Spring Garden Road/Robie Street and the draft Centre Plan
HRM’s Centre Plan has been in progress for almost a decade. It is meant to update present planning regulations and policies for the Halifax Peninsula and Dartmouth inside the circumferential highway. As every block and neighbourhood would be zoned for use, height etc., this could help citizens and developers make rational decisions based on firm facts.
But developers are circumventing planning rules and the Centre Plan by seeking approval for their individual projects before the Centre Plan is finalised. Typically projects are approved even if they’re over-scale, publicly opposed or non-conforming to the draft Centre Plan. There is no publicly available inventory of approved units or those under construction so the need is unclear. Most citizens support growth and want a dynamic city but their contributions at eagerly attended planning meetings have no power to counter the influence or demands of the private developer community or keep faith in the planning process.
Scale and Density Not Anticipated in Draft Centre Plan
Draft Centre Plan documents presented by HRM Staff at the public meeting on June 27, 2016* proposed this “South West Spring Garden Road” area as a growth centre. (See map below) Staff information panels revealed that there is no need for projects of this scale at this site, and projects of this size were not anticipated by HRM staff who proposed 400 more residents. (See details below)
A 2016 Heritage Trust document commenting on this draft Centre Plan and asking for a conservation designation proposed a reasonable scenario to achieve the density as follows.
An already approved 18-story tower for the parking lot behind Spring Garden Terrace next to Camphill Cemetery would accommodate ~70% of the 400 residents in the staff target. Under the existing height limit of 45 feet, a five-storey apartment building could replace the professional centre at 5880 Spring Garden and accommodate about 30% of the targeted additional density. A three-storey building behind 5960 to 5972 Spring Garden Road could accommodate the remainder. Secondary suites in the larger backyards could provide additional housing. There is no need to change the zoning or height limits in this area to achieve the targeted population.
The draft Centre Plan also commits to designating the Halifax Common as a cultural landscape. And the 1994 Halifax Common Plan, the city commits to planning for the entire Halifax Common, retaining cultural and historic aspects.
The proposed towers are incongruous with both of these commitments.