Agenda, October 5, 2021
Centre Plan Hearing:
It was a rather light agenda at Council with the main item being scheduling a hearing for the Centre Plan. It has been a long time in coming, but the complete Centre Plan is going forward to Council on October 26. First reading wasn’t without some last minute revisions though, including some in District 5 related to public housing.
The source of the amendments was a late-breaking letter from Housing Nova Scotia requesting amendments for their properties in Halifax around Bayers Road, and the cluster they own around Nova Court, Green Road, and Demetreous Lane in Dartmouth. The ask in both situations was for additional height and development rights.
Amending a plan at first reading is never my preferred option, but Housing Nova Scotia hadn’t really engaged in the Centre Plan process previously and, as a result, the development rights assigned to their properties was largely based on what’s there now, not on what the future potential might be. At Nova Court, the height limit that HRM had put on the property was actually slightly shorter than the existing building at 101 Nova Court! Given the housing crisis that we’re facing, it was worth considering Housing Nova Scotia’s request, even though it was a bit last minute, to provide Housing Nova Scotia with some clarity around what their future project options might look like.
I spoke with HRM’s planning staff in advance of the meeting about Housing Nova Scotia’s request. Allowing for more height on the Nova Court/Green Road portion makes sense since that portion of Housing’s property is far away from lower density uses, and is immediately adjacent to the Dartmouth Shopping Centre where high-rise development will be allowed. I moved to increase the height for Nova Court/Green Road from 14 metres to 32 metres as Housing requested. I was less keen, however, on increasing the height of Demetreous Lane since Housing’s property on the Lane comes up to lower density housing on Victoria Road. Housing had asked for 26 metres on Demetreous, but 17 metres is what’s permitted on Killam’s neighbouring lands on Boland Road (Victoria Gardens) so that’s what I put forward. Council agreed to both changes.
Councillor Smith spoke about the fear that past zoning changes at Uniacke Square sparked with residents. I want to emphasize that the Province hasn’t shared any specific plans with HRM for either the Halifax or Dartmouth properties. The Province is looking at all their options around housing, which includes maximizing the use of their existing lands. Knowing what the development potential of their lands is helpful in that process. At the Dartmouth location, there is vacant land that isn’t even in use right now, so it’s possible that redevelopment there mightn’t even touch any existing buildings. It’s all an unknown right now.
Housing has indicated, however, that if there is going to be major change to any of these properties, they would have to undertake detailed engagement with residents that is over and above what would occur in any of HRM’s planning processes. That is important as these are residents who have been historically marginalized, and have good reason to be mistrustful of government given past experience. They haven’t had a chance to engage on what happens to their community because no changes were even on the table throughout the Centre Plan process. There is a pressing need for more housing, and existing government owned land could be part of the solution, but how that happens in established communities will have to be something that is approached thoughtfully and carefully.
Regional Council held a public hearing and approved a batch of land-use bylaw amendments that will allow people in suburban and rural areas to keep chickens. The bylaw amendments mean folks will be allowed to keep up to 10 hens on small lots (4,000 square metres or less), increasing up to an upper maximum of of 25 hens on properties with more than 10,000 square metres. Coops and chickens runs will need to be setback from property lines by 1 metre, and roosters won’t be permitted. The bylaw amendments are meant to facilitate keeping chickens for household egg production and, as a result, selling eggs, and butchering operations won’t be permitted. Council approved the changes unanimously and now all that’s required is for the Province to complete their review of the proposed plan amendment (very likely a formality).
If you live in the Regional Centre though, don’t count your chickens just yet. The amendments that Council approved on Tuesday don’t apply to the Regional Centre, meaning that chickens remain illegal in District 5 for now. This is in all likelihood a temporary state of affairs. The chicken amendments in the Regional Centre are coming forward as part of the Centre Plan. The proposed rules in the Centre Plan mirror those that Council approved for the suburbs and rural areas with the exception of the 1 metre setback. The Centre Plan doesn’t include a setback for coops and runs because the Regional Centre Councillors were more comfortable with allowing chickens, and because the small size of some urban lots might end up effectively barring people from having chickens by making it too difficult to situate a coop. If things go as expected with the Centre Plan approval process, chickens should be legal in District 5 by Christmas.
- Requested a staff report on a number of potential amendments to the municipal vending bylaw
- Scheduled heritage hearings for potential heritage properties located at 5492 Inglis Street and 1262 Bedford Highway
- Approved the tax relief for non-profit organizations grants for 2021
- Appointed Councillor Hendsbee to replace Councillor Cuttell as one of Council’s two representatives on the Heritage Advisory Committee
- Approved the bonus zoning agreement for 1470 Queen Street (former Mills lands) that will see the developer gain extra height in exchange for undergrounding services on the block
- Scheduled a public hearing to consider bylaw amendments in West Chezzetcook for a multi-unit residential building
- Endorsed the development of a new economic growth plan
- Directed the CAO, subject to the annual budget process, to continue the Civic Innovation Outpost at Volta