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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Height restrictions

Mike Fleury towers over the city.

Posted By on Thu, Oct 26, 2006 at 3:45 PM

The Midtown Tower hotel proposal for the corner of Market and Grafton has seen its share of ups and downs—appropriate, given that the argument over the proposed building has been primarily about height. On Tuesday, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeals upheld a decision that the 17-storey tower was indeed too tall for its proposed location, and that it would be in violation of municipal viewplane restrictions.

Translation: the tower would impede the view of the harbour from Citadel Hill, a polarizing issue in downtown Halifax. Philip Pacey, president of the Nova Scotia Heritage Trust, considers the decision a victory.

“The reaction was one of great delight, especially because we’ve waited a long time. I mean, this proposal first came up almost three years ago,” he says.

The decision about the Midtown Tower has already been appealed—twice—and Pacey admits that the process may not yet be over.

“There is a chance that it could be appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada,” he says. “Their lawyers did cite some cases from the Supreme Court of Canada in their appellation to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, so they certainly could decide to apply for an appeal.”

Eric Grant, a manager at the Midtown Tavern and a member of the Grant family behind the tower proposal, had little comment on Tuesday.

“We haven’t even had a chance to read it yet. All I know is, it was a no.”

There is some speculation that this decision will have implications for the United Gulf Towers, AKA the “twisted sisters.” Pacey, on behalf of the Heritage Trust, is hoping the Towers are subject to a similar decision.

“Our appeal of the United Gulf Towers is based on the same policies which have just been upheld by the Court of Appeal and the Utility and Review Board,” he says. “So, that gives us reason for some optimism. But we certainly can’t be overconfident. We can only be hopeful.”

Steeple chased

Not too far away from the Midtown, another development may eventually alter the Halifax skyline. The Trinity Anglican Church, located on Cogswell between Gottingen and Brunswick (near Staples Business Depot) has reached an agreement with a development company that will ultimately see the church torn down and the property redeveloped—likely as condos.

“An agreement was signed on the 14th of September,” says Reverend Stephen Ashton, “but this process has been ongoing for over 13 years.” The property has not yet been sold—a formal change of ownership will not happen for at least another year.

“It’s a beautiful building, but it’s also a very old building,” says Ashton. “It was built in 1927. Handicapped accessibility, that’s not that easy. And it’s an enormously expensive building to heat.”

The church sits on a prime piece of downtown land—Ashton says that he received interest from more than a dozen different developers. Like many other downtown churches, Trinity had been struggling as of late to attract parishioners.

“Part of it I’m sure is the changing dynamics of the community,” he says. “Technically, our parish is currently covered by Scotia Square”—Ashton stops to chuckle—“and when this parish was established, that was all residential.”

Worship at my alter. email: mikef@thecoast.ca

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