A 2018 rendering of Southwest Properties’ proposal for the Cunard Block, seen from the harbour.
A 2018 rendering of Southwest Properties’ proposal for the Cunard Block, seen from the harbour.

Nearly two dozen residents or businesses have filed appeals of a recent decision to approve a new development for the Halifax waterfront, triggering a hearing at council later this month.

In July, the city’s design review committee approved Southwest Properties’ plans for a residential building on the Lower Water Street property known as the Cunard Block. As the Halifax Examiner reported after the approval:

Southwest is proposing a 16-storey building with more than 250 one- or two-bedroom residential units, 90,000 square feet of commercial space and 229 indoor parking spaces.

In a staff report, planner Jennifer Chapman advised the design review committee that the building is too big for the site.

The proposal does not conform to five sections of the downtown Halifax land-use bylaw. Among those, the building is too wide and too deep, its mechanical penthouse takes up too much of the roof area, and its balconies cover too much of the face.

Though the committee approved the proposal, it also required a new planning process to allow the balconies to cover more than half the face of the building. Halifax regional council voted earlier this week to defer that process to its community planning and economic development committee.

Now it looks like the proposal will be back at council again soon.

Municipal spokesperson Maggie-Jane Spray confirmed on Thursday that the municipality has received 23 appeals of the design review committee’s decision.

Because it’s a downtown Halifax project, any property owner within the downtown planning area, plus 60 metres outside, was able to appeal the decision within 30 days. The appeal then goes to council for a hearing.

“When an appeal is received, it is forwarded to staff to prepare a report for Regional Council. The appeals will be available to the public once the staff report and Regional Council agenda is released,” Spray said in an email.

“It is anticipated that this report and the appeals will be at Regional Council at the end of the month.”

There’s a presentation item on the agenda for the next meeting of the design review committee, scheduled for next Thursday, titled “Appeals of Design Review Committee Decisions.”

The last time an appeal of a design review committee decision came to council was January 2020. Council allowed the appeal, overturning the committee’s decision to refuse a development proposal for Barrington Street. But as the Examiner reported in January, it was complicated:

[After allowing the appeal, council] held a public hearing on the Old South Suburb Heritage District Plan. That plan has been in the works since 2015 and governs development in the area around the end of Barrington St. to try to protect the more than 40 heritage properties in the vicinity.

That plan also creates new rules for the properties subject to the earlier appeal decision, 1144, 1148, and 1150 Barrington St. — where three old buildings have already been demolished.

With the plan already in the final stages of adoption, allowing changes to keep the Barrington proposal’s approval would mean a significant delay for the plan, which would mean a delay for multiple development projects.

Council decided to move ahead with the heritage district plan, and voted unanimously in favour after the public hearing.

The developer behind the Barrington St. proposal, George’s Investments Limited, will now have to submit a new design adhering to the new rules. The shape will have to change, but municipal staff said they’ll actually be permitted more density.

The Examiner asked Southwest Properties to comment on the appeals, but did not receive a response.

A young white man with a dark beard, looking seriously at the viewer in a black and white photo

Zane Woodford

Zane Woodford is the Halifax Examiner’s municipal reporter. He covers Halifax City Hall and contributes to our ongoing PRICED OUT housing series. Twitter @zwoodford

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