Centre Plan


Key points ... Centre Plan update Summer 2018: 

Key points of our Submission to Planning Staff , Industry review and Next Steps: 

We continued to be generally supportively of a rules based CP  but , we were surprised at some of the changes proposed in the revised document particularly around FAR / height,  the separation of the HR designation into HR 1 and 2 and the high rise designation applied to both HR and COR , now allowing 8 stories in select places. 

- We reiterated our request that Wellington Street be designated HR on the west side and ER on the east.  This would reduce the tunnelling effect the street would incur if development of 6 storeys on each side would be permitted. 

- We acknowledged that with  the separation into HR 1 and 2 , our tunnelling concerns are somewhat mitigated,.  The CP now proposes HR1 ( 3 -4 stories)  zoning for most of Wellington  with HR2 ( up to 8 stories) applied mostly to existing tall buildings or select yet to be identified sites . This approach appears to be applied to other streets in the neighbourhood and other HR districts. 

- However the ongoing MPS site specific proposals currently moving forward ( Dec meeting Atlantica hotel) could change some street height designations if approved

- Commercial  uses allowed under the plan are too permissive...a 60 seat pub permitted in HR2 could be next door to a single family home .  Commercial uses  are now permitted everywhere on the street not just corners as originally proposed .   We asked that bars and restaurants in particular  be restricted to corners.  Landscaping requirements are also less than ideal, with no specific requirements in HR unless abutting ER.  

- We requested that  more consideration be given to the history and character of the Southend .  Treating the Southend and Highfield park in  the same way illustrated the lack of concern for history. 

- The Corridor zone …..in close proximity to lower-density ER neighbourhoods  has no  requirement for parking.   Parking  for this zone will now become the burden of the residential streets nearby. We recommended that more attention be given to providing parking in areas where higher density is being directed. 

- Gorsebrook Park is not included as a Park with shadow controls.  We asked that it be added to the list.  

-Finally we commented that there is no specific requirement for parks or other amenities to offset the proposed increased density.  We suggested that 25% of funds collected as a result of density bonusing , be directed to land acquisition for parks.  

Industry review:

Subsequent to our comments , Jennifer  Keesmaat  completed a "friendly "review, commissioned by the Urban Development Institute of Nova Scotia, in partnership with Waterfront Development, the Downtown Halifax Business Commission, and the Halifax Chamber of Commerce.

The report presented to the public May 9 makes 28 recommendations aimed at improving the plan.  I encourage you to read it.  


- Protecting the character of Halifax was one of her key points, along with putting the right amount of density in the right place and ensuring there are amenities available  to support the added density, existing or planned. 

- Rationale  for the heights and densities proposed in the plan, need more work and she suggested the city should move quickly to protect the 8 identified heritage districts . 


What happens next:

Our understanding is that staff has analyzed both the  public comments and the full  Keesmaat report and will be reviewing all the comments with CDAC  before framing the go forward process for the next version  of the plan. 

Councillor Mason has advised us that the plan is to complete Phase (A)  through to Council approval hopefully sometime in November, before proceeding with Phase B. Existing Residential will be part of the second phase. 



 Centre Plan update 

Park to Park members attended many of the workshops held in the fall and submitted a letter to the Centre Plan Team outlining our concerns the Draft Plan.  The length of our submission precludes inclusion on our website, however the topics covered included: 

Allowing appeals post Centre Plan ....we again reiterated our request for a 2/3 vote of Council before approving such amendments; need for good design standards; minimum sunlight limits;design oversite; density bonusing; comment on the classification designations for our area and the impact of the 19 existing applications, noting that should they be approved as requested, it would seriously erode public confidence in the entire Centre Plan process.

It is our understanding that the Centre Plan Team is now processing and analyzing the input from the public meetings and from the Community Design Advisory Committee (CDAC) meeting held in December, in preparation for a presentation to Council.  It is expected there will be full discussion on the Plan and direction from the CDAC on steps forward.  The meeting with Council could be as early as January 26. 


Centre Plan Entering Final Stages 

One of the most important documents that will affect our District has now been released to the public in draft form – we would suggest that you review this carefully since the Centre Plan when approved by Regional Council will set the direction for how our neighbourhoods and community will grow and develop. 

Workshops : a series of workshops on this "close to final stage" plan will be held this month for residents to provide staff with final feedback.  Two will be held in Dartmouth and two in Halifax.  Please take the time to comment and attend the meeting for this area.  It will take place on November 17th, 6-8pm at the McInnes Room, Dalhousie SUB, 6136 University Ave.   The more participation we have the better the opportunity to be heard.  Having Park to Park Board members attend will not be sufficient.  If you cannot attend you can also provide feedback directly to planning staff:  PlanHRM@halifax.ca.  The deadline for comments is December 2nd.  

Currently much of our area including Wellington St now falls into Higher Order Residential (max 4-6 stories) and Existing Residential.  Is this what you want? This section starts on p. 108 of Draft Centre Plan, October.  Please look at the maps provided on p 109. For the most recent release of the Centre Plan draft please go to the Centre Plan site 

Existing Applications:  As the Centre Plan nears approval remember there are still existing applications to be processed  under the current MPS.  On Dec 7th, there will be a public meeting at  the Atlantica Hotel, 1980 Robie St., to review 17 Planning Application Requests and their relationship with the proposed Centre Plan.  Included is one for an 11  story condo development on Wellington St. north of Peter Green Hall and a 9 story  development on South Park and Victoria.  

This meeting will be conducted in an open house format, where the public can drop-in to provide feedback on the proposal at any time between the hours of 12-2pm and 6-8pm. At the open house, each development proposal will be presented within the context of the proposed Centre Plan Policy:

For further info on the applications and staff contact info go to applications 

 These  upcoming meetings  are very important. We can only influence the outcome by attending these meetings and speaking out! 



The Centre Plan:

Update October 2016 

The Centre Plan has been progressing over the summer, with staff holding meetings  throughout HRM using a workshop approach.  Park to Park attended several of these workshops and provided additional comment on line. The workshops focused on big questions Initially ....What Must the Centre Plan Do!!  The most frequently identified concern over all, was the need to change the development process.  These workshops were designed so that the topics identified in the first sessions could be narrowed down by selecting two ideas that formed the basis for discussion throughout the next step ....the mapping exercise.   Many of you may have looked at the map with the proposed primary and secondary growth corridors. Well worth a look.  As discussion evolved, the major themes put forward, stressed the idea of locating density appropriately to preserve existing neighbourhoods and to place density along major streets, not streets like Wellington that was identified on the map as existing residential.  We will see if the Plan has any teeth when the developer who owns the properties north of Peter Green Hall applies for an MPS change and a DA, to permit a high rise development.  The top ranking achieved by these ideas on development and density demonstrated how much we value and appreciate our existing neighbourhoods that make up our diverse regional centre.  The next step was the launch of the Draft Policy Document.  Park to Park attended this meeting in October at Alderney Landing and will comment further on the policy direction.  To read the policy document go to CentrePlan.ca.   We encourage everyone to read the document for themselves and submit comments to us or directly to Centre Plan staff.

The next meeting will take place on Wednesday, October 19th at 7pm at The Spatz Theatre at Citadel High and we hope many of you will consider attending.  The consultations are now beginning to drill down to the details that will affect each of us on the peninsula including height, built form, building groupings etc.  

The balance of the meeting schedule for the Centre Plan follows: 
October 26 – Discussion and Release of the Full Draft Centre Plan 
November 9, 14, 16 and 17 Draft Centre Plan Neighbourhood Discussion Workshops 

The Centre Plan ....2015 

The Regional Centre is defined as the area of the Halifax Peninsula and Dartmouth within the arc of the circumferential highway.

The three phases of HRMbyDesign present a 25 year strategy for a dense, livable and prosperous Regional Centre that will create sustainable economic and environmental benefits across HRM. The Centre Plan is Phase 3 of the HRMbyDesign project (Phase 1- The Regional Centre Vision and Principles - adopted by Regional Council in 2007; and Phase 2- The Downtown Halifax Plan- adopted by Regional Council in 2009). The Centre Plan applies to all of the Regional Centre, with the exception of Downtown Halifax which was addressed in Phase 2. 

The Centre Plan is necessary because the Regional Centre is currently governed by multiple planning strategies and by-laws. These documents are out of date and tend to be unresponsive to current opportunities and challenges. The Centre Plan project will address this through the creation of a new Regional Centre Municipal Planning Strategy and Land Use By-law which will include design standards. (Source – HRM website, The Centre Plan)

This project is expected to begin taking shape over the coming months. When complete, the Centre Plan will replace a mishmash of antiquated and conflicting planning rules with a simplified land-use bylaw that paves the way for development on the Halifax peninsula and in Dartmouth within the arc of the Circumferential Highway. It is hoped that the Centre Plan will help create a compact, civic-inspired and human-scaled urban fabric of streets, blocks and buildings and encourage sustainable development, high quality design and safe mixed use communities. 

HRM’s Urban Design Manager, Planning & Development, Jacob Ritchie attended Park to Park’s official launch meeting April 22, providing an overview of the project and inviting all to participate in consultations currently to be scheduled sometime in May. He indicated that the Centre Plan will also reflect other plans the municipality recently updated, including ones for active transportation, transit services and economic strategy. The Centre Plan is expected to provide focus and coordination for development. 

In terms of our neighbourhoods a good Centre Plan will provide us with a clear framework so that we are not always at Council battling with developers over specific site proposals like Wellington Street requiring a change in the MPS and LUB under Development Agreements. Consultations with interest groups like Park to Park will allow discussions on where growth should happen, how to further support our great neighbourhoods and find out what people really want to see in their community. It is not about throwing out the past planning measures but building on that foundation. 

Development of the Centre Plan is your opportunity to be involved and provide a voice for your concerns. It also provides an opportunity for you to protect our neighbourhood, and/or simply to lend support and weight to those speaking up on your behalf. Increasingly we are seeing pressure from spot rezoning, changing traffic patterns, threats to green space and inappropriate development applications such as the recent one on Wellington Street. And more developments are already in the planning stage north of Peter Green Hall. Active neighbours are the key to any vibrant community.