AKOMA development proposal to be sent to council

Harbour East-Marine Drive Community Council, March 25, 2021

Meeting recap (the important stuff):

Harbour East Marine Drive Community Council sent one of two developments for the former Nova Scotia Home for Coloured Children to council to continue the application process. The second development proposal isn’t expected for at least a year. 

During the meeting, most of the councillors had very few questions, if any. The exception being Councillor Purdy who appeared to be asking questions of staff given to her by Akoma and reading statements into the public record on their behalf.

Councillor Purdy also proposed an amendment to the motion that seemed to be given to her by the developer. Although the amendment was proposing substantive changes to the development agreement, the proposed changes would not be in line with any municipal zoning standard the city currently has. After a procedural debate, Councillor Purdy decided to withdraw the motion, asking instead that staff be prepared to speak to it when the issue comes to council. 

This meeting also had the single best staff presentation anyone at Committee Trawler has ever seen. It not only laid out the development using clear imagery but also explained where the development was in the approval process and how the process worked. It was the first presentation that was aimed at both councillors familiar with the process and the public who might not be. Councillor Mancini asked city planner Stephanie Salloum if she made the graphics herself since he too was impressed with the presentation, and she confirmed that she had. 

Salloum deserves a raise and/or promotion and her presentation format should be the municipal standard. 

Councillor Hensdbee recused himself as chair for the meeting and did not participate due to a conflict of interest. He sits on the Akoma board. 

Who said what (paraphrased): 

Hendsbee: Good evening and welcome to Harbour East and Marine Drive. Conflict of Interest? I serve on the board of Akoma and it may be perceived as a conflict of interest, so I will declare a conflict and pass the chair over to my vice chair, and just watch this meeting.  

Kent: Any further declarations of conflict of interest? We have a presentation!

Stephanie Salloum, planning staff: Presentation for Case 21875, a development from Akoma Holdings Inc to develop the former Nova Scotia Home for Coloured Children. Here’s the property in question:

Salloum: There are two developments happening in tandem, and most of the property is undeveloped. Here’s the history of the property:

Salloum: The home was opened in 1921 because Black children were not allowed in white care facilities. When it opened there was a gathering of 3000 people to celebrate. It was the largest gathering of African Nova Scotians since the Black Loyalists first came here. Here are the relevant zoning and bylaws for the area:

Salloum: Here’s where we are in the planning process (this is the first time I’ve seen this in a presentation, and it’s amazing):

Salloum: This application is focused on the northernmost part of the property. Here’s what’s being proposed for the site:

Salloum: Here’s a synopsis of the feedback we received in public engagement: 

Salloum: Here are the planned changes and why they’re being proposed (a.k.a. the reason we’re here): 

Salloum: Questions?

Purdy: *Reads the motion for agenda item 13.1.1 as written* I want to acknowledge the significance of this report, I’m in complete support of this. When will Case 22257 come to community council? On page 8, it says Akoma is not proposing development on the whole site. Additional technical studies are required, what additional studies? Will HRM be doing a technical study on the sewer services? The plan shows a connection to the Old Miller Road, and Akoma would like it reflected in the planning documents. Attachment B, clause 12 C(a) why is this required? Will it restrict Akoma’s ability to build condos? Why was the requirement for townhouses on each lot added? Does it conflict with other zoning? 

Salloum: The first question the regional plan review project was a bit delayed because of COVID, so it should be coming forward late 2022. Can you repeat the second? 

Purdy: It wasn’t a question, it was a statement. Akoma wants the record to show “that some lands immediately adjacent to the old home have been deferred to the regional plan review.”

Salloum: Akoma and the city have gone back and forth about where to put that boundary and we had come to that agreement through the planning process. Akoma is not proposing development on the property, we showed that on the plan. Additional studies, there are some outstanding to consider development within the boundaries. There are some additional studies that we haven’t seen yet. Akoma has done some work that we haven’t seen yet. Will HRM be doing a servicing study? I think so through the regional plan review. Old Miller Road is an existing right of way, but there’s nothing there for them to connect to. If Akoma needs to subdivide the property later for some reason we wanted them to be able to do that later if they needed to. They can still build the condo. We did add the word townhouses which means they need to be on a different lot, but there’s a notwithstanding to allow them to be on one lot. 

Austin: Reading through the report this seems like something we shouldn’t tread on lightly, but it is unique. Have the urban reserve designation been changed in any meaningful way in the past or is this the first one? 

Salloum: I don’t know. But we felt that there was merit in looking at this like a site specific proposal. 

Austin: I just want to make sure we’ve clearly drawn the distinction that this case is unique and special so we don’t open up urban reserve just willy nilly. I don’t want to be firing a starting pistol for developers to start developing urban reserve. 

Mancini: Did you do the slides yourself?

Salloum: I did yes.

Mancini: It’s amazing. This is an amazing job (HEAR HEAR). If this gets approved tonight, the province has to give approval, how often do they not give approval? 

Salloum: Not frequently. 

Purdy: I have been asked to read this for the record on behalf of Akoma: “The townhouse and multiple unit mixed use lot sizes being proposed represent an inefficient use of land. They do not work with the master plan. In particular for mixed use buildings along Highway 7. Another example, the twelve townhouse units at building D location behind the Akoma Family Centre will require a lot size of 120,000ff under this requirement. However, only half that amount of land is needed to accommodate building D structures, parking, setbacks and on site treatment. This matter has been raised with the planning department on 3 occasions. In it’s February 1st email to Akoma the planning department advised that “lot area minimums for the MOD zone should align with what is allowed in other rural zones. The development would be serviced by on site septic and is in a rural context.” The development in Case 21875 are not rural in context and on site septic requirements should be the delimiter. The lot size as recommended by the planning department will lead to “R3 sprawl” by unnecessarily spreading out townhouse and multiple unit dwelling development.” Does the planning department believe development in this case are rural in context? Is there a reason for lot sizes are so different for this development? 

Salloum: We looked at existing requirements for municipal land use bylaws. There is a multiple unit zone and a rowhouse zone for places that have full municipal water and sewer service. The standards we proposed are more in line with what’s on the site. If something is septic, we believe it’s a rural context, but it’s close to town so it’s semi-rural. 

Kent: Mancini has suggested that there’s only two questions allowed per councillor, is that a thing? 

Clerk: I’m looking it up. 

Mancini: In theory, it’s two questions, but it’s just us. 

Clerk: The chair has discretion.

Kent: I’m going to allow Purdy to complete her questions or condense it to use your few minutes fully. 

Purdy: I thought I had all the time in the world! I have a friendly amendment to make lots bigger and I have two more questions

Kent: You need a seconder. 

Austin: I’ll second, but I have some procedural challenges.

Kent: Is this in order?

Clerk: We can entertain it, but we should consult with the planner and solicitor. There may be an issue with it being substantive. 

Lawyer: This isn’t a public hearing, the issue is whether or not the amendment proposed will make staff have to get more information to address the impact of the amendment. It may require the matter be deferred. 

Salloum: It’s something we’d want to have a better look at and see how they came up with those numbers. I don’t think the numbers they’ve proposed would be allowed in any land use. 

Kent: What do you want to do Purdy? 

Austin: If I may, if the mover and seconder agree, they can withdraw amendments.

Purdy: This was deemed friendly, to not be a significant amendment. The big thing is the centennial of the house. Their amendment… it wouldn’t work?  

Staff: I think the amendment being proposed is material enough that we’d like to give you a supplemental report. We just haven’t assessed the proposal in the context of those lot sizes. What are the current lot sizes allowed? 

Salloum: Townhouses would require 10,000 square feet per unit, 125,000 square feet for multi-unit. 

Kent: This is both a substantiation and not friendly amendment, so it would require a motion for a staff report. Process question, there’s still an opportunity for amendments at regional council, if the motion is referred to council, can we send a supplemental report directly to council?

Boutillier, lawyer: It’s not appropriate for a community council to request a report for council. You could approve the main motion on the floor and ask that staff are prepared to speak at council. 

Purdy: Can we have Austin speak first? I learn a lot from him. 

Austin: I was heading down the same path as you Chair. There’s time between now and regional for Purdy to have conversations with staff about this. Whether we ask now or at regional it’s a substantial difference, and I wouldn’t be comfortable doing anything without a staff report.    

Purdy: The advice is to pass the main motion and ask staff be prepared to speak to this at council and in the meantime, I can get more information from staff? 

Clerk: Yes.

Purdy: The next step would be to withdraw the motion? 

Kent: That sounds like what you want to do. 

Purdy: Let’s withdraw it then.

Austin: I agree.

Kent: Questions on the main motion? 

Purdy: Can I ask two more questions? 

Kent: No, we’ve really pushed this envelope today, you can talk to staff after this meeting. 

M/S/CVoteAyeUnanimous Motion withdrawn

*Meeting adjourned


Councillor David Hendsbee, Chair (District 2)

Councillor Becky Kent, Vice Chair (District 3)

Councillor Trish Purdy (District 4)

Councillor Sam Austin (District 5)

Councillor Tony Mancini (District 6)





Previous meeting minutes and current agenda:

Previous meeting

Current agenda

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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