UARB overrules community councils on Bedford West development proposal

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The original development agreement included a grocery store, a hotel, 72 residential units and an office building. (Halifax Regional Council - image credit)
The original development agreement included a grocery store, a hotel, 72 residential units and an office building. (Halifax Regional Council - image credit)

Nova Scotia's regulator has overruled the decisions of two community councils and given the go-ahead to a development proposal near Kearney Lake.

Cresco Holdings had a development agreement for a project that includes a grocery store, a hotel, 72 residential units and an office building. But the company changed its plans.

Its most recent proposal was to ditch the commercial space idea and add 200 more residential units.

Since the proposed building straddles two planning zones, Cresco needed approvals from two different community councils for the amendment. Even though city planning staff recommended it be approved, both the Halifax and West Community Council and the Northwest Community Council rejected the amendment.

Shawn Cleary is the councillor for Halifax West Armdale.
Shawn Cleary is the councillor for Halifax West Armdale. (CBC)

Coun. Shawn Cleary called it "atrocious planning" that was not transit-oriented or friendly to pedestrians or cyclists.

But in its decision to grant the appeal, the Nova Scotia Utilities and Review Board said many of the concerns are ones "that arise generally when dealing with planning matters."

The board said no actual evidence was produced to suggest the concerns were legitimate.

"In this case, the reasons provided by the community councils made no attempt to connect the general concerns they identified to specific policies in HRM's MPS [municipal planning strategy] or the existing development agreement," it said.

Creso tried to replace commercial space with 200 more residential units. The developers said the maximum number of people would remain the same at just over 1,200.
Creso tried to replace commercial space with 200 more residential units. The developers said the maximum number of people would remain the same at just over 1,200.(Halifax Regional Council)

There were also concerns raised at the community council level that the 200 added residential units would create a strain on the stormwater system.

To that, the UARB said the North West Community Council provided "no reliable evidence ... of a factual nature or in the form of expert opinion, to show that the proposed amendments will have any negative impacts on the stormwater system.

"This is not a case where there are judgment calls to be made with respect to ambiguous MPS provisions or the exercise of discretion pursuant to such policies. This is a case where there is no evidentiary basis to support the North West Community Council's ultimate decision."

Ultimately, the UARB said the community council's decisions "do not reasonably carry out the intent" of the municipal planning strategy and ordered it to approve Cresco's proposed amendments to its development.

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