Dear Kyle,

I think you should temper your uncritical enthusiasm for HRM By Design in your column ("Landing the plan," April 24) and answer questions it poses. Start with HRM's unbridled population growth estimates. You'll find the commercial-space future-needs estimates are based on not much more than what developers tell them. 

Then seek out John Heseltine at EDM and ask for a copy of his September 2007 presentation to the Atlantic Planners' Institute on planning appeals. Every developer worth his salt has criticized the province and HRM about undue delays in approving development applications, and they always criticize appeals by citizens and citizens' groups---so much so Rodney MacDonald introduced Clause 19 in Bill 138 to change the Municipal Government Act (and Utility and Review Board Act) to allow UARB to award costs to "winning" parties---a move to stifle citizens and citizens' appeals. 

Nova Scotia has the most stringent requirements in Canada for becoming an appellant in a planning appeal. As a result, we have one planning appeal per 72,000 people, where Ontario has one per 6,000 population, and Quebec about the same. Read Heseltine's research, Kyle, and you'll not listen so closely to our developers or the HRM by Design staff who say we have to speed up approvals (and eliminate appeals). 

Why don't you come down in the trenches and take up a planning issue close to your heart? Then speak of your experience and see if your sympathies do not shift a little. Try protecting the remaining Common
lands in Halifax and Dartmouth, for example. Show your readers what we once had, then map the persistent erosion of the Common lands. Halifax passed a 1994 new Common Plan, and has totally ignored it in many instances. 

How many FOlPOPs have you and The Coast done in the past year, Kyle? Why not start with one to try to get copies of all documentation regarding negotiations between the hospitals and Capital Health for part---or all---of the QEHS lands and any exchanges or tacit agreements as the Citadel High School lands were surrendered---for what? 

Welcome to the trenches of what is euphemistically called "citizen participation," sir. Wear a good set of gloves, and budget a fair amount of time. The Coast has a large constituency in these trenches, and you have not done a good job of serving them in their planning concerns.

By ---Alan Ruffman, president, Geomarine Associates Ltd.

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