon urged commission members to put pressure on all three political parties over the summer "to really take seriously their responsibility for allowing Halifax to move forward," he said.
"I just don’t think they understood the magnitude of what they didn’t do in the spring session, and we’re going to make sure they do in the fall session."
The HRM by Design project manager said he’s not worried about the delay.
"The deferral in no way undermines the intent, or the content, of the plan," Andy Fillmore said Thursday.
The communications director for Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations said Thursday it’s likely the amendments will proceed as planned in the fall.