Mark Ghosn won’t be able to build the addition of his dreams on his Armview Avenue property after Halifax councillors voted down his appeal Wednesday night.
Ghosn, who owns City Centre Property Management, bought the property in 2020 for $2.3 million. He applied in 2021 to build an addition to the existing home. He planned to essentially replace the two-storey building on the lot now with a modern three-storey structure, complete with an elevator.
The plan had the new build 1.8 metres from the property line on one side. That’s closer than the 4.5 metres required under the land-use bylaw for the area. Council adopted that bylaw, the Centre Plan, after Ghosn bought the property.
Ghosn applied for a variance, and the municipality said no. He appealed to the Regional Centre Community Council, comprising councillors from peninsular Halifax and urban Dartmouth. That community council met Wednesday to hear the case. In a report to the community council, planner Telina Debly and development officer Stephanie Norman wrote that “the proposal violates the intent of the Land Use By-Law.”
“I don’t want to affect anybody’s full use and enjoyment of their lot. I just want to have an opportunity to enjoy the full use and enjoyment of my lot, and build the house that when I purchased the lot, that I had envisioned,” Ghosn told councillors.
“My plans are not set in stone, I’m willing to meet with the neighbours, address their concerns. I’m willing to make concessions. I just want to be a good neighbour, and build the house and make everybody happy.”
Neighbour concerned about water run-off, hedges
Ghosn’s direct neighbour, Kenneth Lee, opposed the variance. He told the community council that Ghosn’s proposal is for new construction, not an addition.
Lee said the existing structure is already too close to the water and at risk. He shared concerns about the new building blocking views for neighbours, and causing water to run onto his property.
“I have major concerns about erosion and flooding of my property caused by drainage from a much larger building structure and a surrounding hardscape that he’s going to put in,” Lee said.
“There’s also a hedge on my property that was built by the original owners. It’s impossible to build a new foundation within 1.8 meters of my property line without impacting the roots and destroying the established edge.”
Business partner/neighbour has no objection
Two other neighbours spoke in opposition, and one, George Ramia, spoke in favour.
“I think the intent is not to be negative, I think he just actually wants to build a home, be a good neighbour to all the neighbours that are around,” Ramia said.
“He just wants to do something a little nicer, a little more aesthetically pleasing, so it doesn’t sound unreasonable to me. I have no objection to it.”
Ramia and Ghosn are business partners, according to the joint stock registry, on a company called Barrington South Suites.
Coun. Waye Mason said he was opposed to granting the variance because the building is already too close to the water. Debly, the planner, confirmed the structure there now wouldn’t be permitted today.
“Granting the variance would be adding additional non-conformity to an already non-conforming building under the current land use bylaw,” Mason said.
“I know this is frustrating because you bought the building for the property and the new land-use bylaw … has changed the rules a little bit.”
Deputy Mayor Sam Austin, chair of the community council, agreed with Mason.
“I always look at these things, you’ve got to do one of two things: you have to either convince staff or you have to convince your neighbours,” Austin said. “I’m afraid in this case that neither has been successful.”
The community council voted unanimously against the appeal, upholding the staff decision to deny the variance.
Ghosn told councillors he’s not going to break any rules.
“I want to be a good neighbour, but I am going to build a house there,” he said.
He also has an application in with HRM to add a secondary suite to the detached garage on the property.