Municipal

NIMBYs win the day in Lower Sackville

What’s the point of public health rules anyway?
 | May 11, 2021

North West Community Council, May 10, 2021

Meeting recap (the important stuff):

[Editor’s Note: In our rush to publish after the meeting we failed to mention specifically what developments were being discussed in our meeting recap. We’ve corrected that and included the address for each development, the number of units going in, and the nature of the development (apartment/house/subdivision).]

North West Community Council met today and had a whole mess of technical issues. The first public hearing was delayed slightly as a result. 

When the public hearing eventually got underway community member Chris Rendell expressed concerns about the amended development. The development initially proposed for 34 Walker Service Road was for 34 townhouses and one 52 unit apartment building. The developers were at tonight’s meeting looking to change that initial agreement to two 56 unit apartment buildings. Rendell said the community was okay with the initially proposed townhouses, but having two “Eastern European” style apartment buildings in the neighbourhood wasn’t a good fit because they’d encourage “transients” in the community. 

Citing standing up for the desires of the community, councillor for the area Paul Russell said he was against this development for that reason. Other councillors were concerned that developers could get an agreement signed and then just amend it as-of-right (meaning bypassing council approval, kind of, it’s complicated jargon) if it was in line with municipal planning strategies. The committee voted against the development. The next step will be for the developer to decide if they want to appeal this decision to the provincial review board. In re-reading the staff report, specifically Attachment C where planners justify their decision to recommend approval based on municipal planning strategies, it’s probably a safe bet that this committee will have to vote in favour of this development should it get appealed.

Armco Capital made a presentation for their development, a 167 house subdivision in Middle Sackville, between Lively Road and Wilson Lake Drive. One community member spoke at the meeting saying there are safety concerns around traffic but councillors were happy with the traffic assessment done by the city’s engineers. 

During this presentation there was audio feedback as if both Marc Ouellet and Dave McCusker were in the same room. When asked by Councillor Russell if they were in the same room, they said yes and fixed the problem by McCusker muting his audio. Current public health rules for gathering limits read as follows:

  • Gathering limit (indoors and outdoors) is no more than your household (the people you live with) without social distancing. Two smaller households with 1 to 2 people in each household can gather together without social distancing (it must be the same 2 households all the time).

And for workplaces that are allowed to be open as “essential” (which is undefined by the province, since retail shops are allowed to stay open, if they aren’t letting customers into their stores) reads as follows: 

  • Wearing a non-medical mask is required at private indoor workplaces (like offices or warehouses) in all common areas, places where there’s interaction with the public, areas with poor ventilation and areas where people can’t maintain a minimum physical distance of 2 metres (6 feet) from others.

And here are screen caps from the meeting of Ouellet and McCusker as they were responding to questions from councillors.

Armco Capital does not seem to meet the requirements of an essential business and this virtual meeting was entirely possible to attend from the comfort of one’s own home (even going as far as reporting on it in PJ pants, HYPOTHETICALLY).  

Their development agreement was approved by the committee. 

Who said what (paraphrased): 

Russell: We’re on to public hearings, let’s proceed with item 10.1.1. Can I get the vice chair to be the chair for this one so I can speak to this? 

Blackburn: I forgot it was me for a second, thought we were still in Budget Committee for some reason, flashbacks. First up staff presentation. 

Paul Sampson: Case number 22703, amending the development agreement for Walker Service Road. It’s four properties. There’s two existing dwellings and some industrial buildings. The existing development agreement allows for 34 townhouses, 1 apartment buildings, a cul-de-sac and a public park. In order for this development to be services the developer needs to pay for it. In the new proposal, is for two apartment buildings, keep the two existing dwellings, get rid of the cul-de-sac and just have one driveway, and get rid of the public park, have a private park instead. We did public engagement. The focus of the comments were to have more apartments instead of townhouses, traffic, adequate parking and pedestrian walkways. There was also concern about the lack of park in the new plan, and environmental concerns. The Planning Advisory Committee recommended it be approved but the proposal when it went to them had a park. It doesn’t anymore. HRM doesn’t have the authority to accept parkland, so it changed to private space for the tenants. If the city did the park we might not develop it for years, a private one will be done when the development is. There will be large setbacks from neighbouring houses. Our staff have no concerns with the traffic study. Density is low because the lots of land are so large. We recommend approval. 

Blackburn: Applicant is up next but does anyone have any questions for staff before the applicant? 

*Prolonged tech issues with a public speaker’s volume

*Five minute break

*Now at 10 minutes of the official five minute break, nothing has yet happened at this meeting except for the staff presentation, at minute 34, clerk is explaining to the public speaker how the meeting works and asking the speaker again to call in instead of using Zoom while they move on to another item*

Russell: Let’s move on to the next public participation, staff presentation next. 

*This is a fustercluck

New clerk: It would be best, if possible, to make sure we’re both available for the public hearings. 

Russell: Okay, moving on to the first readings then? 

Deagle-Gammon: Is there a speaker who’s waiting for the one we’re skipping? 

Russell: Melissa Boland is the speaker.

Boland: I’m magically unmuted, I can wait.

Russell: On to 13.1.1, outdoor dog run

Lovelace: *Reads the motion for agenda item 13.1.1

Russell: You said notice of motion? 

Outhit: She just read it, correctly. 

Lovelace: That’s weird, since I’m making a motion. 

Outhit: It should be first reading to schedule a public hearing.

Lovelace: I’ll read it again, properly. *Reads it again, properly*

Russell: Staff here to answer questions? 

Thea Langille: I’m here to answer questions.

Lovelace: I think it’s great to see the changes having been made to acknowledge some of the concerns from the public. 

M/S/CVoteAyeUnanimous

Russell: Is the speaker back in the meeting (the one with tech issues)?

Clerk: Yes, hold on, speaker you here? 

Chris Rendell: Yes.

Russell: Okay, back to that, back out of the chair for me. 

Clerk: The speaker didn’t have the opportunity to hear the staff presentation, so it’s up to you if you want to get staff to give it again. 

Blackburn: He has heard the presentation? 

Clerk: No.

Blackburn: Presentation again! (You’ve got to be fu-

Sampson: *Presentation again, with no slides, just a black screen with a white name*

Russell: You’ve gone over the concerns about traffic and stuff. What happens with water and sewer?

Sampson: They’re on Old Sackville Road, so they’ll have to construct the services to this site from Old Sackville, at their expense.

Russell: Would it go up Walker directly or beside it or a third path? 

Sampson: That’s determined by Halifax Water and they enter an agreement with Halifax Water. Typically they’re in the road though. 

Russell: This road is one land each way with no shoulder, I assume it’s by the ditch, but we don’t know until permitting? 

Sampson: Yeah, they’ve looked at it though, the details will get worked out at the next step. 

Outhit: I’m a little confused about parkland. Certainly HRM can require and acquire parkland, the problem is that this isn’t a master plan item? We as community council can’t require/acquire parkland? 

Sampson: Under the existing DA it’s for multiple townhouse lots on a cul-de-sac which has a parkland component. No new lots are being created with this new plan, so it’s not required anymore. 

Blackburn: Open the public hearing! 

Cesar Saleh: I’m with WM Fares, representing our client. Our proposal has positive support from the advisory committee and HRM staff. We are requesting to change from townhouses to the second apartment building because it would have been too expensive to build the extra stuff required for the townhouses. It now has less asphalt. We’ll be able to build this in 2-3 years instead of 5-7. On the matter of traffic, traffic engineers reviewed our report, and there’s no issue. Regarding the concern that people will park on the street, we think we’ve built enough parking and can build more, if required. There’s a high demand from Sackville people who want to downsize but stay in Sackville. The park was a part of the subdivision proposal and there’s no requirement to write it in the development agreement (sorry there was other stuff at the end but we got a surprise not-in-bed toddler). 

Russell: The cost of extending services was too expensive for townhouses? 

Saleh: Kind of, it’s the compounding of costs. The anticipated cost of doing all of the work for the subdivision made the cost of the project change and it became not viable. 

Russell: The services will be extended to the property, will they be done in a way that could be extended beyond your property or will they be constructed to end at your development? 

Saleh: I don’t know for sure, but from past experience the requirement is to bring it to the edge of your property, so it has to go to the farthest point. I’m just talking from experience, perhaps staff could be more clear. But through the property and hit the other side, and all along the front of the property. 

Russell: How much will the apartments cost? 

Saleh: The rents? 

Russell: Yes.

Saleh: I do planning, that’d be marketing. 

Sampson: With regard to servicing, the developer will be responsible for connecting their development, but their development only. Other property owners couldn’t hook in, it’s not mains. 

Blackburn: Public speaker, Chris Rendell.

Chris Rendell: I live nearby and have been following this process since the Sackville library years ago. I’m not speaking for my community but we talk. What everyone here feels is that the original plan reflected the community well. It’s not a population bump. Two apartments look like Eastern Europe, and they encourage transients (whoa xenophobia). Those two big buildings or the townhouses. The two big buildings, put a breezeway between them and it’s a military barracks. It’s a rotten apple. This isn’t the location for it. The other design with the townhouses was much more appropriate. It doesn’t make sense to build skyscrapers next to Cape Cod huts. The developer, I can’t pronounce his name, they’re trying to save money. They asked for one thing, they got it, and now they’re asking for something else. They agreed on the initial one, we were happy we were going to live with it. Mr. Seed’s comments, the local people think it’s a great idea. We don’t think it’s a great idea. No one is for this. For a person to infer that this is what the community wants, is pretty insulting. We do not feel the second proposal is in any way good. What’s going to happen when the apartment buildings get run down, because that’s what happens. People would take pride in townhouses. We’re going to have to deal with all these things. This is progress and we need it, but this is like buying the cheapest dollar store stuff, if that’s what we want our legacy to be, let’s put that there, save some money and someone else gets richer. I just want to let you know how we feel. Like we always said in the military “do your job.” (We used to say a lot of things but never once do I remember hearing that. “Living the dream, serving the Queen.” “Belt fed co-” you know what, maybe this isn’t a fun game.)

Saleh: I was never inferring I was speaking on behalf of the community, I was saying the process was smooth. We see a lot of benefits for what we’re proposing and I hope council sees the benefits of this application.

Blackburn: What is the wish of council?  

Russell: *Reads the motion for agenda item 10.1.1 as written* I had a look at this, and I’ve been involved with this for a while, since I was on the advisory committee, before being elected. I think the townhouse and apartment complex was great. There wouldn’t have been a dramatic shift of the community. There are no other apartment buildings on this road. The apartment building that was proposed was behind a bunch of houses and a park. I can understand where the applicant has an interest in changing the plans, and I think the new plan is good as well. And the character of the buildings is some buffer and no setback to make them less visible from the road or to the community. The community members who live nearby want to keep the current development agreement. It would be nice if water and sewer could be extended. (Yo, if council votes against this due to one public speaker, but not any of any other ones that have been just straight up bad ideas… man.) I support the community in this one. What happens if this motion gets defeated? 

Clerk: You would need to defeat the motion on the floor, and give reasons in the minutes. 

Lawyer: It would be defeated, and the reasons would be in the minutes. 

Russell: What are the acceptable reasons? 

Lawyer: Has to be MPS reasons.

Russell: So the developer can get a development agreement, and change it in any way they want if it’s in line with the MPS? 

Lawyer: Yes. 

Russell: We can’t just say we don’t agree with the change, we need to justify it against the MPS?

Lawyer: Yes.

Outhit: One of the things the MPS looks at is being consistent with the surrounding community, and townhouses and parks would have been in line with the community, and now they’re not there, so would that be good enough? 

Sampson: In our report we attached the most relevant references.

Lovelace: I’m having a lot of technical issues, I’m stuck on the original agreement that contained parkland, and this one doesn’t need to. The water service boundary is right on the edge. I want to thank Mr. Rendell for coming forward and speaking. The advisory committee is also in place to make sure the community has their say. What we’re struggling with is when a developer comes in with a plan, agrees to it, and then the developer just amends it, and the community isn’t happy with that. I want to make a decision for what the community needs. 

Deagle-Gammon: Sampson had said at the end of the case file there’s references, can you direct me there? 

Sampson: Attachment C

M/SVoteUnclear on count, voted by raise of handsDoesn’t pass 

Blackburn: What happens next?

Clerk: Your discussion is recorded in the minutes. 

Sampson: Just to clarify with the solicitor, there’s enough to go on there with regard to council’s reasoning? 

Lawyer: It’ll be based on their discussion.

Clerk: Are you asking for specific references? 

Sampson: What I’m asking is if we have adequate reasons that council indicated, or just what’s been said. 

Lawyer: Just what’s been said. 

Russell: Case 21355, up first, staff presentation. 

Stephanie Salloum: Armco Capital wants to build a 167 unit residential subdivision. North of Sackville Drive, between Lively Road and Wilson Lake Drive. (There’s a long history to this development going back a decade or so, I zoned out a bit, sorry, long day) We sent out 12 phone calls and emails from the start of this process. The public was concerned about the lot sizes, compatibility of semi-detached units and lot sizes, pedestrian safety, traffic (a lot of normal stuff). The North West Planning Advisory Committee recommended approval. The most recent version is 167 units, or 163 if the final survey isn’t what they think it’ll be. Here’s the traffic plan for the subdivision:

Salloum: We recommend approval of the development agreement. Questions?

Blackburn: Two quick questions, why are the lights considered at Lively instead of Wilson Lake? Wilson Lake seems to be the busiest. Will there need to be any special mitigation due to its former use as a drag strip? 

Salloum: The traffic lights, our engineers have reviewed the site, Wilson Lake might have queueing and spilling into the Margeson roundabout. And the Wilson Lake Drive will have a one-way entrance, which means traffic wouldn’t be going out that way. There have been environmental site assessments, and have been reviewed. 

Blackburn: These new homes will be fully serviced? 

Salloum: Yes, and connected through water and sewer. 

Outhit: Substantive vs non-substantive, siting of buildings can be rather substantive, why is changing the siting of buildings not substantive enough to require more public consultation? 

Salloum: Once the lot sizes weren’t changing and the number of units wasn’t changing we felt it wasn’t substantive. It would be more about setbacks. The development agreement allows setbacks. Variance are normally for one-offs, if they wanted to change it for the overall development it’s not substantive (this… is jargony, sorry). 

*Extending the meeting past 9 p.m.*

Russell: I’ve been watching this through its various iterations, the property being used for the two-way street, do they have permission to do that? 

Salloum: Yes, Armco owns it now. 

Russell: Public hearing, first up, applicant. 

Marc Ouellet from Armco Capital: This is the culmination of seven years of planning. We made some changes, like adding trees and reducing the units. 

Outhit: I’m getting audio feedback.

Russell: Me too, from the two presenters, are you in the same room? 

Ouellet: Yes (are these MFers breaking public health rules in a public hearing!?). We had issues with traffic, and we reworked them. There were concerns about the development draining private wells but this development will be serviced by Halifax Water. (I got side tracked looking up public health guidelines, came back to this to hear Ouellet tell councillors what they are not to do when making a decision, but these MFers, unless they’re in the same family, are absolutely breaking public health rules, anyways, back to the meeting, he’s giving a spiel about how Armco Capital is job creating and making houses which the city can tax anyways, gettin’ real Monopoly man vibes from this guy.) 

Melissa Boland: I’m a resident of Barry Hill subdivision, and am here to talk about two things and ask four questions. I’m concerned, and not alone in this, about the traffic safety concerns that this development will highlight, not create, highlight. Traffic signalling at Wilson Lake Road will affect the roundabout, Blackburn told me there was no reason a light wouldn’t go in there. The heavy equipment turning into this development will be dangerous. The developer of the strip mall hasn’t fixed the bike lanes. I’m not overstating, I’m waiting for the injury or death to happen due to this. Can the issue of traffic signalling be revisited? Can speed be reduced until this can be fixed? Will the city follow up with the strip mall? The environmental impact of this development, I understand they don’t expect well water shortages, but what’s the recourse if there is? 

Russell: You can’t ask questions here, you’re making a presentation. However, if staff would like to respond to those questions, or if councillors have questions? 

Lovelace: I appreciate this opportunity to speak, and thank you Bolland for presenting, and I don’t share your doom and gloom Mr. Ouellet. The issue of housing hasn’t just appeared. When I look at this proposal I have, one of the comments was about making changes to the roadway to mitigate the ATV traffic-

Clerk: Is this for Boland or staff? 

Lovelace: Staff, I’ll wait. 

Dave McCusker: If you don’t feel safe making the one turn, drive the extra block to make the safer one. And people will migrate to do that, which will decrease traffic. There’s a fairly steady stream of traffic on trunk 1, and with signals it becomes bunched up on red lights and creates gaps. 

Salloum: There are bylaws to protect private property, so if there is damage to wells, these bylaws would be the recourse. The traffic lights would also help with pedestrian safety. 

*Close public hearing*

Blackburn: *Reads the motion for agenda item 10.1.2 as written

Lovelace: Just looking for clarification, there was a concern with mitigating traffic with ATVs on these roadways that is causing some problems? 

Salloum: There were concerns about mitigating speeds in the development, in the proposed development agreement there is wording to have the streets designed to mitigate speeding. We’re hoping the text to mitigate speeding in the design mitigates some of those concerns.

Lovelace: Is there traffic calming on some of those community streets right now? 

Salloum: I’m not sure. 

Lovelace: I’m just trying to understand what has happened to mitigate these concerns already. If we’re not addressing those concerns they would have concerns we won’t listen to them on this one. 

Salloum: This is about the proposed development, and what we can do on this property. 

Blackburn: This has been planned for quite a while. That speed limit on Sackville Drive was just lowered from 70 to 60, but we can’t change them without the province. I can look at that, seeing if moving down to 50 is appropriate. The strip mall will be fixing the bike lane this summer. The traffic situation, I agree that lights would be better placed at Wilson Lake, but I agree with staff on the lights making a safe pedestrian crossing (not unless you ban cellphones!). When it comes to water, it’s a unique situation, where a development will be fully serviced, surrounded by people on well and septic. If you have a concern about your well water, have a test done to establish a baseline, it’s worth the $25-50 (That’s just the basic test, recommended test is $200-300) whatever it is now. If it’s a flow issue take a video now. 

M/S/CVoteAyeUnanimous

Russell: Next!

Outhit: *Reads the motion*

(There may have been some debate here, I’m fading quite quickly)  

M/S/CVoteAyeUnanimous

*Meeting adjourned*

Present:

Councillor Paul Russell, Chair (District 15)

Councillor Lisa Blackburn, Vice Chair (District 14)

Deputy Mayor Tim Outhit (District 16)

Councillor Kathy Deagle-Gammon (District 1)

Councillor Pam Lovelace (District 13)

Absent: 

N/A

Interviews:

N/A – COVID

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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