Ridiculous development approved out of spite

Council review: Holiday leftovers

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Assembled onlookers watch HRM council yesterday inside City Hall.
  • The public were watching, yesterday at City Hall.

"We see petitions on a number of occasions. If we listened or agreed with petitions then there'd never be a convention centre."—councilor Stephen Adams

"Hand gestures are OK as long as you use all fingers." —mayor Mike Savage

"It doesn't meet any of our design guidelines, guys. It doesn't meet ANY of our design guidelines."—councillor Waye Mason

PETTY GRIEVANCES HIT WELLINGTON STREET
Halifax Regional Council thumbed its nose at the public yesterday by approving a controversial development on Wellington Street. It’s a proposal that nobody—save developer Dino Capital and the nine councillors who voted in favour of the project—seems to like. City staff have noted the problems in setback, height spacing and density in Dino’s two towers of eight and ten storeys which will sit atop a shared four-lot podium. For the first time ever the Planning Advisory Committee voted against the design, and local councillor Waye Mason has repeatedly and passionately spoken against this project.

“There’s no merit here,” he told his fellow councillors yesterday. “It goes against everything we’ve been planning on the peninsula for 30 years.”

But most importantly, thousands of residents from across the HRM—dozens of whom live in the immediate area—have told the city they don’t want this building. There have been three public hearings and a lengthy petition asking for this project not to be approved as it currently stands. Councillor Adams flippantly disregarded those comments yesterday with the quote at the top of this post. But Adams had nothing on the brazen contempt displayed by Gloria McCluskey.

The Dartmouth councillor told the public she was voting for the motion because several buildings of worse design have been stamped onto Dartmouth neighbourhoods against the wishes of herself and those communities. Now, it’s Halifax’s turn.

Late last year, McCluskey proposed a cyclist licensing motion that was widely condemned and quickly rescinded. She was mocked then, and I noticed remarks online about her age that would be disrespectful regardless of her longtime public service. Some of those same comments spat up this week over McCluskey’s proposal for an anti-whistling bylaw near King’s Wharf. I don't live in downtown Dartmouth, but nearly every media article has commenters chiming in that the train whistles are new—and loud.

Which is to say, I don’t think Gloria has better or worse ideas than most of the people on council. She often asks hard questions and vigorously represents her district. But yesterday she was the deciding vote in a decision that impacts hundreds of Halifax residents and she chose to vote out of spite. The packed house left muttering curse words and expressing their distrust of the entire civic process. Can’t say I blame ‘em.

Two amendments were tacked onto yesterday’s motion before voting. Adams passed a motion to reduce the square footage to 140,000 (as off-handedly promised by a Dino representative during a December public hearing), and Mason tried a last-minute save to make the application comply with HRM by Design guidelines. What impact both will have on the finished apartment building remains to be seen.

STAPLE CENTRE
Most of council’s afternoon yesterday was devoted to cleaning up the remains of two public hearings held before the holiday break. Wellington Street was one, and the other was to adopt the city’s new temporary sign bylaw. The December hearing on that matter saw a large contingent of event promoters speak against the poster guidelines contained within the new law. Those would require the date the poster was put up to be clearly displayed so the city could track down anyone leaving stapled paper up too long. Waye Mason is hoping to bring forward amendments so the only visible date need be the date of the event advertised, as well as putting in a prohibition on covering a poster with another poster. In design, I think that’s to help the postering community self-regulate by making sure polls don’t become too cluttered. In any case, since this bylaw has taken a few years to come together, it was approved to get it out of the way. The proposed amendments will hopefully be coming back for council’s approval before the new law takes effect in 90 days.

ROBOTS, BUTTONS & BELLS

 Taking local media to task for not giving his idea a chance, Brad Johns was happy to inform the public yesterday that well over 2,000 people attended his four-day talking Christmas tree event in Sackville. The robotic horror raised almost $6,000 in donations to Beacon House. Sackville was also mentioned on a Los Angeles news station; 30 seconds of Californian airtime which Johns’ media consultant says is worth more than the tree itself.

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Reg Rankin was upset to learn in the media that the province has accused the Otter Lake landfill of violating environmental laws. The city was charged last February under the Environment Act after multiple surface water samples were found to be contaminated. Richard Butts, CAO, says a memo was sent out but it was “addressed inappropriately” and didn’t make it to councillors’ inboxes. “I apologize to council. We hit a wrong button.” The city will be in court next week to fight the potential $1-million fine.

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For the first time since 2012, Halifax City Hall’s clock chimes rang out yesterday. Matt Whitman was giddy with excitement.

Overall grade: D

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