Altered views from Dartmouth

Proposed changes in viewplanes privileges city-owned property, say private property owners.

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A simulated view of the waterfront from the Dartmouth Common, with envisioned 15-storey buildings on city-owned land to the left, and a line showing a four-storey height limit on CN property, to the right.
  • A simulated view of the waterfront from the Dartmouth Common, with envisioned 15-storey buildings on city-owned land to the left, and a line showing a four-storey height limit on CN property, to the right.

Halifax council will soon consider revising the protected viewplanes of the Halifax Harbour from the Dartmouth side of the harbour. The proposed changes would remove viewplane protections from much of downtown Dartmouth, and raise height limits on developments below the remaining viewplanes.

Some property owners, however, are crying foul. They say the city is privileging its own property, and so unfairly competing against private property owners.

Three viewplane protections have been in place since 1974. Two of the viewplanes begin at the same point—near the baseball diamond in the Dartmouth Common. One of those viewplanes gives a view of Georges Island, the other of downtown Halifax.

The third viewplane begins at the seventh green of the Brightwood golf course, providing “a wide panorama of Downtown Halifax, the mid harbour and the harbour entrance,” explains a city staff report on the proposed changes. This third viewplane extends over most of downtown Dartmouth.

The proposed changes, which have been in the works for about two years, would remove the Brightwood viewplane altogether. The proposal also suggests doing away with the baseball diamond viewplanes and replacing them with viewplanes starting at four other points from within the Common.

Even without the viewplanes, most of downtown Dartmouth has a height limit of 70 feet, about five storeys, imposed by the Dartmouth Municipal Planning Strategy. But the part of the Dartmouth waterfront comprised of the city-owned Alderney Landing, some nearby city-owned lots and the CN train marshalling yard have a more restrictive height limit of just 30 feet, or two storeys, imposed by the viewplane protections.

But if council adopts the proposed changes, suddenly the height limit on the city-owned land shoots up to 15 storeys, while up to four storeys will be allowed on the CN land.

The rest of downtown would be left with the old five-storey limit, at least until a reevaluation of those height limits is completed. Mitch Dickey, the city staffer who wrote the report, tells The Coast he envisions that process starting after council approves the viewplane changes, and would take six months or so to implement.

Property owners contacted by The Coast declined to be quoted for this article, but a discussion paper criticizing the proposed changes has been making its way among property owners. See the paper here. The issue will go before the harbour East Community Council Thursday.

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