In Halifax Regional Municipality, what one can build on a property – and how much one can build – are normally limited by HRM’s Municipal Planning Strategy (MPS) and Land Use By-laws (LUB). These documents were intended to guide a rational planning process for the city. They were developed through extensive public consultation and approved by our elected representatives. By establishing limits based on a shared view of “the public good,” these documents should minimize individual negotiations with private interests. Nova Scotia’s Municipal Government Act grants HRM Council the power, under certain conditions, to suspend elements of the MPS and LUB when exceptional circumstances of need or opportunity arise. Used with care and when appropriate, a Development Agreement and its process of negotiation and public consultation can be a positive planning tool.
However, we are concerned that Development Agreement applications increasingly are being accepted and negotiated without requiring a demonstration that “circumstances have changed” and without expecting an extraordinary “public good” to balance a proposal to exceed a particular limit. The large number of incomplete applications, public meetings, and arbitrary decisions are eroding public confidence in HRM’s planning process. Without the MPS and LUB providing a fixed reference, our planners, developers, and communities have no criteria for negotiating Development Agreement applications or making decisions.
Residents in the centre of the city have been told that a Centre Plan will establish a new set of regulations, but is at least 18 months away. In the meantime, many developments that do not abide by the MPS and LUB are being approved. This is of great concern to us. We question why HRM is not enforcing the by-laws and policies that are currently in place.
Residents in other parts of HRM do not have the promise of a new Centre Plan to guide development in their areas. All they have are the MPS and LUB. These residents, like the ones in the city centre, are losing faith in the planning process due to the frequent by-law amendments following applications by private interests.
Throughout HRM, residents are increasingly concerned by this misuse of the Development Agreement process. Therefore, we respectfully request Mayor Savage and the Members of HRM Council to take the following actions:
- immediately suspend all current Development Agreement negotiations that would not be permitted by the existing Municipal Planning Strategy and Land Use By-laws
- apply the existing MPS and LUB regulations to any new development applications until they are replaced by a new set of regulations
Coalition for Responsible Development in HRM
which includes these residents’ groups:
- Bloomfield Neighbourhood Residents Association
- Coalition for Safer and Healthy Communities of Preston, Mineville, Lake Echo and Porters Lake
- Ecology Action Centre: Built Environment Committee
- Friends of the Halifax Common
- Friends of Linden Lea
- Friends of Schmidtville
- Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia
- North End Community Health Centre
- Our Chebucto Neighbourhood
- Park to Park Community Association
- Peninsula South Community Association
- Rockwood Community Association
- Willow Tree Group
- Wyse Society for Sensible Urban Development