Harbour East Council held a public hearing on September 2 to consider a proposed development just off Wyse Road on Rosedale Drive. At the end of the hearing, Council voted to approve the project.
The new development will be located on an irregularly shaped property that has frontage on Rosedale Drive, Floral Avenue and Fraser Street and backs onto properties on Hester Street. The property is currently home to a mix of older buildings that serve a variety of commercial and industrial uses, plus a handful of residential units. There is also one old house on the property. It’s a real mix.
The new development will consist of two towers (9 and 11 storeys) separated by a wide central courtyard. The towers will step down to 3-4 storeys closer to neighbouring homes on Hester and Fraser, with a large setback from Floral Avenue. The development includes a central courtyard with parking below in a shared underground garage
The Rosedale property is very much an opportunity site. It’s zoned Higher Order Residential in the Centre Plan, which would allow for several 20 metre buildings (6-7 storeys) to be built on the property as-of-right. The developer submitted their application before the Centre Plan was finalized, however, which meant that staff assessed it based on the old pre-Centre Plan rules. The old Dartmouth Plan requires new development to be compatible and consistent with surrounding properties. With no other tall buildings in the area, staff concluded that, opportunity site or not, the Rosedale development isn’t consistent with its surroundings and, therefore, doesn’t meet the provisions of the Dartmouth Plan. Staff recommended Council reject the project.
Given the negative staff recommendation, why did Council vote to approve the Rosedale project? Occasionally a situation is more complex than the limited criteria that staff are able to use in making their recommendation. The Rosedale Drive development is one of those situations. The Rosedale site could already be redeveloped, as-of-right, as a multi-unit residential project under the Centre Plan. The choice wasn’t the current design or no development. Something is going to happen with this property so the real choice was which development scenario produces the best result for the neighbourhood? With that in mind, I asked staff and the developer to provide some detail as to what development would look like if they proceeded under the Centre Plan. I wanted to get an idea of what Plan B would look like.
In Plan B, the tall towers disappear, but the developer would be able to build several 6-7 storey mid-rise buildings as-of-right. The result of filling more of the site with buildings is that there really isn’t any significant difference in buildable space between the two options. Putting the density into two towers or filling the site with mid-rises produces about the same (23,000 – 25,000 square metres). So no real difference in the intensity of use between the two options.
While the amount of new space is similar in the two scenarios, how new development on Rosedale interacts with the neighbourhood varies considerably. The result of losing the two towers might make the development more consistent with nearby buildings, but covering more of the site with mid-rises has other drawbacks including:
- Development gets closer to the backyards on Hester Street
- Height in close proximity to Hester and Fraser increases from 3-4 storeys to 6-7
- Mature trees along the property lines would likely see more disturbance and could be lost entirely
- The central courtyard in the development disappears
It really came down to a design choice of short and wide, or tall and thin.
Several people from the wider community and several immediate neighbours spoke at the public hearing and sent emails to Council to express their views on the project. Most of the feedback, even from the immediate neighbours, was supportive of the proposal before Council rather than a Centre Plan alternative. In looking at the two options, residents preferred the tall and thin version of development versus the Centre Plan’s short and wide approach. The proposal had clear design advantages over what would otherwise happen under the Centre Plan, and the community feedback indicated a preference for what was before Council, so I was happy to support the project as the best outcome for the neighbourhood.
Chickens were back at Council as we considered giving direction for Region wide bylaw amendments that would legalize chickens in all residential zones. The recommendation from staff was to allow for up to six hens (no roosters) on all properties, as long as coops and chicken runs are setback from property lines by at least one metre.
Through Council’s discussion, it became very apparent that drawing one set of rules for all residential areas throughout HRM is a complicated endeavour because of the differing needs of our urban, suburban, and rural areas. Council ended up agreeing to an amendment from Councillor Hendsbee to limit numbers based on lot size. The idea behind that being that as lots get bigger and homes become farther apart, chickens are less and less likely to cause issues. What the amendment would mean for most properties in the urban core, including Dartmouth, is 10-15 chickens (10 for lots of less than 4,000 square metres and 15 for lots of 4,000 – 6,000 square metres).
Councillor Mason also moved a motion to remove setback requirements in the Centre Plan area. The reason for removing the 1 metre setback provision is that requiring setbacks would make it difficult in practice for many folks living in denser neighbourhoods to have chickens because the only place for a coop in some situations would be the very centre of the backyard. The suburban councillors were more hesitant, dare I say, chicken, of removing setbacks, so it’s just in the Centre Plan area where setbacks won’t be required.
I supported both amendments. I know of several coops that already exist in District 5 that don’t generate complaints or cause issues and I’m pretty confident that we can handle chickens, just as other much denser cities such as New York and Chicago do.
Council will hold a public hearing to adopt chicken amendments in the future, but the changes in District 5 will actually come into effect through the Centre Plan. So if all goes according to plan, chickens will be legal in Dartmouth for the first time in decades this fall.
If you watched my budget video summing up all the District 5 related projects on the go in Dartmouth, you probably already know that the splashpad planned for the Common ran into issues during the tendering process. The problem was that the first call for proposals had a set budget and all three bids exceeded the stated budget and, as a result, were disqualified.
When you receive three bids and all three are more than expected, that pretty much indicates that the fault isn’t with the bidders, it’s with the project’s estimate. So HRM retendered the splashpad without an “exceed the budget and you’re disqualified” provision. HRM received one bid on the retender from Lindsay Construction (one of the original bidders). Lindsay’s bid was $815,000, which is still significantly more than the project’s budget of $650,000. Since the project was significantly overbudget, it had to come to Council to be approved. Council approved increasing the splashpad budget by $200,000 and awarded the contract to Lindsay Construction.
With the tender awarded to Lindsay Construction, hopefully the splashpad project will now be able to get back on track. My hope is work will get underway this fall or, at the latest, early spring so that the splashpad can open in summer 2022.
My motion on a bunch of different irritations around street art in the public right-of-way (on the roads and sidewalks) returned to Council. I had asked staff to consider a 3D crosswalk pilot, to allow art around temporary road projects, and to stop saying no all the time to art on busy streets.
On the first one, there was no support whatsoever from staff for a trial a 3D crosswalk. There is a study underway through the Transportation Association of Canada on non-traditional markings and staff want to see the results of that work before contemplating non-traditional crosswalk markings. Swing and a miss on that one.
The next part of my motion to allow street art around HRM’s various tactical urbanism projects was actually made redundant while the report was being drafted. HRM recently approved installing street art around the intersection of Queen, Artillary Place, and Birmingham in Halifax as part of tactical project to redesign how that confusing intersection operates. 1-1.
The last part of my motion, to allow street art on sidewalks and on major streets was in response to the consistent “no” that the Downtown Dartmouth Business Commission has received from HRM whenever the Commission has asked to do street art on Portland Street. HRM’s practice has been to limit street art to low volume residential streets and to refuse requests to install street art on busier streets. Unfortunately, HRM’s automatic no for busier streets has lacked recognition that some of our busy streets aren’t highways, they’re places. There is a big difference in how the four Downtown blocks of Portland Street are used versus any four blocks of Portland Street on the other side of the Circumferential Highway!
The staff recommendation was to continue not allowing art on major streets, except in exceptional circumstances. Council and I spent a fair bit of time clarifying that exceptional circumstances aren’t necessarily as exceptional as it sounds and that places like Portland Street in Downtown Dartmouth could be considered depending on what the actual proposal is. Hopefully the time spent on this part of the motion will mean that the DDBC will be able to pursue an art project without the reflexive no that they’ve always received in the past! I’m going to call that one a win for now.
- Authorized the CAO to spend up to $500,000 on emergency housing (more on this in my next e-newsletter)
- Council amended the code of conduct and related administrative orders to make it clear that Councillors don’t have the authority to direct staff, settle or negtotiate claims, declare property surplus or negotiate its sale, or award contracts
- Approved rezoning a surplus school site in Bedford to allow for redevelopment
- Officially froze council salaries for another year
- Approved the next phase of the Alderney Gate renovation to Bird Construction and increased the project budget
- Entered into a new facility operating agreement for the Spryfield Lions Rink with the local recreation society
- Directed the CAO to offer $250,000 towards upgrading the field at JL Ilsley High from a standard soccer field to a football field (Province would have to pay the rest)
- Approved two additional community grants (referrals from earlier) for the Public Good Society (Dartmouth North Community Van) and the Eastern Shore Legion
- Increased the budget for the Peninsula South Complete Streets project
- Established and updated the community boundaries for Eastern Passage, Westphal, and Cole Harbour
- Added additional commemorative names to the asset naming list and approved renaming a soccer field in Halifax (Clark Memorial Soccer Field), a playground in Eastern Passage (Gary Babin Memorial Playground), the Tallahassee Recreation Centre in Eastern Passage (Horizon Recreation Centre), and the Mainland North Trail
- Approved updated building program for the Forum which would involve offsetting costs of the project by selling a portion of property fronting on Young Street
- Increased the grant to the Tars Rugby Club for the field project at Graves Oakley in Spryfield
- Awarded new janitorial service contracts (now subject to Living Wage requirements)
- Increased the budget for the Woodside Ferry Terminal upgrades
- Updated the Youth Advisory Committee Administrative Order to formalize the requirement that at-large members come from diverse communities and to adjust quorum requirements
- Extended timelines in a development agreement for a new apartment building on Windmill Road (Marine Terrace) by a year
Initiated a review of the Hammonds Plain Land Use designation and Land Use Bylaw or Beaver Bank, Hammonds Plains, and upper Sackville
- Gave permission for a flypast as part of a military operation on September 7
- Received a presentation from Halifax Water
- Finalized the new administrative order for recreation fees
- Awarded a standing offer for bus parts to Aftermarkets Parts Company
- Extended winter sidewalk contracts in Cole Harbour, Eastern Passage, Waverley, and in Herring Cove, Timberlea, and Cowie Hill
- Provided a grant to the 2022 World Sailing Championship to help pay for upgrades of thw public wharf in Hubbards
- Adjusted the public participation program to establish planning rules for new development off Margeson Drive in Sackville
- Increased the contract for the Bayers Road Transit Priority Corridor
- Increased the parking validation program for businesses
- Approved transferring money within the Transportation and Public Works budget to cover higher than expected costs for traffic calming
- Agreed to address wayfinding requests on an ad-hoc basis rather than pursue a formal program at this time (one of the ad-hoc needs being the Dartmouth waterfront around Alderney)
- Initiated a review of the C-2C zone on Dutch Village Road
- Added new streets to the Active Transportation Priorities Plan’s candidate routes to potentially create a connected network from Oak Street to Peter Lowe Avenue via Westmount
- Approved the 2020 year end financial statements and allocated the surplus funds as approved in the 2021 budget
- Awarded volunteer search and rescue grants and community events grants
- Set hearings to potentially add 1600 Summer Street and 5500 Inglis Street to HRM’s registry of heritage properties
- Approved rezoning land in Sheet Harbour to allow the construction of the planned Eastern Shore Lifestyles Centre
- Enacted a new booting bylaw to regulate fees and practices for parking enforcement companies
- Requested staff reports on several motions from Council including on better protection for wetlands, implementing the Green Network Plan, registering 1262 Bedford Highway as a heritage property, bilingual stop signs, resourcing HRM’s Climate Change Plan, and on reforming HRM’s relationship with the Halifax Waste Resource Society