Joint Halifax and West Community Council and North West Community Council

Joint Halifax and West Community Council and North West Community Council, Nov. 26, 2020

 | November 27, 2020

Present:

Lisa Blackburn, Chair (District 14)

Kathy Deagle-Gammon (District 1)

Waye Mason (District 7)

Lindell Smith (District 8)

Shawn Cleary (District 9) 

Kathryn Morse (District 10)

Patty Cuttell (District 11) 

Iona Stoddard (District 12)

Pam Lovelace (District 13)

Paul Russell (District 15)

Tim Outhit (District 16)

Absent: 

N/A

Meeting recap (the important stuff):

The joint community councils voted their morals at tonight’s meeting, but couldn’t stop a development they mostly seem to hate.

The development agreement for Hogan Court was first approved in 2012, which means the developer could if they wanted, get permits and start building tomorrow with the agreement they already have. The meeting tonight was to amend the existing agreement to allow a larger residential building. Both of the community councils had to vote on the amendment, where it got trounced in two votes, 4-2 by the Halifax and West council and 5-0 by the North West council.

Councillors Smith and Mason both voted for the amendment, because voting against it for reasons outside of the scope of what the community councils were asked to review would fail an appeal. The applicant, Cresco Holdings Limited, can now come back with a new amendment incorporating the feedback from tonight’s meeting, appeal the decision which would likely be successful, or start building under their current agreement. 

The reason most of the councillors, even Mason who voted for the motion, don’t like the development is includes but is not limited to: there seems to be little to no consideration for it’s impact on traffic, environmental impact, transit or active transportation integration, or livability. But none of this was necessary in the initial application and isn’t grounds for denying the amendment implication. 

Both councils were required to meet for this application because the property sits in both of the councils’ areas of responsibility. 

Should Cresco appeal the community councils’ decision, it’ll likely win.

Who said what (paraphrased): 

Blackburn: It’s not too often we do these combined community councils. With no admin that’s contentious. We’ll move on to our main agenda item. It’s like a normal public hearing, starts with a staff presentation, then a public hearing speaker’s list (you needed to sign up yesterday). Do we have correspondence? 

Clerk: We do, and it’s been distributed to you. 

Blackburn: Onto the staff presentation. 

Staff (Meaghan Maund): (Presenting Case 22450) The applicant is Cresco Holdings Limited, and it’s for Hogan Court, Bedford. They want to make some of the commercial zoning residential for a development. There’s also another landowner involved in this application, so they’d have to agree, and the development crosses into two districts on two different community councils, which is why we’re all here today. Construction permits have already been approved here, one is a hotel and convention centre, and one is a grocery store. The existing agreement had been approved and amended twice since. This amendment is allowed under existing policies, the additional units wouldn’t increase the population density required by the existing policy. Public feedback was primarily about traffic, specifically increased traffic, but some questions about what the development is going to be. The traffic impact statement was reviewed by the city and the province and amended several times. The study concluded that there would be a minor increase in traffic, but it can easily be handled by existing infrastructure. It was reviewed by North West Planning Advisory Committee and they approved it. Staff recommend approving the amended agreement. 

Blackburn: Questions? 

Russell: I just want to make sure the building that’s already under construction is the one from Schedule K in the agreement? 

Maund: It’s a conceptual masterplan, it was done in 2012, the building under construction is in the same place. 

Cuttle: My question is about the reduction in commercial density. Where does the reduction come from if the commercial applications as proposed haven’t changed? 

Maund: It’s complicated, it’s based on 50 persons per acre, but it comes down to what the wastewater system can handle. Different businesses produce more wastewater. The grocery store wouldn’t change anything, but if more restaurants wanted to be included, it might change things, but it’d be caught at permitting. 

Cuttle: So, there’s no change? 

Maund: No, not from the conceptual plan. The plan needs to meet the criteria of the development agreement. 

Outhit: I just got an email that said the slideshow is a mess and they can’t see anything. They want to know what’s the point of this waste of time if they can’t see anything. Are we having tech issues? 

Blackburn: No? 

Outhit: Okay. I got some calls about this development. They wanted to make sure the park was staying, and it is. There were concerns about traffic, there always is, and I’ve never seen a traffic impact statement say it’d be terrible, don’t do it. I do have sympathy for the concerns about traffic. There are three roundabouts, and they’re basically at capacity. There’s going to need to be improvements made. There’s going to need to be a lot of improvements. 

Mason: Point of order, is there a question coming? 

Outhit: The question is; what discussions have staff had with the province about improvements that need to be made to the roundabouts? 

Maund: It was sent to Dept. of Transportation, and they made revisions. When it was deemed acceptable for this application, that’s when the conversation stopped. The ball’s in the Department of Transportation’s court. 

Blackburn: We have staff watching from home and they say it’s fine on their end. 

Lovelace: Connectivity, it won’t be connected to Kearny Lake for vehicles, but will it be connected for biking and pedestrians? 

Maund: There is a park on the development owned by HRM and a trail in the park. There is an application in exploring the possibility of a path in the park. It may be challenging because it’s steep, but there is a possibility. But I’m not familiar with that proposal and it’s preliminary. 

Blackburn: Public hearing! Cresco’s up. 

Cresco Representative: Megan’s done a wonderful job presenting our case, so we’re comfortable to move forward, but we’re here for questions. 

Member of the public (Brian Murray): The information we received said there would be a delay in what’s being discussed, and what’s being heard. And there was. We’re concerned with the volume of people. We live across the street right now, and there’s gridlock now. I don’t understand how it’s not a problem if it’s already a problem now. There’s going to be a lot of accidents. It doesn’t affect us personally, but that land is being over developed. Mr. Outhit thinks it’s rosy, great. It’s not going to be good. Go sit there at 6 am and see what happens. I hope Mr. Outhit has a lovely day.

Blackburn: Public hearing done, Cresco do you want to address what Mr. Murray said. 

Cresco: Nothing to say. 

Blackburn: Questions from council? 

Mason: Staff, Mr. Murray’s concern is traffic on Hogan Court, but this development won’t affect traffic on Hogan? Am I reading this wrong? 

Maund: With the shift to residential, it will change traffic. The impact statement did say there would be a minor increase on Hogan. 

Mason: What does minor mean? 

Maund: The engineers come up with it, not a whole lot? 

Blackburn: Now we split up the debate, Smith will wrangle his half of the community council for their debate. 

Smith: Any questions or debate items from Halifax West? 

Staff: You need to put the motion on the floor. 

Smith: Right, anyone want to put the motion on the floor? 

Cleary: (Reads the motion for agenda item 4.1.1 as written) The council and the planners who originally approved this and the master plan should be ashamed of themselves. It’s awful sprawl. It’s not friendly to transit, pedestrians. It’s not environmentally friendly, it’s not sustainable. I can’t support this. I don’t really give two hoots about this development in particular. The planning just sucks. I’m voting no. 

Cuttle: I can’t say I disagree with Cleary. I don’t understand how the transfer of density here reduces the commercial development. I don’t even see this development in and of itself as walkable. It just seems like people walking through parking lots to get to a commercial area. It doesn’t meet the standards of a complete community. It’s just more of the same of what’s happening on the other side of the highway. The parking lot right above Kearney Lake will have an environmental impact. It doesn’t hook into a broader transit or active transit plan, it’s clearly not a priority. I understand that this has already been approved, and we’re just looking at an amendment. I feel like we’re just allowing more units with no public benefit. I would have difficulty supporting this amendment. 

Smith: Couple of quick things, Councillor Cuttle is right, we’re just talking about the transfer of density. If we don’t accept this change we have to give reason for why we don’t believe this falls under the municipal planning strategy. It’s our will to agree or not agree, but we have to give a reason, related to the MPS. Also, both committees have to approve it for it to work, one isn’t enough. 

Morse: I agree about the traffic concerns, some of the residents of Kearney Lake are very concerned about the overuse of the recreation area at Kearney Lake. They think it’s become over popular and it’s impacting the water quality. It’s one of the few beaches that’s accessible by transit. We have this wonderful lake, and we’re just developing around it without a real plan to protect the lake. 

Smith: For me, I agree with most of what everyone’s said. If we had looked at this today, this council would have asked for changes to make it integrate. Since I’m not an expert, I can’t look at the MPS and the reports and find a reason to vote against it. I don’t like the development, but within the scope, I can’t find a reason not to support it. 

M/S/C – Vote – Smith, Mason – Aye – Cleary, Morse, Cuttle, Stoddard – Nay

Motion has failed.

Smith: So, no matter what North West does, the amendment fails. But I think it’s important that the other community council has their debate and vote. Passing it on to North West.

Blackburn: Any councillors from North West want to speak? 

Outhit: Before putting a motion on the floor, I just want to say things have changed since the development has been approved. In the future, when we do things like Fort Wallis, we get transit in there sooner. I think we can do better. The other thing we have to remember is that the previous council did unanimously approve a plan for the area for traffic improvements. The park and ride will be in there soon, as we heard at the transit committee today. I’m very concerned about the traffic. The roundabouts are already at capacity. I’d like to defer our community council’s decision until I can get a definite answer on what a minor increase is. I’d also like to defer until I can talk to the province about their roundabout. Can I do this? 

Solicitor: Yes, you can defer. 

Staff: You can defer whenever you want, you don’t need to put the motion on the floor first. 

Outhit: If we defeat this tonight, it’ll probably win on appeal, but if we defer it we can get more information and we can have a better reason to approve or deny. If the province has no plans to improve the roundabouts and the traffic information comes back as bad, we’d have a better ground for denying. 

Blackburn: How does this work if one voted no and one voted to defer? 

Staff: Section 222 (pg. 130) of the Charter allows for joint public hearings to make things easier for the public to participate. But this is why we split the debate itself. Both need to approve to move forward, North West still needs to make a decision no matter what.

Blackburn: And they can just do that on their own? 

Staff: Yeah. 

Outhit: I was deferring this to get more information to make a better decision, but if one party’s already defeated this, isn’t it dead no matter what? Is there a point to defer or am I just prolonging the inevitable? 

Staff: Prolonging the inevitable. 

Russell: On the deferral, I agree with all sorts of the comments made so far, and would like to second the deferral. I’d like to also find out what happens with the snow clearing’s impact on the lake. I also don’t like this development because it’s a missed opportunity to connect it to Kearney Lake Road. If we’re looking for reasons for the deferral, I’d like to add an amendment, to add getting information on snow clearing, and access to Kearney Lake Road. 

Outhit: It’s a friendly amendment. 

Smith: This isn’t about the deferral because I don’t think I can speak on that, but, does the deferral help this process? Can the applicant re-apply with a revision? They can appeal. But what are the options for the developers after this? 

Staff (Maggie Holm): Both councils need to say yes, so it’s already dead. They can appeal the decision. If the appeal fails, they’d need a new application. 

Outhit: So if one party said no, why don’t we end it? 

Holm: You said prolonged, and I think that’s an accurate description. Halifax and West denied so it’s dead. 

Outhit: It’s weird that we’re having a vote when it’s already defeated. 

Staff: In terms of the deferral, mover and seconder need to agree to withdraw it. 

Outhit: I’ll withdraw it. 

Russell: Same, and I’ll put the motion on the floor (reads the motion for agenda item 4.1.1 as written). 

Lovelace: Now that the deferral business is done, we can talk about this development. I drive through this area frequently and it’s horrific. Where are the kids going to walk to get to the bus? Where are the kids going to play? The parking lot? I don’t understand the livability. Thank you, Mr. Murray, thank you for the call to this meeting. I have a huge amount of concerns for this development. If you look at the elevation, there’s going to be a waterfall in the backyards at the bottom of this hill. I can’t support this. 

Mason: I was going to talk to deferral, but I think it’s the right decision to vote on it today. Just for where I stand, we all know the Bedford West plan is, alright, but by Larry Utek it wasn’t designed very well. But the applicants can go get permits for what’s already approved tomorrow. But I hope the developer is listening to this and comes back with an aggressive plan. 

Deagle-Gammon: Part of me wants to just get very technical, it’s a bad plan and it is what it is, and it’s there now. Mason stole my thunder a bit, but they do have the approval already. If it’s defeated we have to have good reasons why, and if they appeal and win, it’s done, it doesn’t come back. I am not a fan of this development. I drove Larry Utek the other day and worried I was going to die. And thank you all for this debate, it’s a good learning experience. 

Blackburn: Vote? 

Outhit: Can I speak again? 

Blackburn: You have three minutes. 

Outhit: Mason was right when he said West Bedford isn’t great. I’m comfortable with this vote happening today. I think we’re voting philosophically, but it’ll be hard for our lawyers to defend this appeal. But I’m confident that future developments will be better based on this debate. 

Blackburn: Vote? 

M/S/C – Vote – Unanimous – Nay

Motion has failed.

Meeting is adjourned. 

Interviews:

N/A – COVID

Previous meeting minutes and current agenda:

Agenda for the meeting


A former Naval Officer turned journalist, Matt Stickland is committed to empowering his community to ensure that everyone has access to the information they need to make their city a better place.

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