Harbour East-Marine Drive Community Council, May 20, 2021
Meeting recap (the important stuff):
Armco’s application to rezone a lot that is mostly wetland into a light industrial zone has been denied by the Harbour East-Marine Drive Community Council.
During the staff presentation portion of the meeting city planner Brittney MacLean said staff recommended approving the rezoning based on the existing municipal planning strategy (MPS) for the area. City staff, for those who don’t know, judge applications based on the black and white policies that exist for the area. Councillor Kent wanted to know when the MPS was written, and MacLean answered that it was written in 1992.
One member of the public and leader of an impromptu community group for the area, Dave Phelps, spoke against the rezoning. Referencing his heavily researched correspondence to the community council, Phelps said the lands were too small for any meaningful industrial use and the wetlands area goes further into the parcel of land than the planning maps showed.
When the public hearing closed Kent followed up with an impassioned plea to the other councillors to deny this rezoning. She said that she understood Armco was maybe frustrated with the process, but referencing Phelp’s submission pointed out that Armco’s own development application from 2014 said they were proposing a residential development because industrial wasn’t appropriate for the area. That rejected application, for the record, was denied because it was a 250 unit development proposed for a single unit dwelling zone, which the land is currently zoned for.
The Councillors of Dartmouth; Purdy, Austin and Mancini all wanted to support Kent but were worried their decision would be overturned on appeal to the Utility and Review Board. Their concern stemmed from the fact that the UARB, like staff, tend to review appeals based on the black and white writing of the planning policies, and the MPS from the 90s said the Passage and Cow Bay should be industrial. They, but mainly Austin, were concerned that they wouldn’t be able to demonstrate that the application wasn’t reasonably consistent with the intent of the MPS.
Then Councillor Hendsbee, who’s been an elected official on and off since 1995, weighed in saying the industrial designation made sense with the MPS at the time because it makes sense to put industry beside railroads. But since then the rail lines have all been pulled up and are now part of the trans Canada trail network. Hendsbee didn’t believe that this present industrial designation is reasonably consistent with the intent of the MPS, since it was based on there being a lot of train tracks nearby.
Ultimately they decided to vote it down, unanimously. But Armco can appeal the decision to the UARB.
Oh, and the proposed rezoning has the access point going through Hines Road, which requires developing at least a driveway on the protected wetland.
Who said what (paraphrased):
*This stream started halfway through the staff presentation but the slides aren’t advancing. So to recap, they’ve fixed that technical difficulty in the middle of a different technical difficulty with the presentation*
Brittney MacLean (Planner II): There’s a history of applications on this land. A multi unit residential zoning was started in 2014 but in 2019 the applicant asked for an industrial rezoning application instead. It’s surrounded by homes and the Shearwater Flyer Trail. The part they want to rezone is yellow and the black is the proposed driveway:
MacLean: The site is mostly protected with the zone in yellow being single unit dwelling. Here’s what a light industrial allows:
MacLean: They have not confirmed what they’re going to use it for, but no matter what they say, they can apply for any of those. Here’s a comparison of the zones:
MacLean: We received seven calls and seven letters or emails. Our virtual public hearing had nine people attend. There were concerns about traffic (DRINK!), especially larger industrial vehicles, speeding, concerns that Hines Road doesn’t have adequate infrastructure, concerns that it would make it unsafe to get to the Flyer Trail, there were concerns about the environmental impact of industrial zoning on the wetlands (man, if dog poo is doing damage, you better believe an industrial zone would do damage) and they thought the R-1 zoning would be better due to the housing crisis. The planning strategy for the area highlights that industrial use is a priority in the area (oh man does that ever suck for the people who live there). There is a portion of the zone that is wetland, they have to get permits in the development process to protect that. All of the drainage plans would have to be properly permits. A traffic study was done, and they expect a minimal impact, and the HRM’s engineer agrees with the information in the study. Staff recommend approving the rezoning to light industrial. Questions?
Kent: I’ve had a chance to get a lot of my questions answered prior to this. What year was the MPS written?
Mancini: Were there any comments from residents about composting and cannabis? Or the types of business that could go in there?
MacLean: They raised concerns about the types of uses, the constraints on the sight would make it hard for composting and cannabis with the required setbacks. There’s no way for a composting facility or a cannabis one. It would be extremely difficult but technically if someone got super creative, but it would have to be super small.
Mancini: Even though the designation allows those types of things, they still have to apply and get approved and that would be difficult?
Purdy: Compliance for the environmental impact. Is it procedure to follow up in 12-18 months after an industrial use has been set up? Or is it complaint driven?
MacLean: For wetland alterations it would be through the Department of Environment, so that’s where the public would go, I’m not sure about their follow-up. On our end, I’m not sure if there’s a follow-up after the permitting inspection. There are also some industry standards that require follow-ups. But it would be 311 otherwise.
Chris Markides: I’m from ZZap, I’m here to advocate for the rezoning. Our client wants to rezone because it has become clear *frozen* off Hines Road and will require a wetlands alteration permit. The MPS for Cow Bay is clear on its desire for industrial expansion in the area. There’s no specific use decided yet but they’re considering what’s in blue:
Markides: The industrial vacancy rate has gone down and there’s a need for research and development, and small warehouses. The MPS says there needs to be buffering, and it would be either a fence or landscaped. We’re requesting your support because the MPS policies support this. The land use bylaw provides the necessary guidance.
Kent: You say industrial vacancies are down by 3 per cent, where are you getting that data? Anytime industrial is adjacent to residential, there are issues around pollution that ground barriers can’t address, like light and noise pollution, what are your plans for that? I want to see if the people you represent have given any thought to that. Opportunities for community growth, what specifically are you trying to get at?
Jamie Copeland: I think Markides has left the meeting? His connection may have been lost?
Markides: Sorry, I got booted. I didn’t catch your questions.
Hendsbee: You can summarize quickly.
Kent: Yeah yeah yeah, sorry that was disrespectful. *Laughing, then repeats her questions* There has been expansion of industrial lands out here, so your data might not be right for out here.
Markides: Around vacancy, it’s an increase in demand as shown by a decrease in vacancy by Wakefield Industrial MarketBeat on 2021 Q1, but for the HRM as a whole, not specifically this area. The mitigation of light and noise, the land use bylaw has rules for that. For the noise, the noise bylaw applies here from my understanding, even for industrial properties. The opportunities for growth were more for the public hearing, but there are some opportunities for growth with partnerships or startups.
Kent: Can you be more specific about the opportunities?
Markides: (He’s said words, but the answer is no)
Mancini: Your client wasn’t sure what they were going to do with the land. Do they intend to lease it? Sell it? Business of their own?
Markides: They don’t know yet, they’re not an industrial operator. It would depend on if they could find a tenant. They’d consider selling to an industrial developer.
Mancini: We have examples of light industrial that works well together and places where it doesn’t work well. Where it works well there is good communication, has there been any conversation about how they’ll communicate with the residents?
Markides: I assume they’ll do something? Maybe it’s the responsibility of future tenets, or?
Mancini: Maybe it was a bit of an unfair question.
Hendsbee: We have one speaker, Dave Phelps.
Dave Phelps: I live directly adjacent to the properties Armco and Z-Zap are seeking rezoning. I have provided a written submission about my concerns and that of my immediate neighbours. My purpose is to find out if you have received that submission and it sounds like you haven’t because the questions demonstrate that you have not.
Hendsbee: Use your five minutes to speak your case, and yes we’ve received it.
Phelps: I would applaud, for the first time, Councillor Kent. I’m not going to go into detail here, I spent two weeks writing the submission. But if this evening’s proceedings are any indication I think we need to reconsider the methodology. I’d like to raise MacLean’s first slide, is that available for me to make comment on?
Hendsbee: You can make your case from what you’ve provided.
Phelps: In general, the site is too small to develop industrially, the area is about 1.65 hectares, and the wetland is bigger than on the map. We ask that you reject the application, and Armco wants a development, they should do it as an R-1. We are absolutely opposed to an open ended rezoning from an R-1 to an I-1. The MPS was written in the 90s, the industrialization of the Passage is long over. There have been no industry and no multi-unit dwellings of recent proposals. We’d ask that Armco develop an R-1 development.
Kent: My plan is to speak to some of what you’ve brought up at the appropriate step. I know you’re a go to leader for the neighbourhood, can you clarify what your community group is?
Phelps: Above the trail I’ve talked to everyone, below the trail I’ve talked to no one since they’re not directly connected. I’m representing the people in the streets near me.
Kent: I appreciate the detail in your submission.
*Public hearing closes*
Kent: As per the process I’ll put the motion on the floor as required (these are fighting words). *Reads the motion for agenda item 10.1.1 as written* For anyone who’s listening, I have to do that, but it doesn’t mean I support it. I have given this a lot of thought. I’ve been trying to get a good handle of what’s at play. Straight up, I can’t support this application. I’m very very concerned, as are others in the area, that there’s no intention identified. It can lead to a higher risk for the area. The area of district three that is speaking to the industrialization is more than 30 years old. We have rail, roads, and water, and it made sense at the time. I’m in favour of creating jobs and opportunities for locals. But I’m not okay with the complete surrounding, and overpopulating industrial in a place that has residential now. People here in the late 80s were open to the idea of jobs, well they still are, but the area has continued to grow. The shipping and transportation industries are full-on right now. The old refinery is now in a remediation process and that’s all industrial. We have wastelands of industrial designated areas, it just doesn’t feel appropriate to completely surround them. We need housing. Armco has been a good developer in the Passage. They’ve developed housing in the Passage. I recognize they’re probably frustrated with the applications they put forward, they were heavier and denser maybe than was palatable at the time. There’s a lot of industry in the area. Hines Road traffic is a problem (I’ve walked it, it’s a deathtrap. Absolute deathtrap). The environmental impact is a problem, it’s concerning, it’s already impacting the residents in the area, I can’t see it getting better. I have concerns about using the MPS from 30 years ago as the reason for this rezoning. I know it’s frustrating for Armco and ZZap, there’s not an appetite for that for them right now, but hopefully if this gets denied they’ll go back. Mr. Phelps also put forward that in 2014 Armco said the industrial zone for this parcel was no longer appropriate due to wetlands protection. I’m asking you to vote against this.
Austin: Thank you Kent for the remarks and clear ask of us. As I look at this one, it’s smack in the middle of residential areas and I think we have very outdated plans in the municipality. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an MPS that says you can convert residential to industrial, but it is the plan for the area. So if we vote against this, is it appealable?
MacLean: It would be appealable to the UARB because that’s the policy we used to evaluate the proposal.
Austin: If this is appealable and council is going to reject it, do we have to be very clear about our reason for rejecting it?
Austin: It leaves me in a bit of a bind because I don’t know what our policy piece might be. My own feeling here is that I would like to support Kent, but be careful what you wish for, I think. We will have to identify a policy rationale for why we’re voting against it.
Purdy: Phelps mentioned the environmental piece, and this zone was switch to residential due to the environmental concerns, could that be used to reject this?
MacLean: The MPS designated the lands as industrial, and I’m not sure when it was rezoned residential, I’m not sure if that answers your question?
Purdy: Well it’s an answer, so thank you.
Hendsbee: That’s diplomatic, solicitor?
Josh Judah: Alternative one: “Harbour East Marine Drive Community Council may choose to refuse the proposed LUB amendment, and in doing so, must provide reasons why the proposed amendment does not reasonably carry out the intent of the MPS. A decision of Council to refuse the proposed LUB amendment is appealable to the N.S. Utility & Review Board as per Section 262 of the HRM Charter.” So, reasonably carry out the intent. Reasonably carry out the intent. I think that’s pretty clear.
Austin: To me, the main challenge with this site is the proximity to the residential around it, has it always been like that? As I look at the criteria in the report, is there anything we would consider in this rezoning that would allow us to say it’s not compatible with the residential uses?
MacLean: There is policy here that says it must ‘have control’ to make it in line with adjacent uses. And the zone gave extra setbacks and stuff to make it fit better in the MPS, which were the tools they used at the time.
Austin: That’s helpful, maybe not enough to win a UARB decision, but it’s helpful.
Mancini: If we were to approve the R-1 (I think he means I-1) zone can we eliminate some of the items that are deal breakers for the residents? It’s difficult to do on the fly but is that possible?
Carl Purvis: If you were to want to change the uses in the zone, you can create a brand new zone, which we do sometimes. Or changing the entire zone itself, so all I-1 zones would change. The zone informs the bylaw, so it’s hard to work it up that way.
Mancini: That’s just one of the items in our toolbag.
Hendsbee: This MPS was written in the early 90s, since that time the zone was due to the rail line. It would have been compatible to have railway lines next to industrial zones. But the rail lines are gone, it’s just the spurs by the autoport. We’ve seen residential explode and evolved to become less industrial, which is why it was probably rezoned. The amount of wetland on the site means it’s hard to use. I see this proposal as not compatible with the residential buildings in the area rather than an open ended industrial zone.
Kent: I’ve been mulling over what Austin said about an appeal to the UARB. I just want to be clear that the residential applications on an R-1 zone, they were asking for a higher density than the R-1 allowed. It was over 250 units. In 2011 council refused the application for *reasons that have been brought up by Kent at this meeting.* I really appreciate the articulation that Hendsbee just put forward. ZZap tried to get information from the community but there was no real good dialogue for residential opportunities. Armco has opportunities, and I’d look forward to more conversations with them.
M/S – Vote – Nay – Unanimous – Rezoning defeated
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)
N/A – COVID
Previous meeting minutes and 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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