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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Coalition forms in opposition to HRM By Design

Groups include GPI Atlantic, EAC and others

Posted By on Tue, May 12, 2009 at 1:42 PM

Attached is a press release announcing the formation of a coalition opposed to HRM By Design. While some of the groups are predictable, it's noteworthy that both the Ecology Action Centre and GPI Atlantic have joined in. Both groups were initially supportive of HRM By Design---or at least supportive of the idea of HRM By Design---but, citing the lack of environmental regulations with teeth, in the end decided to oppose the plan.

I'm rather busy with this week's feature---the annual City Council Report Card---but I'll have much posted here about HRM By Design in coming days.

Press release:

(Halifax) A Coalition is calling for HRMbyDesign, the plan for downtown Halifax which is incomplete and has deeply divided the community, to be tabled by HRM Council. “HRMbyDesign puts the cart before the horse,” says Ron Colman of GPI Atlantic who spoke at the public hearings. “It’s premature to pass it at this stage”. Much work remains to be done on HRMbyDesign. None of the Functional Plans for Sustainability, Transportation, Energy, and Housing Affordability, are yet complete.

“The Ecology Action Centre (EAC) is concerned that sustainability, so prominent in the Guiding Principles of HRMbyDesign, is often absent in the nuts and bolts of the plan,” says Mark Butler, EAC Policy Director. “For example, there’s no guarantee that a single energy efficient or green building will be built following the Plan's adoption-this at a time when other cities are moving aggressively on these matters.”

“Adopting HRMbyDesign at this time without completing the Affordable Housing Functional Plan is premature,” says Dr. Marilynne Bell, family physician. “Guidance from that plan is necessary to ensure sustainable and affordable housing. We must be inclusive in meeting the needs of all members of our community.”

HRMbyDesign’s downtown plan also needs to address other recommendations made at the public hearings, including those to make the proposed development approval process more democratic. “By giving a Development Officer and Design Review Committee decision-making power over development agreements we deprive HRM of the expertise of its citizens,” says Beverly Miller of the Peninsula South Community Association. “Rather than reducing citizen involvement we need to figure out a creative way to provide access to citizen expertise for Council and staff.”

The facts do not support the claim that developers have been prevented from putting up buildings. Neither is it clear how these buildings will produce long-term economic growth. Evidence presented at the public hearing would suggest misinformation continues to circulate about these matters. The business community and those who would like to find jobs with them said during the public hearing that they feel their voices have been heard. But large numbers of citizens who have tried to participate in the process feel their voices have not been heard. From all over HRM they came to raise them again at the public hearings on May 5th and 6th.

“In planning for the next twenty-five years we need to take the time to get it right,” says Denny Blouin of the group Save the View from Citadel Hill. “Council needs to table the downtown plan and complete the Functional plans as the foundation on which to prepare a new draft of HRMbyDesign rather than treating them as add-ons to tidy-up the details at some future date.”

Join Coalition members including, Coalition to End Poverty for Nova Scotia, Ecology Action Centre, Friends of the Halifax Common, Peninsula South Neighbourhood Association & Save the View from Citadel Hill, in asking the Mayor and Council to table HRMbyDesign and take some time for Sober Second Thought.

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