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  #301  
Old Posted Mar 9, 2012, 4:51 PM
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Originally Posted by RyeJay View Post

If United Gulf wanted to modify the Twisted Sisters to better meet the demands of today's market, that would have been very easy to do within the current rules.
I don't think this is necessarily true. A major theme of the Skye proposal has been affordability. If Skye were reduced to 27 storeys (the height of the original proposal) I am not convinced that they would be able to offer the same number of units, or that the units would not be more expensive. Offering 300 units @ $400,000 each is NOT the same as offering 600 units at $200,000 each. That the increased height would actually result in better affordability is by no means guaranteed, but it certainly, in theory, would support it.
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  #302  
Old Posted Mar 9, 2012, 6:32 PM
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I don't think this is necessarily true. A major theme of the Skye proposal has been affordability. If Skye were reduced to 27 storeys (the height of the original proposal) I am not convinced that they would be able to offer the same number of units, or that the units would not be more expensive. Offering 300 units @ $400,000 each is NOT the same as offering 600 units at $200,000 each. That the increased height would actually result in better affordability is by no means guaranteed, but it certainly, in theory, would support it.
The developer obviously has a lot of fixed costs that remain the same regardless of how many units are built. There are land purchasing costs, carrying costs, legal fees, and development fees. There are probably a lot of construction costs that don't increase proportionally as the number of units goes up (very tall buildings become more expensive to build -- I don't know what the cutoff is for that).

I believe the land cost on the order of $5,000,000. If they were to do with the original ~250 units, that would be $20,000 per unit added simply for land. If the HBD version were built, they would have to carve off 1/4 of the building and the costs would rise to perhaps $28,000. If 600 units are built, the average cost per unit would be around $8300.

When you're talking about units in the $200,000 range, that is a lot of cash, and that is a conservative estimate.
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  #303  
Old Posted Mar 9, 2012, 7:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Keith P. View Post
As for MacKinnon's comments, they are not against the proposal as much as they are a defense of HRMbD, which he was an early supporter of despite its flawed premise. HRMbD was a "better than nothing" policy, but it is already out of date thanks to the boom in Halifax and should not be slavishly followed. That is hard for planning geeks to accept, but it is reality.
To be honest I also thought it was a pretty poorly-argued piece that is inconsistent with a lot of other things the HDBC has said in the past.

Fundamentally the reasons why there was little office construction downtown for a long time are:

1) The office market was overbuilt in the 80's and there was a recession in the 90's. Very few office towers were built anywhere in Canada during the 1990's and even early in the last decade.

2) The downtown is not very competitive with the suburbs because of slower development times and higher costs.

Reason (2) is not going to be helped by adding red tape, and regardless of what happens with Skye developers can still go for the quicker HbD process.

Even more fundamentally, the whole argument that developers are responsible for the empty lots downtown because they were holding out to cash in is really shaky. Governments own or are responsible for most of the empty lots. The waterfront is all public. Nova Centre is a public project. Barrington and George is public. The Clyde Street and former infirmary area is all publicly-owned. For the other sites, we have seen a pretty constant stream of proposals.
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  #304  
Old Posted Mar 9, 2012, 8:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Hali87 View Post
I don't think this is necessarily true. A major theme of the Skye proposal has been affordability. If Skye were reduced to 27 storeys (the height of the original proposal) I am not convinced that they would be able to offer the same number of units, or that the units would not be more expensive. Offering 300 units @ $400,000 each is NOT the same as offering 600 units at $200,000 each. That the increased height would actually result in better affordability is by no means guaranteed, but it certainly, in theory, would support it.
The Twisted Sisters were approved after United Gulf spends years fighting for support. The market by then had shifted; costs had risen, as they are still rising. Instead of remaining 27 storeys and closing the gap between the two towers to build a single tower with a width similar to the Maritime Centre and therefore making FULL USE of the proposal's available envelop, United Gulf has proposed Skye: which is clearly going to be a process requiring much more time than what would be required for the approval of a simpler tweaking to the Twisted Sisters. Considering the existing Maritime Centre and the approved Nova Centre both fit this profile, the developer knows a modified Twister 'Sister' would have easily been accepted by council.

After so many people fought and supported United Gulf for the Twisted Sisters, it's certainly a piss-off.
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  #305  
Old Posted Mar 9, 2012, 8:38 PM
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Originally Posted by RyeJay View Post
Instead of remaining 27 storeys and closing the gap between the two towers to build a single tower with a width similar to the Maritime Centre and therefore making FULL USE of the proposal's available envelop, United Gulf has proposed Skye: which is clearly going to be a process requiring much more time than what would be required for the approval of a simpler tweaking to the Twisted Sisters.
Huh? An alternative would be one massive 27 storey tower instead of two slender towers? I'm not sure it would be much easier to get that approved, and aren't you against shadows being cast on the waterfront? I don't think that would be a better proposal than Skye.
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  #306  
Old Posted Mar 9, 2012, 9:00 PM
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Huh? An alternative would be one massive 27 storey tower instead of two slender towers? I'm not sure it would be much easier to get that approved, and aren't you against shadows being cast on the waterfront? I don't think that would be a better proposal than Skye.
48 storeys, and the removal of the rampart by-laws for future developments, would potentially cast a more extensive shadow than a wide building of 27 storeys. I'm not concerned about sunlight for Lower Water Street.
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  #307  
Old Posted Mar 9, 2012, 9:52 PM
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48 storeys, and the removal of the rampart by-laws for future developments, would potentially cast a more extensive shadow than a wide building of 27 storeys. I'm not concerned about sunlight for Lower Water Street.
How do you know where the shadows will be cast at various times of the year? You appear to be speculating a lot, not just about Skye's shadowing effects but about the possibility of other buildings nearby.

Even if they toss out the ramparts bylaw there will still be viewplanes. There's a big viewplane running from the Skye site to the Maritime Centre, so tall buildings cannot be built in that area regardless of whether or not Skye is approved. There's another big viewplane running next to the TD building. You are wrong to suggest that the ramparts bylaw is somehow necessary to save the downtown area from a wall of buildings. The ramparts bylaw is basically useless in that regard because it does nothing to prevent, say, a giant row of Purdy's Wharf-style towers running all the way down the waterfront.

As for the shadow stuff, how about you wait until there is actual concrete data available?
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  #308  
Old Posted Mar 9, 2012, 10:49 PM
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Originally Posted by RyeJay View Post
The Twisted Sisters were approved after United Gulf spends years fighting for support. The market by then had shifted; costs had risen, as they are still rising. Instead of remaining 27 storeys and closing the gap between the two towers to build a single tower with a width similar to the Maritime Centre and therefore making FULL USE of the proposal's available envelop, United Gulf has proposed Skye: which is clearly going to be a process requiring much more time than what would be required for the approval of a simpler tweaking to the Twisted Sisters. Considering the existing Maritime Centre and the approved Nova Centre both fit this profile, the developer knows a modified Twister 'Sister' would have easily been accepted by council.

After so many people fought and supported United Gulf for the Twisted Sisters, it's certainly a piss-off.
Turning the original proposal into a single tower would have negated its architectural concept, and would likely have changed its properties in terms of wind and shadow generation. It wouldn't be making the most of the available building envelope, it would completely redefine the building envelope. Because shadow studies
Have not yet been released for Skye, I won't speculate on how it would affect the boardwalk. However, I doubt that many people would support another building with similar dimensions to the maritime centre. Mc is frequently held up as an example of why we should not allow highrises downtown. In fact, most of the ones that people complain about a lot - mc, scotia square, fenwick - are all slab-shaped. You don't hear many complaints about purdys wharf or 1801 Hollis, for example. I think the last thing downtown needs is another giant slab, and I think two narrow towers would ultimately have fewer negative effects than one shorter but much wider one. I am not overly concerned about shade on the waterfront - the times of year when it is used the most, people are generally trying to get OUT of the heat and the glaring sunlight. If I'm wrong, maybe if the ramparts bylaw is removed it could be replaced with a sunlit boardwalk bylaw
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  #309  
Old Posted Mar 9, 2012, 10:56 PM
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When you're talking about units in the $200,000 range, that is a lot of cash, and that is a conservative estimate.
tbh I have no idea how much the units are projected to cost. I just picked two numbers within the range of home prices to illustrate my point. I think we agree on the fundamental argument.
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  #310  
Old Posted Mar 9, 2012, 11:14 PM
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How do you know where the shadows will be cast at various times of the year? You appear to be speculating a lot, not just about Skye's shadowing effects but about the possibility of other buildings nearby.

Even if they toss out the ramparts bylaw there will still be viewplanes. There's a big viewplane running from the Skye site to the Maritime Centre, so tall buildings cannot be built in that area regardless of whether or not Skye is approved. There's another big viewplane running next to the TD building. You are wrong to suggest that the ramparts bylaw is somehow necessary to save the downtown area from a wall of buildings. The ramparts bylaw is basically useless in that regard because it does nothing to prevent, say, a giant row of Purdy's Wharf-style towers running all the way down the waterfront.

As for the shadow stuff, how about you wait until there is actual concrete data available?
I do not at all need concrete data to surmise about the 'shadow stuff'.

Anyone who has visited the waterfront during the late afternoon has the ability to become aware of the shadow casted by the Maritime Centre, so I am simply speculating based on this. Pondering development possibilities is what mostly takes place in forum discussion, you have to admit. This is not a bad thing. The developer is unlikely to provide this concrete data anytime soon, if at all.

Given how long I've been reading comments on this forum, and what I've read on municipal websites...yes, I am aware of the numerous viewplanes. I have read HRMbyDesign documents. The removal of the rampart by-laws, I've implied, would have an enormous effect on the continued support of the viewplanes. The reality may be that this is not be the case, but given the push for height in Halifax and that the viewplanes are more restrictive than the rampart heights, I suspect they'd all be discontinued eventually.
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  #311  
Old Posted Mar 10, 2012, 10:39 PM
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Originally Posted by RyeJay View Post
I do not at all need concrete data to surmise about the 'shadow stuff'.
The shadows aren't a matter of opinion though. If Skye gets far enough there will be shadow studies and they will show where shadows will be cast at different times of the year. Until a simulation is done you can't be sure which building arrangements will be best overall -- it's possible that the slender 48 storey towers will actually be better than the wider 27 storey buildings proposed originally.

By issuing a pronouncement about this now before having the facts you sound like Gloria McCluskey, who "knew" that the original United Gulf towers would result in people getting blown over as she claims happens to her by the Maritime Centre. The actual wind study results did not support her inexpert opinions.
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  #312  
Old Posted Mar 10, 2012, 11:34 PM
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The shadows aren't a matter of opinion though. If Skye gets far enough there will be shadow studies and they will show where shadows will be cast at different times of the year. Until a simulation is done you can't be sure which building arrangements will be best overall -- it's possible that the slender 48 storey towers will actually be better than the wider 27 storey buildings proposed originally.

By issuing a pronouncement about this now before having the facts you like Gloria McCluskey, who "knew" that the original United Gulf towers would result in people getting blown over as she claims happens to her by the Maritime Centre. The actual wind study results did not support her inexpert opinions.
Great points!
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  #313  
Old Posted Mar 11, 2012, 12:25 AM
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The shadows aren't a matter of opinion though. If Skye gets far enough there will be shadow studies and they will show where shadows will be cast at different times of the year. Until a simulation is done you can't be sure which building arrangements will be best overall -- it's possible that the slender 48 storey towers will actually be better than the wider 27 storey buildings proposed originally.

By issuing a pronouncement about this now before having the facts you sound like Gloria McCluskey, who "knew" that the original United Gulf towers would result in people getting blown over as she claims happens to her by the Maritime Centre. The actual wind study results did not support her inexpert opinions.
Show one instance where I say I "know" absolutely what shadows will be cast.

Opinions are welcome, especially in the absence of raw data. No one on this forum should be apologetic for speculating -- unless you wish to be the first. We aren't the Times&Transcript in Moncton; we are obviously waiting for the shadow studies. Until then, we can imagine.

I have never issued a pronouncement to council before. This is an internet forum...
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  #314  
Old Posted Mar 11, 2012, 4:19 AM
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I read through the HRM_by_Design guide focusing on the sections that refer to the Central Blocks where the TexPark site is located - reference http://www.halifax.ca/capitaldistric...signManual.pdf )

These are some of the sections in particular that refer to the United Gulf site:
Quote:
High-Rise Buildings

(7) Any portion of a high-rise building above a height of 33.5 metres shall be setback 11.5 metres from interior lot lines. (Comment: there is only one interior lot line, which is next to the MetroPark, all other sides are streetsides)
(8) Any portion of a high-rise building above a height of 33.5 metres shall be separated a minimum of 17 metres between the high-rise portion of other buildings or the same building on the same lot, where one of the high-rise buildings is used for commercial purposes.
(9) Any portion of a high-rise building above a height of 33.5 metres shall be a minimum of 23 metres between the high-rise portion of other buildings or the same building on the same lot, where both of the high-rise buildings are used for residential purposes.
(10) Any portion of a building above a height of 33.5 metres shall be a maximum width of 38 metres and a maximum depth of 38 metres.
(11) Notwithstanding subsection (10) any portion of a building above a height of 33.5 metres located in the Central Blocks, as identified on Map 8, shall be a maximum width of 38 metres and a maximum depth of 27.5 metres.
Based on the information, I did a simple SketchUp 3D drawing based on what would be allowed by HRM_by_Design; assuming that United Gulf would be allowed to build to the maximum post-bonus height (66 meters).

Since there must be 23 meters separation between the residential towers built higher than 33.5 meters, also, there must be 11 meters separation between the MetroPark for over 33.5 meters tower height, and there must be a 4.5 meter setback from streetline above 33.5 meters tower height, I was able to determine the approximate allowable tower dimensions; I got towers that are approximately 28 meters by 27 meters each (which is under the maximum 38 meters by 27.5 meters allowed).

The sketch is not intended to look good (and it doesn't ), but it gives an idea of what would be permitted dimensionally under HRM_by_Design (if I understood the manual correctly, and that is a big "if").

I drew some lines on the top of one tower to give an indication of the number of good-sized apartments per floor (about 8 apartments with elevators and stairways in the middle). There would be about 18 floors x 8 apt/floor x 2 towers = 288 units; each being about 90 square meters, which are fairly large apartments): it would also have two levels of commercial space. If it were permitted to go to ramparts-maximum then it would be about an extra 8 - 9 floors per tower and almost 50% more units which would be over 400 units. Taller, more slender towers would allow more window space per unit.

(source: my 3D sketch using SketchUp, however, the Maritime Aliant Centre is a model that I downloaded from Google Sketchup and was drawn by AJacks1212).


The podium could be larger (no separation between buildings and no gap between the MetroPark for floors under 33.5 meters, but it wouldn't be a very practical apartment building layout (having larger areas and fewer windows), although it would be good be office space). The old Twisted towers design, which was approved, would provide more space and better apartment layouts than what would be allowed under HRM_by_Design. This exercise (i.e. my ugly 3D drawing) makes me wonder why United Gulf doesn't just proceed with the Twisted Sisters design, which would have been a good design for the number of apartments with windows; could it be that the twisted design would have added too much cost per unit?

Last edited by fenwick16; Mar 11, 2012 at 2:24 PM.
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  #315  
Old Posted Mar 11, 2012, 3:19 PM
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If it were permitted to go to ramparts-maximum then it would be about an extra 8 - 9 floors per tower and almost 50% more units which would be over 400 units. Taller, more slender towers would allow more window space per unit.

(...)This exercise (i.e. my ugly 3D drawing) makes me wonder why United Gulf doesn't just proceed with the Twisted Sisters design, which would have been a good design for the number of apartments with windows; could it be that the twisted design would have added too much cost per unit?
8 or 9 floors makes a serious difference. And hopefully the pursuit of more window space per unit is not at the core of United Gulf's endeavour to build Skye.

Thank you for sharing your drawing Fenwick. You're more enthusiastic than the developer

If cost per unit in the Twisted Sisters' design was too much, were they seriously expecting to be able to lower the costs significantly after waiting for a drawn-out approval process for Skye that may not even happen? There is certainly not a stagnation in costs for building materials and labour.

Last edited by RyeJay; Mar 11, 2012 at 5:15 PM.
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  #316  
Old Posted Mar 11, 2012, 4:34 PM
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Thanks for your comments RyeJay.

Having more window area per unit is probably considered to be a positive for many people, including myself (however, energy-wise, minimizing the outer, exposed surface area would save on heating costs - at least during the winter, and it might also save on air-conditioning bills during the summer).

I quickly checked some condo tower images on the internet to find something that would fit the TexPark site and probably meet the HRM_by_Design Bylaws; I found this Vista development that was recently built in North Vancouver - http://intracorp.ca/projects/vancouv...eted-projects/

here is the Google Maps link - http://maps.google.ca/maps?q=north+v...,,0,-8.65&z=18

I pasted it on the Google map for TexPark (outlined in red) and it seems to fit quite well:


Personally, I wish United Gulf would sell this land to someone who will build a project in the near future. If lower unit cost is the goal then I think something more traditional like the Vista development should be considered. Maybe the ramparts maximum could even be allowed, as it was before, and then the towers could be higher than the Vista. (the Vista appears to be approximately HRM_by_Design post-bonus height of 66 meters, whereas ramparts maximum would be about 90 meters).

Last edited by fenwick16; Mar 11, 2012 at 4:46 PM. Reason: added link to North Vancouver map
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  #317  
Old Posted Mar 11, 2012, 8:04 PM
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Personally, I wish United Gulf would sell this land to someone who will build a project in the near future. If lower unit cost is the goal then I think something more traditional like the Vista development should be considered. Maybe the ramparts maximum could even be allowed, as it was before, and then the towers could be higher than the Vista. (the Vista appears to be approximately HRM_by_Design post-bonus height of 66 meters, whereas ramparts maximum would be about 90 meters).
The ramparts maximum would most likely be allowed. The Twisted Sisters were approved before, and there is clearly support for Skye now. If United Gulf were to resubmit its previous proposal, or something like it, then this would mean a much quicker conclusion to this process and then something could actually happen for this site.

I feel there is a great deal of pessimism in the minds of Haligonians aware of this case toward the developer's likelihood of selling the lot.
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  #318  
Old Posted Mar 11, 2012, 8:14 PM
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Yeah, I don't think we will be seeing 48 storey buildings at this location, and personally I'd prefer they just build something sooner rather than later, whether it is 20 storeys or 27 storeys.
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  #319  
Old Posted Mar 11, 2012, 10:40 PM
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Height in Halifax

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THE TWIN, kinked, 48-storey condo towers that United Gulf Developments is proposing to build on downtown Halifax’s Granville Street are supposed to evoke Scottish heritage, urban progress and a pair of sails bending "toward the horizon."

They’re eye-catching designs, though where one poet may see billowing canvas, another may see a giant pair of bent legs (perhaps a nostalgic nod to the wearing of the kilt).

However fuzzy it may be on the metaphorical side, the Skye Halifax project is clearly a kink in the city’s much-praised overhaul of downtown development rules and its promise of predictability for investors.

Halifax by Design (HBD) is intended to spur downtown building by creating a framework of lower investment risk. Gone is the old gamble of having to negotiate everything higher than four storeys and then face lengthy appeals to the utility board and the courts.

HBD sets out more realistic basic heights for an urban core and then provides a process to earn "bonus" storeys by adding social benefits like heritage preservation, affordable housing, public space or cultural amenities.

It’s a process developers seem prepared to live with if it is applied equally to all. Projects have started to pick up since HBD came into force.

Two longstanding height rules are still in place. Viewplanes protect the views from the Citadel to the harbour in defined corridors. The rampart rule does not allow buildings to be visible from within the fort’s walls. These still allow for 11 million square feet of new downtown development and roughly 25 storeys on land outside the viewplanes.

But city council’s surprise decision to consider Skye Halifax, against the advice of planning staff, throws predictability out the window. The Skye site is outside the viewplanes, which is why United Gulf got earlier approval for 23-storey towers that were never built. But the taller, skinnier Skye towers — aimed at a market for smaller, light-filled units — would break the ban on peeking over the Citadel ramparts.

United Gulf is not offering any extraordinary public benefits that would justify its request to create a unique zone for this site, allowing 48 storeys by right, with no appeal.

It’s true the extra height of the $350-million project would yield higher taxes and allow more condos at a lower unit cost, which might enable more young homeowners to live downtown. But those are benefits that could come with allowing any building to be bigger on any site.

Arguably, bending the rules to allow Skye to grab a larger share of the young condo market will reduce opportunities for other sites that don’t get rule changes. Indeed, if council buys United Gulf’s argument that the rampart rule "prevents any modern, affordable, flexible multiple residential projects," the city will have to change that rule for everyone. It can’t tell other developers they must build unaffordable housing the market doesn’t want.


It’s this prospect of a free-for-all of amendment requests that has prompted both planning staff and the pro-development Downtown Halifax Business Commission to oppose the Skye amendment. DHBC director Paul MacKinnon says the outcome of such uncertainty will be downtown stagnation, not a boom.

Haligonians may not feel as strongly about the rampart rule as they do about the viewplanes. It’s not unreasonable to ask them.

But it’s nonsense to think the rule can be tossed for one project only, or that councillors can go back to picking projects they like or don’t like, by the seat of their pants, without damaging the city’s investment climate or the appearance of a credible, fair process.

By those tests, the case for granting Skye’s amendment has not been made.
I added emphasis to two paragraphs that I think are particularly important here.
Quote:
It’s true the extra height of the $350-million project would yield higher taxes and allow more condos at a lower unit cost, which might enable more young homeowners to live downtown. But those are benefits that could come with allowing any building to be bigger on any site.
Why aren't these "benefits" considered as important as height? Why are affordability and availability of housing units considered bonus features that may appear in some developments, rather than making these things a priority for all developments?

Quote:
It can’t tell other developers they must build unaffordable housing the market doesn’t want.
Why is it ok to do this to all developers, which is implicitly what we're doing now?
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  #320  
Old Posted Mar 11, 2012, 11:20 PM
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Besides those flaws you pointed out, it's simply wrong to state that this one exception will cause everything to fall apart and revert to the old process where regional council voted on everything. The HbD process remains available to all developers and if they can make their developments work within that framework they can take advantage of the quicker and more predictable approval process. For other developers it is only fair that they have some sort of recourse. The idea that height limits are being forced on developers for their own good is ridiculous but not surprising.

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Why is it ok to do this to all developers, which is implicitly what we're doing now?
Many people in Halifax have an overly paternalistic view of the government as an institution that basically runs the whole show and must grant permission for just about anything. They believe that just about any private action should be subject to public approval. Add to that an odd sense that developers and profit are a little bit sketchy morally and you get the classic passive-aggressive "why should we let you build here?" attitude.
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