Some call it a step forward, some a step backward, but as far as city council is concerned, HRMbyDesign is a done deal.
Three years after work on the downtown design plan started, Halifax Regional Council voted in favour of the long-term vision yesterday, following some contentious debate and fine-tuning.
Jennifer Watts of Connaught-Quinpool was the only councillor who voted against the project in the end. Most councillors stood up and applauded city staff and citizens who dedicated their time and effort toward creating the urban plan.
Timberlea-Prospect Coun. Reg Rankin said “this is the right thing to do,” while Lower Sackville Coun. Bob Harvey called it a worthwhile “leap of faith.”
Project manager Andy Fillmore reminded council that “thousands of residents, with their own hands, shaped this plan.” He said about 80 per cent of Haligonians have shared their support “and want to adopt it as quickly as possible.”
The Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia, however, has been vocal about its opposition and president Phil Pacey said yesterday he’s “very disappointed” that the plan has passed.
“The overall result today has been very negative for the city,” he said, pointing to an informal survey of preferred views from Citadel Hill, conducted by his group a few weeks ago.
“Ninety-one per cent of the public don’t want those convention centre towers.”
But Pacey said he’s “pleased” with three amendments made yesterday, including the decision to keep current height limits for buildings on south Barrington Street, as well as the move to add more laypeople to a design review committee.
“We have taken three small steps forward; one giant step backward,” Pacey said.
Fillmore told reporters the 25-year plan preserves most downtown view planes and introduces three heritage conservation districts. HRMbyDesign is “an absolutely crucial step toward Halifax finding itself in the realm of great Canadian cities,” he said.