The Facts

Posted September 20, 2009

Read the facts to learn why the Coalition Save the View from Citadel Hill believes "HRMbyDesign" needs to be amended to include height restrictions that honour Halifax's natural and heritage assets, to make the very best use of taxpayers' money, to be inclusive of meaningful citizen participation and to include environmental considerations.

 

> Smart Business includes Heritage, Tourism and the Cultural Economy

Fact I:

If and only if any level of government provides even one penny of funding, either capital funding or a lease, then the developer gets to double the height of the towers from 7 and 9 storeys to 14 and 18 storeys. The public, the Design Review Committee, and Council do not have the power to deny a development permit for the proposed towers.  The 18 storey hotel would rise straight up from the side walk across the street from popular cafes such as The Economy Shoe Shop.

Fact II:

The present World Trade and Convention Centre, a Nova Scotia Crown Corporation, lost $2,150,467 in the 2007-08 fiscal year, and led to the lay-offs of vice-presidents and the CEO. There is no evidence that, in a time of economic downturn, the province needs to be competing with itself by building another Convention Centre when the one it owns is not doing very well.

Fact III:

The Citadel is a National Historic Site and the view from Citadel Hill is extremely important to the economy of HRM. 800,000 persons visit Citadel Hill annually. Of these, 84% enjoy the view from the roadway without entering the fortress. The Citadel has been estimated to have a $50,000,000 annual economic benefit to HRM. According to the provincial exit survey in 2004, eight times as many visitors to HRM from outside Nova Scotia visit national and provincial historic sites as attend conventions and conferences.  The 14 & 18 storey towers would be 2 or 3 blocks from the Citadel, would be taller than Citadel Hill and would block the central view of Halifax Harbour and George’s Island from the roadway on Citadel Hill.  For comparison, the proposed towers would block four times as much view as the Aliant building.

Fact IV:

There is an abundance of office space in Halifax. A June 2009 market survey by Turner Drake shows that our economy does not warrant construction of new space. When vacancy rates are increasing as they are now, it does not make sense for the Province to support the construction of additional, high priced space as part of a new convention centre.

Fact V:

There has been no public discusion about the need for these two towers, particularly when there is 1,000,000 square feet of vacant land in the downtown nor is there any evidence that other models for a convention centre are not better than the proposed plan.

 

Fact VI:

As this is written, Halifax has a view protection system with three types of
protections:
First there are ten triangular viewplanes, adopted in 1974, which protect view corridors for people standing at specific spots on Citadel Hill. The convention centre towers would fill the space between two viewplanes, which are narrow near Citadel Hill.
Secondly, policies, adopted in 1978, protect the view between view planes. Policy 6.2 says, ãThe City shall continue to make very effort to preserve or restore · views from Citadel Hill ·ä City Council and the provincial review board in 1984 rejected two towers between viewplanes based on this policy.
Thirdly, more policies, adopted in 1985, protect the vicinity of Citadel Hill, to guard against walling off the view between viewplanes. For example, Policy 6.3 says, "The City shall maintain or recreate a sensitive and complimentary setting for Citadel Hill by controlling the height of new development in its vicinity to reflect the historic and traditional scale of development." Based on these policies and Policy 6.2, HRM staff, the provincial review board and the Court of Appeal rejected the Midtown Tower, on the very site of one of the towers proposed today. The Midtown Tower was narrower and lower than the convention centre towers.

HRMbyDesign will establish height limits on a block-by-block basis. The height limit on the convention centre blocks would be 92 feet. However, a notwithstanding clause would allow this height to be doubled only if a government funds a convention centre on the blocks.

re: SMART BUSINESS - Save The View recommends these amendments to HRMbyDesign

 

> Citizen Participation

Fact I

Unless you write the Premier, you will have no voice in the process for deciding if the 14 and 18 storey buildings and convention centre blocking the view from Citadel Hill are built. Public money is being requested from the federal and provincial governments. HRM Council may commit public money for these buildings without any public participation.  Council has been having in camera, not public, discussions about the buildings.

Fact II

Images of these towers were not included in the HRM staff presentation at the public hearing. This omission was corrected for the Mayor and Council, but this was after the public hearing. The public should have been fully informed about the effect these buildings will have on the view from the Citadel before the hearing.

Fact III

The HRMbyDesign public hearing in May provided significant well-researched information and raised significant well-researched concerns about increasing heights, blocking the view from the Citadel and the lack of completed functional plans for energy, transportation, sustainability and housing affordability. However, HRM Council approved HRMbyDesign with few significant changes.

Fact IV

Citizen engagement has not curtailed development in downtown Halifax, nor created a shortage of new construction, nor driven away potential developers.  A report prepared by John Heseltine, a local planner, for the Atlantic Planners Institute found that, between 2002 and 2006, Nova Scotia had the fewest appeals per capita and the fewest appeals per dollar of building investment in Canada.  It also had one of the strictest limits on who can appeal a planning decision.

Fact V

In February 2008 an HRM staff report on planning times noted two things dragging out planning applications; a lack of planning staff and the fact that developers were not prepared when starting planning applications.  By December 8, 2008, staff reported to Council that five more planners had been hired, staff had become stricter with developers requiring more preparation and staff were outperforming Council-set goals for planning application times in 5 out of 6 areas.

Fact VI

The Design Review Committee established under HRMbyDesign will be the only design committee in any province in Canada that makes decisions, rather than simply advises.  This non-elected Committee reduces citizen participation and takes over Council’s decision-making powers with regard to development approvals.

Fact VII

The Design Review Committee will be made up of 4 architects, 2 landscape architects, one city planner or urban designer, one structural engineer, and one professional at large from these disciplines.  Three citizen members at large do not replace a public process for participation.

Fact VIII

A developer is able to appeal the refusal of a development application to the provincial Utility and Review Board, but no one can appeal the granting of a development approval.

Fact IX

Nova Scotia just celebrated 250 years of democracy.  HRM is developing a Community Engagement Strategy that says “Citizen participation is recognized as an asset and is valued and encouraged.”  HRMbyDesign, by excluding citizen opportunity for participation in what gets built in the downtown we all share, deprives us of our democratic rights and creates an underclass of citizens.

re: CITIZEN PARTICIPATION - Save The View recommends these amendments to HRMbyDesign

 

> Sustainability Requires Green Policies

Fact I

The Downtown Halifax Secondary Municipal Planning Strategy (DHSMPS) states:  “At the building scale, a sustainable city is one that promotes sustainable building design to reduce resource and energy consumption. And finally, a sustainable city is one that recognizes that to be truly sustainable at any scale, development must meet the test and principles of the triple bottom line: socially and culturally sustainable, economically sustainable and environmentally sustainable.” Unfortunately the proposed towers do not meet the triple bottom line for sustainability.

Fact II

Nova Scotia has 1/33rd of Canada’s population but is one of Canada’s top five emitters of greenhouse gases, with Halifax contributing 30% of Nova Scotia’s emissions. Climate change already affects Nova Scotia with increased extreme weather events such as hurricanes, storm surges, floods and drought.  These effects along with predictions for increased sea level rise, coastal flooding and erosion, saltwater infiltration of groundwater and falling groundwater levels will be bad for our fisheries, forests, and agricultural industries.  Climate change also poses serious health problems such as increases in temperature-related illnesses, vector-borne diseases, and air-pollution health effects.

New planning requirements under HRMbyDesign do not require that buildings such as the new towers limit or reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Fact III

Nova Scotia is completely dependent on foreign oil for transportation and heating and imports most of the coal used for electricity. Buildings need to be sustainable not only because of climate change but because of uncertainty of energy supply and rising costs (~$4.2 billion in 2006). Buildings of four to seven stories have the best potential to meet all their space and water heating needs through solar.

Fact IV

The construction cost of high-rises can be up to double the cost of low rises and fifty percent more expensive to maintain.  Materials such as steel and concrete have more embodied energy and are more costly than wood. High-rises use more materials and energy per square metre of usable space.  Once constructed, high-rises use more energy, are more costly to maintain, are less adaptable in their use and have shorter life spans. Tall buildings such as the proposed convention towers are less sustainable.

Fact V

The proposed 150,000 square foot convention centre could be accommodated in a two-storey building on the 80,000 square foot building site.

re: GREEN POLICIES - Save The View recommends these amendments to HRMbyDesign

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