Dismissing neighbours’ concerns about “transient” apartment dwellers “gawking off of large, oversized balconies” into their yards, Halifax councillors threw out an appeal of a development proposal for Bayers Road.
Halifax’s Regional Centre Community Council — the councillors in the urban areas of HRM — met Wednesday night to consider an appeal of a development approval for 6459 Bayers Rd.
After receiving a demolition permit for the house on the property, Connect East Development applied in August for site plan approval for a five-storey, eight-unit apartment building with no parking.
In November, municipal planner and development officer Andrew Faulkner approved the proposal under the Centre Plan, which zoned this stretch of Bayers Road a “corridor,” with a 20-metre height limit, equal to about six storeys.
One nearby homeowner appealed that decision, citing five sections of the land-use bylaw dealing with the design of the building in a letter on behalf of a group of homeowners on Roslyn Road, behind the property.
“To summarize, as a group of homeowners living on Roslyn Road, we have specific concerns about the proposed development for 6459 Bayer’s Road, and broader worries about the impact the rezoning of Bayer’s Road will have on our homes and quality of life,” the unnamed appellant wrote. “We would ask that you pause the construction of this development to allow for further public consultation and discussion, so that all voices can weigh in and be heard.”
In a report to the community council, Faulkner and municipal planner Peter Nightingale wrote that each of the sections of the land-use bylaw identified by the appellant is either satisfied by the plans or not applicable in this case.
During Wednesday’s meeting, the appellant, Robert Blackburn, expressed general concerns about having an apartment building in the neighbourhood.
“I’ve spoken extensively to my neighbours with small children, and they don’t want transient apartment developers who would be gawking off of large, oversized balconies right at the fence line, you know, looking at them and invading the sanctuary of their privacy,” Blackburn told councillors.
“The street’s family orientated and it’s not suitable for that kind of transient dweller lifestyle.”
Blackburn argued property values would decrease as a result of the development. He said he went to Centre Plan public engagement events and felt like residents’ concerns weren’t heard.
“Our family neighbourhood is why people want to come here to HRM, not to see overbuilt monstrosities with balconies hanging over fences,” Blackburn said.
The building and its balconies are set back six metres, or about 20 feet, from the rear property line.
Three other Roslyn Road residents spoke as well, making similar points.
Oliver Gorski of Connect East Development told the councillors he co-founded the company during the pandemic. Gorksi said the company’s “backers” are from Toronto, but it uses local labour: “All our workers, our trades, everyone is all local. The only thing that’s coming from outside the province is the money to buy the land.”
This appeal has forced the company to lay off most of its workers, Gorski claimed.
“It also has caused our partners to currently question whether it’s a good idea to even invest in Halifax because from their understanding and from my understanding, the Centre Plan has been in creation since 2016 and there’s been tons of public hearings,” he said.
“The project was basically our first development, which was supposed to show investors and other clients from Toronto and other parts of Canada to come invest through us and help Halifax boom.”
Gorski said the neighbours were made aware of the company’s plans on the site, but he admitted in response to questions from Coun. Tony Mancini that he never actually talked to any of them about the project.
“I understand the neighbours’ position with having large apartments in their backyards, but you have to understand, the city is growing,” he said.
Coun. Lindell Smith, whose Halifax Peninsula North district includes the property, sympathized with both sides, but because the project meets the requirements of the land-use bylaw, he supported the staff recommendation to deny the appeal and let the development proceed.
“I understand the other concerns that the residents have and as we move forward we can discuss those more, but for tonight’s case, I will support the staff decision to move forward with this, considering that this meets the criteria we have asked for in Centre Plan,” Smith said.
The vote against the motion to allow the appeal was unanimous, meaning the development is allowed to proceed.