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What of community?

As someone who spent most of my childhood in downtown Dartmouth, I was heartened to see The Coast take on the recent development proposals for the area.

As someone who spent most of my childhood in downtown Dartmouth, I was heartened to see The Coast take on the recent development proposals for the area in last week's issue ("Welcome to the new Dartmouth" by Matt Semansky, February 18).

The sense of a close-knit and safe community, augmented by quality schools, outstanding parks, lakes and proximity to downtown Halifax, was a large part of my parents' decision to purchase a home in this area in the early 1980s. However, there was no mention of the vibrant residential population of the area in this article. Painting Dartmouth as a backwater town with an itinerant population and desperate to attract pilgrims from central Halifax is offensive.

Had Semansky dug a little deeper, he would have found much more to explore than the "losing reputation" and "dark side" of the neighbourhood. He would have found great concern, spanning many years, over development ideas that do not complement the neighbourhood's small-town urban fabric, largely intact collection of older building stock and longstanding sense of self as a community. (Or perhaps this is what he meant by "heritage-heavy.")

I am perturbed that the writer of a feature article would spend so little time on background research for such a complex topic with a long history, yet so much on negative judgment calls and anecdotes about a cafe.

I would have liked to seen mention of the carefully researched, community-led planning documents for downtown Dartmouth and the Dartmouth Common that were put in place specifically to guide development decisions such as this one being faced now. These came out of the vocalization of residents that, while properly planned and tasteful infill development is definitely desirable for the area, jumping into bed with the first project to be proposed is of no benefit to the neighbourhood in the long term.

I can only hope that downtown Dartmouth doesn't see the same cheaply designed, faux-stone, out-of-scale condo projects that have spread across peninsular Halifax like an unsightly skin condition.

This will only happen if downtown Dartmouth residents remain active and clear in communicating their hopes for their community, planners respect the existing municipal planning strategy documents and the media does its best to portray the context of these issues accurately. —R. Kennedy, Halifax

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