I don't usually post opinions from the newspaper but this is an exception because its by Peter Kelly:
HRMbyDesign: striking a balance in the downtown
By PETER KELLY
Sat. Nov 29 - 5:36 AM
Mayor Peter Kelly (Contributed)
It’s been a long time coming. Some might argue too long. But this week, the provincial government cleared the way for Halifax regional council to adopt HRMbyDesign – a much discussed and debated plan that will allow our municipality to find the right balance between new growth and development and protection of our cherished heritage buildings.
Put simply, HRMbyDesign will make the development approval process clearer, quicker and more consistent. It will also ensure our heritage buildings are protected and maintained for future generations. Height restrictions and design requirements will be unambiguous. A citizen-based design review committee will make final development decisions. The plan will also reduce the number of costly and time-consuming appeals to the Utility and Review Board. But the reasons we need HRMbyDesign go deeper.
Our cities are the engines that drive our economies. For this reason, our cities need to grow. We need to attract more people and we need to keep those already living and working here. To do this, we need buildings that meet the needs of those who will live and work in them. They must be built to respect the environment and the values of our citizens.
Downtown Halifax is the economic, social and cultural centre of our region. Its health and prosperity are directly linked to the health and prosperity of our province. For the capital region to move forward and continue to be a place where our children and their children will want to spend their lives, we need to ensure that HRMbyDesign is embraced.
Smart growth – balanced growth – will mean we can afford the sports and recreation our children deserve, the public spaces our citizens want to enjoy, the sports, arts and cultural facilities that entertain us and brighten our lives.
HRMbyDesign will help us grow in a balanced and strategic way. It is a living plan that will mean we draw more visitors and tourists to our historic downtown and make it an even more attractive place to live and work.
We know the public supports HRMbyDesign. Poll after poll has shown overwhelming support for the plan and its objectives. A recent web-based survey conducted by Zoomerang Online revealed that 80 per cent of those polled support the adoption of a more transparent and streamlined development process as proposed by HRMbyDesign.
Is HRMbyDesign perfect? Few things are perfect. But it is the right solution and the best way forward for our municipality. Striking the right balance between new development and heritage preservation will always require public input and a clearly defined and fair set of rules. HRMbyDesign will accomplish this – and it will address the frustrations and uncertainties that have at times made some of our most publicly spirited citizens appear polarized into winner-takes-all positions.
After all, who is really against the positive growth of HRM? Who is really against preserving our priceless architectural heritage? We need both of these things for HRM to continue to be the best place to live, work and play in our country.
HRMbyDesign will come before Halifax regional council in early 2009 and then people will have another chance to provide their input at a public hearing before it will be made law. I urge everyone to find out more about HRMbyDesign at www.hrmbydesign.ca
and to support it.
For the Halifax Regional Municipality, this is an opportunity to achieve the balance we need – balance between growth and development and protection of our heritage – and an opportunity to continue to build our municipality into a healthy, vibrant and sustainable community.