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Illustration by Derrick Chow

Halifax’s skyline and the many “sidewalk closed, use other side” signs will tell you that development is the big story of 2016. From the Nova Centre’s never-ending construction, to community frustration over Homes Not Hondas, to the anticipated Centre Plan, Haligonians have a lot to say on how our city is growing up.

HOW WE GOT HERE

To say that HRM’s planning strategy wasn’t maintained is an understatement. The Halifax Municipal (Secondary) Planning Strategy and the Dartmouth Municipal (Secondary) Planning Strategy date back to 1978.

Jacob Ritchie is HRM’s urban design program manager. He says that thanks to these outdated plans, five or so years ago, developers were knocking on council’s door identifying sites that were ripe for development.

If developers want to build things that don’t fit with the old plan, they can submit development agreement to show that the original policy for a site is outdated. Not a high bar to cross nearly 40-years later.

Instead of the municipal plan dictating development, developers dictate the plan. “The developer through the application process says, ‘Hey, I think I have one of those sites, why don’t you consider new rules for me?’” Ritchie says.

That’s what’s happened. The Halifax Municipal (Secondary) Planning Strategy added 173 amendments between December 1978 and September 2016. There were 66 more amendments in Dartmouth between 1978 and 2015.

“We’re literally looking at a two-generation gap between the last plan and what people really value now,” says Waye Mason, District 7 (Halifax South Downtown) councillor. “If you don’t update your land use bylaws and municipal planning strategies on a regular basis it’ll become hugely out of synch with the values that the current generation has.”

In the 1950s, some of what are now up-and-coming neighbourhoods were slated for demolition to make way for more commercial developments. Falkland, Creighton, Maynard, and Bauer streets were considered a slum. To put that in perspective, a local realtor currently lists 5514 Falkland St., a single-family home, at $438,500.

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