For immediate release
June 1, 2009
HRMbyDeception: Downtown Plan will Privatize our Common View
(Halifax) Friends of the Halifax Common believe Halifax is doomed to turn the downtown into a series of cookie-cutter highrises unless HRM City Council starts to read between the lines and understand the un-stated and potentially disastrous implications of HRMbyDesign. This new policy presently under review at City Council, is a threat to what Haligonians and tourists from around the world find our most attractive feature, the view from Citadel Hill.
HRM Council can stop this threat to the view by requiring that HRM by Design retain the mandatory policies in the Municipal Planning Strategy that currently protect views from Citadel Hill. More than 30 years ago there was a virtual citizen uprising with the public demanding that City Council protect views from Citadel so developers could not block them. Until HRMbyDesign appeared, this protection was written into city by-laws.
Information presented by HRM staff to city council during the recent public hearings regarding the effect from changes to existing by-laws is, to put it mildly, confusing. The proposed HRMbyDesign plan for the downtown directly threatens the public’s right to the view from the Citadel by deleting policies in the Municipal Planning Strategy that control the heights of buildings in the vicinity of Citadel Hill and that protect the view of the central harbour between viewplanes.
Removing these policies will allow developers to build to heights that interfere with our common enjoyment of this historic and world-renowned scenic feature. Buildings blocking the view will mean that only the wealthy who can buy condos or rent office space or a hotel room in these buildings will be able to appreciate it. This essentially privatizes a public good – the view.
A specific example is the proposed 14 and 18 storey convention centre and hotel recently announced by Premier Rodney MacDonald and Mayor Peter Kelly. Although changes proposed under HRMbyDesign would allow these buildings, visual mock-ups by HRM staff presented to City Council of how the view would change somehow, conveniently left out these two tall buildings. We must ask ourselves, “For whom is this convenient?” and realize that it’s not the average citizen.
As presently proposed, HRMbyDesign will provide for no additional open and green space while calling for increased numbers of people working and living downtown and will go ahead before Functional plans for Transportation, Energy, Sustainability and Housing Affordability are complete.
Friends of the Halifax Common suggest that HRM Council create a regulatory framework that will allow the enjoyment of Citadel Hill, a significant open space in the downtown. Privatizing our common view of sky and water from Citadel Hill for private profit is unacceptable. Saving the view from Citadel Hill needs to remain the top vision for any plan for the downtown.
Friends of the Halifax Common is a member of the Citizens Coalition for a Sober Second Thought.
Peggy Cameron – Co chair, Friends of the Halifax Common