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Councillor Disputes Proposed Sale of Former County Building
(Thursday, November 2/2000)-- Outgoing Councillor Graham Read ( District 17-- Purcell's Cove-Armdale) disagrees with a municipal staff plan to sell the former County of Halifax Building, 2750 Dutch Village Road, to Maritime Life.
Councillor Read said "Media reports that the building has been sold are premature. Staff want to sell the building and move most employees to surplus space in Dartmouth, but the agreement (to sell) is dependent upon changing Halifax's Municipal Planning Strategy (MPS). Changing the MPS requires consultation with the public, a Public Hearing and agreement of Regional Council."
The Dutch Village Road site is currently zoned commercial (C-1). However, after considerable public input and discussion in 1978, it was designated for residential uses in the future. Many current residents of the area participated in numerous meetings and workshops to develop the MPS.
"The public felt that if there was a change of use or change of owner, the site should become residential in keeping with the surrounding area. Until this proposal from Maritime Life came along, there had been no desire by residents, or municipal planning staff, to change the residential designation," the Councillor said.
Councillor Read has argued that changes to planning strategies should not be done on a site-specific basis, nor to respond to particular development proposals.
" If we are serious about planning and public participation in how our municipality develops, development proposals should fit the publically accepted plan. We should not conveniently modify plans to suit particular development schemes, without thorough review and public consultation.
" Staff have proposed that there be a process to change the MPS to suit this particular proposal-- without looking at the broader implications this change might have on the surrounding neighbourhood and on traffic patterns." Councillor Read said.
He said that if the building is truly surplus to the needs of HRM, it should be sold for residential uses. If it is sold with its current C-1 zoning, the building could be increased in size up to 35 feet high and could cover 50% of the lot.
Councilor Read said he was displeased that "a deal" was worked out with Maritime Life, prior to Regional Council even deciding to declare the building surplus.
"This building has been a fixture of local government for almost half a century. It is close at hand to residents living in the west end of the peninsula, and to those on the Mainland and former County areas west of the Armdale Rotary.
"It seems that convenience and accessibility for residents of Armdale and the western reaches of the municipality would be sacrificed because we inherited an expensive, overbuilt, empty building (Eric Spicer Building) located in the former City of Dartmouth. Council was kept in the dark about this while negotiations went on, " he said.
He added, "We do not have a great many sites for new residential development close to the urban core. If Maritime Life needs more space, they could move some of their operations to the former Sears site and to West End Mall. They should move across the tracks, instead of across the street, where they will encroach upon residential areas. In the Sears area, their employees would have easy access to the terminal for many major bus routes, as well as many other services which the nearby shopping malls provide."
The Councillor urged area residents to keep watch for notices of public meetings and a Public Hearing on the proposed sale and to call their Councillors if they are concerned about the issue.
Councillor Read said the first opportunity for the public to speak on this issue is at the Chebucto Community Council meeting on Monday, November 6, at 7:00 p.m. at 2750 Dutch Village Road.
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Councillor Graham Read