Three people who live near the corner of Oxford and North streets are appealing the municipality’s approval of a development proposal for the site where a developer started demolition before every tenant had moved out.
At its meeting next week, Halifax regional council’s Regional Centre Community Council is scheduled to hear the appeal of the decision to approve Mosaik Properties’ plan for a seven-storey, 128-unit residential building on the site of Ardmore Hall — 6399, 6395 and 6389 North St., with frontage on North, Oxford, and Seaforth Streets.
The development officer for the project, municipal planner Sean Audas, approved the plan, submitted under the Centre Plan, following the Design Advisory Committee’s recommendation in September.
Audas “reviewed the application against the applicable requirements and advise that the proposed building meets all the requirements of the” land-use bylaw.
Three people who live within 100 metres of the site — Joan Fraser, Pat White and Stephanie Woodman — appealed the decision, citing a total of seven concerns. Those include the overall height of the building, the height of the mechanical penthouse atop of the building, and the impact of parking, loading, and traffic on Seaforth Street.
“This building has a lot of negative history,” White wrote in a letter to the municipality. “I hope it is viewed by all new councillors before they vote, if they vote.”
Dismissing each of the appellants’ concerns, Audas and planner Peter Nightingale recommend in the report to the community council that it uphold the original decision and deny the appeal.
“Staff advise the appeal rationale provided to date demonstrates no contravention of the requirements in the bylaw and therefore the appeal should be dismissed,” Audas and Nightingale wrote.
This is the same property where Mosaik Properties, owned by George Giannoulis, started demolition before one of its tenants had moved out of the building.
The Chronicle Herald first reported on the incident, following other instances of the developer trying to push the tenant out. Giannoulis denied it in an email to the Examiner writing, “Contrary to the report in the Chronicle Herald, I can assure you that no one was living in that building during the demolition.” But the municipality, which gave the developer a demolition permit on Sep. 25, 2020, sent a news release last week confirming there was a tenant still living there when demolition began.
“On Dec. 4, municipal building officials were made aware that there was still a tenant residing in the building,” municipal spokesperson Erin DiCarlo wrote in the Jan. 14 release. “Notice was given to the developer that the demolition permit would be revoked until the issue is resolved.”
The municipality issued a stop work order, but some work was allowed to continue.
“Following an environmental assessment required as part of the demolition plan filed by the developer with the Province of Nova Scotia, permission was granted to the developer to remove hazardous materials. Environmental remediation and other steps are currently being taken by the developer to ensure the site is safe and secure,” DiCarlo wrote.
“The municipality’s stop work order, related to the demolition work, remains in place. This order will not be lifted until the municipality is satisfied that the existing tenancy issue has been resolved by the parties involved.”
Halifax regional council has also asked for a staff report on a new permitting process where developers would have to prove tenants had been legally evicted before they could get demolition permits.
Coun. Shawn Cleary made the proposal, as first reported by the Examiner in December, directly citing this incident.
“We’ve all heard stories before of renovictions, but we’ve never actually seen a case as egregious as this, where literally there is someone living in a building that is being torn down and they’re still in their residential tenancies hearing,” he said in an interview.
The community council meets Wednesday, Jan. 27 at 6pm. The appellants, planning staff and the developer will each have a chance to speak. The committee can either uphold or overturn the development officer’s decision, and its decision will be final.
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This type of thing seems to be trending at HRM, that is the tendency to let down guard when confronted by a worthy opponent i.e. a land developer. Those with the financial clout who are able to pay the fines incurred simply put it on expenses and in all likelihood can claim it as an operating cost. If a private citizen on the other hand were to try to push back it could prove to be an insurmountable financial burden and compliance is inevitable.
The penalties have to have teeth if not the rules mean little. Council is working on this I guess? But in addition a firm message needs to be sent to all developers that there are rules and if you don’t like them move on and if you do not have consideration for the best interests of HRM and its inhabitants you are not welcome here, progress be damned.