MacDonald wants his say, Premier says he will proceed with law to govern HRM development, By David Jackson and Amy Smith, Chronicle Herald, Oct 30th,2008
MacDonald wants his say
Premier says he will proceed with law to govern HRM development
By DAVID JACKSON and AMY SMITH Provincial Reporter
Thu. Oct 30 - 7:13 PM
Premier Rodney MacDonald says he’s pushing ahead with legislation to govern development in downtown Halifax.
The new law would implement HRM by Design, a development plan that was more than two years in the making and included several rounds of public consultation.
Mr. MacDonald said he wants it to get through the House this fall so everyone will be clear on development rules.
"This should clear the air for business, and it should clear the air for the citizens of HRM when dealing with projects of this nature," he said Wednesday.
But Phil Pacey, president of the Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia, is worried the bill will curtail his group’s efforts to protect heritage properties. He said his group hopes the proposed legislation is either amended or does not pass.
"It does represent a big transfer of power from the public to the development industry," Mr. Pacey told The Chronicle Herald’s editorial board Wednesday.
He pointed out that this legislation only affects Halifax, not the premier’s Inverness constituency.
"Inverness and Port Hood would not be subjected to the same rules," Mr. Pacey said. "They would still have their democratic rights."
Mr. Pacey said the Armour Group’s Waterside Centre would not have been allowed even under HRM by Design guidelines, which are less restrictive on the height of buildings.
City council’s defeat of the Armour proposal in a tie vote last week caused Mr. MacDonald to lash out in frustration at another project being stalled.
The premier, who is trying to champion downtown development, said he is now looking at what options he has to overturn the rejection and let the project proceed.
The Waterside Centre would keep the facades of several heritage buildings and build six floors of office space above them.
Mr. MacDonald said he doesn’t want to see a repeat of the Waterside Centre situation.
"I’m certainly cognizant of the fact that we have to deal with our municipalities on a daily basis, but at the end of the day, we need to see downtown development," Mr. MacDonald said.
If Mr. MacDonald brings legislation forward to override council’s decision, he’ll need opposition support to pass it. Both opposition leaders have said they’re not interested in overruling the city on a specific project.
The topic is bound to be a contentious issue during the fall sitting, which starts today.
Mr. MacDonald has already said it will be another chance for Nova Scotians to see clear differences between his government and the opposition NDP.
"Thus far, what I’ve seen is the NDP coming out against development in the downtown, while we are extremely supportive of it because of the signal it sends for outside investment in Halifax and in Nova Scotia," Mr. MacDonald said.
Mr. Dexter said he was once the head of downtown Dartmouth’s development commission, so Mr. MacDonald’s anti-development accusation rings hollow.
In fact, Mr. Dexter said he thinks HRM by Design finds a balance between heritage and development, although he wants to hear what people have to say about it before taking a final position.
"It’s an approach to municipal planning that seems worthwhile and has value," he said. "It seems to address both sides — the development side and the preservation side."
Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil said if Mr. MacDonald thought HRM by Design was so important, he should have tried harder to get it passed in the spring rather than introduce it in the legislature’s dying days.
All three leaders agreed the economy is the overarching issue this fall. Both opposition leaders are demanding information from the government on provincial finances, what cuts could be coming, and how it will steer Nova Scotia through the turmoil.