Ben McCrea wins UARB appeal on Waterside Centre

The Utility and Review Board has ruled that the Halifax Regional Municipality had improperly rejected Halifax developer Ben McCrea's Armour Group's application to build the Waterside Centre.

Plans for Waterside Centre call for tearing down four registered historic buildings on the block bound by Upper Water, Hollis and Duke Streets and by the distinctive Morse's Tea building. An effort will be made to preserve the facades of the buildings; if that is not feasible some facades may be torn down and rebuilt. Otherwise, the historic buildings will be completely gutted and removed, and a new nine-storey highrise built in their stead.

The UARB found that: McCrea had

established that council's decision refusing to enter into the development agreement failed to reasonably carry out the intent of the [Municipal Planning Strategy].

Further, the Board finds that the proposed development agreement does reasonably carry out the intent of the MPS.

Accordingly, the Board allows [McCrea's] appeal and orders that HRM council approve the development agreement.

The ruling is not particularly surprising. Premier Rodney MacDonald had made it clear that he wanted to force the Halifax council to approve Waterside, and while the UARB is theoretically independent, everyone knows who butters their bread.

It's also worth noting that Armour group contributed $6,823.66 to MacDonald's Progressive Conservative party in 2005 and and $395.65 in 2007, while McCrea personally donated $500 in both years. MacDonald kicked off his party leadership bid in the lobby of McCrea's Founders' Square office complex.

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