The municipality has ordered Dalhousie University to stop demolishing a 19th century building on campus.
The university bought 1245 Edward St. last July, and wants to tear it down. As the Halifax Examiner reported in May, residents, led by neighbour Peggy Walt, rallied to call for a stop to Dal’s plans, and they gathered thousands of signatures on a petition. They also submitted a third-party heritage application for the property, but it’s up against a demolition permit application.
The Heritage Advisory Committee received the residents’ petition, with more than 5,700 signatures, at its meeting last month.
Municipal heritage planner Aaron Murnaghan told the committee the demolition permit was being processed.
“It has not yet been granted because there’s still some additional conditions that the university has to meet before that permit is issued,” he said.
Murnaghan said the municipality is processing a third-party request to add the property to the heritage registry, and it should be ready for consideration at the committee’s meeting this month, scheduled for July 27.
Committee chair Patrick Connor asked Murnaghan whether the demolition permit could be issued before the application gets to the committee.
“Now that this is in the media, there might be additional pressure on Dalhousie to rethink their plans, but as soon as they meet the conditions under the Building Code Act for the issuance of that permit, there won’t be anything we can do,” Murnaghan said. “They can act on that once it’s issued.”
If the committee scores the property over 50 points out of 100, it will be protected for 90 days pending council’s consideration.
But the university isn’t waiting for the permit.
Walt says the university has started demolishing the property without one on Friday, and the municipality has posted a violation notice.
“Demolition must not begin until an approved permit is in place,” assistant building official Daniel Campagna wrote on the notice, dated July 8.
It comes with a daily fine: $1,272.50.
In a letter to Mayor Mike Savage and Coun. Waye Mason, Walt says the demolition continued over the weekend, starting early Saturday morning. Walt has been posting photos and video of the work over the weekend on her Twitter account.
“This action was in contravention of the HRM order. The company continued its work all day. I have a video and photograph, showing the increase in wood, fixtures and other materials piled in the backyard,” Walt wrote.
Walt wants HRM to deny the demolition permit on the grounds of “workplace safety arrangements or safety of surrounding property and persons.”
“I believe contravention of both of these safety concerns were at play. Workers told us on Friday they were doing asbestos abatement, yet neighbours were not notified of this, workers were not wearing protective clothing and doors and windows were not covered with plastic sheeting. 311 said they were unable to do anything as all inspectors weren’t working on the weekend, something the demolition company was no doubt aware of,” Walt wrote.
She also wants council to expedite the heritage registration process and call an emergency meeting of the Heritage Advisory Committee.
“Staff’s report and recommendations are ready to go – let’s not delay hearing what they have to say about the importance of this building to Halifax’s history and heritage,” Walt wrote.
Dalhousie University spokesperson Janet Bryson offered the following statement on Monday afternoon via unsolicited email:
Dalhousie is currently carrying out work to prepare the site for the removal of hazardous materials. Once that preparatory work is complete, we will begin the removal of the identified hazardous materials. Dalhousie is confident this work is being completed in a way that is compliant with health and safety regulations and ensures the safety of both on-site workers and neighbours. Dalhousie does not consider this work to be demolition requiring a permit.
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Lets see some a modern energy efficient building in it’s place ASAP. This is not a special building.
Are you a heritage expert? The experts are meeting, in just three days.Let’s see what the staff report says about its heritage value and if the HAC feels it’s worth preserving. Not sure what would be worth preserving in your opinion, or what you would call a “special” building. This one is 125 years old, survived the Explosion, was built by an early merchant of Halifax, and kept in two families for more than 100 years. It has gorgeous craftsmanship, over 100 year old timbers, the likes of which will never be seen again. Why knock it down for….wait for it….a parking lot? IN this day and age of climate crisis, housing crisis, and reusing and recycling, it is a crime to tear it down. Use it for a refugee family, put a great office in it, rent it to students….the possibilities are endless, including moving it to a location where someone would love a gorgeous old historic home. But don’t take my word for it, over 6,000 have signed a petition to save it.
Our inability to prevent the demolition of heritage buildings is a disgrace. We need legislation with teeth, and a stronger will to preserve the historic character of this place, both Halifax and the rest of Nova Scotia.
Once gone, these resources will be lost forever.
Dalhousie University’s constant intrusion into residential neighbourhoods is a disgrace.If Dal cannot manage its growth better, I may return the MA degree I received from Dal in1967 in protest. If Dal needs more space than it currently has, perhaps it should consider the addition of an additional campus in a suburban setting.
– Don Chard