Council prunes Willow Tree development

Quinpool and Robie tower gets trimmed down from 29 to 20 storeys.

Council prunes Willow Tree development
This, but with those top nine storeys removed.
What a difference a new council makes. After approving a 29-storey limit for the Willow Tree development last year—against the recommendation of planning staff—this week Halifax Regional Council voted to shrink that height restriction down to 62 metres (or about 20 storeys).

George Armoyan’s Armco Captial, through its APL Properties, first proposed the development at the corner of Robie Street and Quinpool Road as two towers equalling 22 and 11 storeys in height. After two years working with planning staff, Armco revised those plans to a single 29-storey tower.

That’s well above the 10 storeys allowed under current land-use bylaws, and even stretches past the 20 storeys expected for buildings outside the urban core once the Centre Plan is finalized later this week.

Although council gave its approval to the taller height back in September and directed staff to draw up amendments allowing for the 29-storey building, the local community council recently voted to return to staff’s original 62-metre restriction and that brought the issue back to regional council for debate.

David Hendsbee wasn't happy with the proposed limits, telling his colleagues that the lower height will financially shackle the developers. The Preston–Chezzetcook–Eastern Shore representative also said concerns about the Willow Tree tower’s shadow are misplaced. A shorter building, Hendsbee suggested, would cruelly submit the Halifax Common to more sunlight.

“In the wintertime, you don’t want the sun on the Oval because it has a thermal effect of melting the ice,” said Hendsbee. “And in the summertime, you don’t mind the shadows because it helps block the sun from the eyes of the baseball players across the street.”

Halifax Peninsula North councillor Lindell Smith was having exactly none of it.

“I understand that maybe for the applicant 62 metres is not feasible, but as council we are not in a position in our jobs to talk about the financial feasibility of the developments,” said Smith. “We are looking at the land use, how that land is used...We are not here to decide how someone can make or not make money.”

Only councillors Hendsbee, Stephen Adams, Bill Karsten and Mat Whitman voted against the lower height. A public hearing will now be scheduled for the slightly less shady Willow Tree tower.

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