News

1. Gerald Regan

Writes Stephen Kimber:

How do you reconcile the contradictory facts of our 19th premier’s life? You probably can’t. No matter what you write, you’re either rinsing Regan’s black heart in the cleansing stream of his passing or dancing gleefully on his grave. Most news reports I saw got it about as right as those complicated realities — and our changing times — allowed. Premier Stephen McNeil didn’t.

Click here to read “Coming to terms with the complicated legacy of Gerald Regan.”

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2. Young Avenue

I’ve been going on for some time about how the Centre Plan is a gigantic lie, that like HRM By Design before it, so many exemptions have been grandfathered into the Centre Plan, and into the future so many more exemptions and work-arounds will be employed, that the plan is all but worthless.

Illustrating my point is this motion to be put forward by Spryfield councillor Steve Adams at tomorrow’s meeting of Halifax council:

9.1 Councillor Adams
Motion:
1. Notwithstanding Regional Council’s June 25, 2019 motion directing the Chief Administrative Officer to not accept requests for site-specific amendments to the Municipal Planning Strategies in Centre Plan Package B areas while the planning process to adopt Package B is underway, Regional Council directs the Chief Administrative Officer to:
2.
a) initiate a process to consider amendments to applicable Municipal Planning Strategies and Land Use By-laws for the following properties: PID 00047506 (Young Avenue, Halifax), 819, 823, 829, 835, 849, 853, 857, and 863 Young Avenue, Halifax; and 864, 866, 870, 876, 880 McLean Street, Halifax. The process will consider amendments that allow for contextually sensitive residential development that does not meet current development standards, so as to maintain the character of this area; and
b) request staff to follow the public participation program as adopted by Council in February, 1997. 

Young Avenue, of course, is not in Spryfield, so why is the councillor from Spryfield sticking his nose into Young Avenue?

That’s the question asked by south end councillor Waye Mason, who writes:

I am not at all convinced that the proposals would as the motion says “allow for contextually sensitive residential development that does not meet current development standards, so as to maintain the character of this area” given the designs I have seen, such as the one above.

I do not know why this has been brought forward, the Councillor who made the motion has not spoken to me about, other than when I approached him having heard of his intentions, and asked him to delay any such motion until I was actually going to be at Council, which he did.

Mason goes on to discuss the issue at length, and his entire post is worth the read. But I can tell him exactly why this has been brought forward: Because Steve Adams is baldly doing the bidding of the very-connected Tsimiklis family (whose members include “the worst landlord in town“), which intends to flip a development approval to a Toronto company called Starlight Investments, owned by Daniel Drimmer.

In a timeline Mason includes in his post, he notes:

August 9 2019 – Meeting the proponent who started saying if he did not get what he wanted that he would build 14 60′ tall houses and the neighbourhood would blame me.  I told him I do not respond well to threats.

He then stated that he wanted to build 4 large buildings that looked like houses, with underground parking, and 10-20 units each, and a four story building on MacLean.  I said I could not support that.

I suggested he hire a consultant that did public engagement and come back with a proposal for buildings that were exactly or almost exactly what was allowed in the current R1 zone and then take it to the public and try and engage the neighbourhood and get them on board.

I said if there was neighbourhood support, I would bring the motion to regional Council, but that he had to meet with the broad community first, and respond to what they said.

The proponent told me he needed an initiation as quickly as possible so that a purchaser in Toronto would pay him over $10 million for the site.  I said that was not really a consideration in terms of planning.

Interestingly, development along high-priced Young Avenue demonstrates how big money is warping the entire housing market, not just on Young Avenue, but in all of Halifax, all of Canada, and indeed all across the world. Given the new reality, we cannot “build our way to affordability”; the market dynamic is towards still more return for property owners, not less.

Writing last year for the delightful in-the-face-of-power Carleton University site The Leveller, Josh Hawley shows how Daniel Drimmer (the owner of Starlight Investments, but also of Transglobe, “Canada’s worst landlord“) was involved in the eviction of over 500 low-income people from an entire neighbourhood:

In the Heron Gate neighbourhood of south Ottawa, tools from the world of finance and a flow of European capital are being used to fuel the largest mass urban displacement in Canada.

It’s a long and purposefully complex story, but Hawley demonstrates how big money is making it increasingly difficult for low-income people to find housing.

This is what is happening with housing: inequality everywhere is increasing, and rich people have scads of money. They used to put that money into more or less productive investments like factories and such, but now there’s more return from simply parking it in real estate. So we have a construction boom everywhere — pretty much every city and town on the planet has an explosion of construction cranes. Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) are channeling still more money into real estate, and so we’re seeing gigantic sales like the 2017 purchase of Highfield Park, which necessarily led to recent rent hikes of over $100 per unit in what used to be affordable north Dartmouth — the entire point of buying an existing apartment complex is to squeeze more money out of it.

There’s not a magic point in the near future where this over-heated market corrects itself. A thousand more units or ten thousand more units will not suddenly make rents go down because of some imagined invisible hand job of competitiveness, so long as the landlords are forever seeking higher return and are in any event an effective oligopoly.

As I’ve said before: the only way to bring affordability back to housing is to have a significant and ongoing public investment into off-market housing (social housing, co-ops, etc.) and to impose rent controls. Why the hell are we allowing rents imposed on the working people of Halifax to increase to unaffordable levels just to further enrich an Ontario firm backed by European gazillionaires?

But back to Young Avenue, we’ve got a Spryfield councillor greasing the skids so a family that includes Halifax’s worst landlord can flip a property to an Ontario family that includes Canada’s worst landlord, and along the way make a mockery of the Centre Plan process.

I wonder if Steve Adams is getting a cut of that $10 million. I’m sure he’d deny it, but what otherwise motivates him? Maybe class loyalty. Being included in the club brings benefits, whether explicably stated or not.

That aside, there’s so much money in real estate now — truly, trillions of dollars — that corruption is inevitable. Everything that kind of money touches will be corrupted. Every government will be corrupted.

A silly thing like the Centre Plan hasn’t a chance.

3. Roundabout

Also at its meeting tomorrow, Halifax council will take up a recommendation from the consulting firm EXP Services to build a roundabout at the intersection of Highway 118, Lancaster Drive, MicMac Boulevard, and Woodland Avenue.

The recommendation comes as a result of very high collisions at the intersection, which were summarized in this chart:

“The order of magnitude financial requirement associated with conversion of the existing signalized intersection to a roundabout,” reads the staff report, “was estimated to be in the range of $3.5 million.” Staff thinks the province will contribute to that cost, as  is a provincial road.

4. Turkey

Speaking of Halifax council, back at its October 22 meeting, Deputy Mayor Tony Mancini, acting on behalf of Mayor Mike Savage, proclaimed October 29 as “Turkish Republic Day.” Read the proclamation:

WHEREAS; October 29, 1923 is the date of the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey; and

Republic of Turkey has played a critical role in international efforts for peace, prosperity, and stability; and

Canadians of Turkish descent in Halifax have played a significant role in the educational, cultural, economic and civic development of our community through sharing their rich cultural and heritage and through their dedication to the responsibilities of good citizenship; and

All Turks and people of Turkish descents (sic) around the world will be celebrating Turkish Republic Day;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT, I , Deputy Mayor Tony Mancini do hereby proclaim October 29, 2019 as Turkish Republic Day in the Halifax Regional Municipality.

Dated at Halifax, Nova Scotia
this 29th day of October 2019

Such proclamations are commonplace. Since then, for example, the mayor has proclaimed World Pancreatic Cancer Day, International Day of Persons with Disabilities, and Transgender Day. Notice of the proclamations are listed as “information items” at the end of each council agenda, and everyone pretty much ignores them.

The problem with the Turkish Republic Day proclamation, however, was that it came just as Turkish-supported troops were being unleashed upon the Kurds in Syria thanks to US President Donald Trump’s sudden withdrawal of US troops from that nation. So celebrating the Turkish Republic exactly at that moment for its “critical role in international efforts for peace, prosperity, and stability” was maybe a bit much?


Government

City

Monday

Grants Committee (Monday, 1pm, City Hall) — here’s the agenda.

Public Information Meeting – Case 22050 (Monday, 6:30pm, Captain William Spry Community Centre, Spryfield) — FH Development Group Inc., which is Faisal and Mohamed Al-Hammadi, wants to build 248 residential units, mostly detached single family houses, on 48 acres at the end of Parkmoor Avenue, which is off Herring Cove Road.

Tuesday

Special Meeting – Halifax and West Community Council (Tuesday, 12:30pm, City Hall) — an eight-storey apartment building at 205 Bedford Highway won’t at all affect traffic on the roadway because reasons.

City Council (Tuesday, 1pm, City Hall) — here’s the agenda.

Province

Monday

No public meetings.

Tuesday

Community Services (Tuesday, 10am, One Government Place) — the committee will ask about “Employment Supports for Income Assistance Recipients.”


On campus

Dalhousie

Monday

Noon Hour Guitar Recital (Monday, 11:45am, Room 406, Dal Arts Centre ) — with students of Scott Macmillan, Doug Reach, and Jamie Gatti.

Thesis Defence, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (Monday, 1:30pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Saki Sultana will defend “Glycosphingolipid Metabolism and the Glycosphingolipid-Metabolizing Enzyme Beta-Glucosidase-2: Biochemical and Cell Biological Studies.”

Distinct and Complete Integer Partitions (Monday, 2:30pm, Room 319, Chase Building) — George Beck talks about his work with George Andrews and Brian Hopkins:

Two infinite lower-triangular matrices $\textsl{v}$ and $\upgamma$ are related to integer partitions; they are inverses of each other. The matrix $\textsl{v}$ comes from an analogue of the M\”{o}bius $\mu$ function, while $\upgamma$ comes from generalizing counting complete partitions, which have all possible subsums.

Bring your own infinite lower-triangular matrix.

Regularity Estimates for PDE with Data in Non-Standard Spaces (Monday, 3:30pm, Room 319, Chase Building) — Scott Rodney from Cape Breton University will talk.

Tuesday

Thesis Defence, Mechanical Engineering (Tuesday, 9am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Mark Yao Amegadzie will defend “Thermomechanical Processing of Spark Plasma Sintered Aluminum Powder Metallurgy Alloys via Asymmetric Rolling and Upset Forging.”

Noon Hour Woodwinds Recital (Tuesday, 11:45am, Room 406, Dal Arts Centre) — with students of Patricia Creighton, Christine Feierabend, Brian James, Suzanne Lemieux and Eileen Walsh.

Poetic Pictures at the Symphony (Tuesday, 7:30pm, St. Andrew’s United Church, 6036 Coburg Road) — Leonardo Perez conducts music from Debussy, Tchaikovsky, and Mussorgsky. $15/ $10. More info here.


In the harbour

Midnight: Acadian, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
05:00: Tropic Hope, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
06:00: Tosca, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England
14:00: Radcliffe R. Latimer, bulker, arrives at Pier 25 from Montreal
16:00: Tosca sails for sea
21:00: YM Evolution, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York

Where are the Canadian military ships?



Footnotes

We had a time at the Examiner subscription party last night, which is why today’s Morning File is a bit on the short side.

Tim Bousquet

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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14 Comments

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  1. Cllr. Mason did good service in expressing the views of the neighbourhood in halting consideration by Council of the bizarre threats by the developer and ‘his’ Cllr, Steve Adams. Also thanks to Hfx Ex. in exposing the continuing patterns of behaviour by developers and Cllrs. outside Peninsular Hfx. when it comes to land use planning in the older part of the city.

    What a pity that Hfx Council did not listen to pleas by NSHeritage Trust for an area-wide designation that would have banned the development which has badly affected the important historical and architectural heritage of Young Ave. and adjoining streets.

    I think it would be a public service to reveal why and how this area designation was not attempted or achieved by Council thereby allowing this heritage destruction to have occurred and prevented the desecration of this special place by predatory developers and public officials asleep at the switch. Name names please and interview those concerned.

    Iain T.

  2. Exactly where, Paula Minnikin, on Young Ave, is there reasonable housing for students and people of “modest means”? And what exactly does “modest means” mean?

  3. When I shared the Examiner story on the proposed Young Avenue Development, an educated man commented that he wasn’t going to bother signing the petition because “there is enough money in that neighborhood to fight this without my help”
    I find it interesting that it is still socially acceptable to disparage the people of this one area based solely on location.
    You’d be surprised how diverse a neighborhood this is and how many of the “mansions” have now been converted into reasonably affordable apartments for students and other people of modest means. We face this from city hall staffers and even our own councilor with alarmingly and disappointingly regular frequency.
    This isn’t about “the rich people”. It is about the collective heritage of our city and region.
    We pay an insanely disproportionate amount of tax when we are the second least expensive development pattern to service (condos are cheaper). Our homes are close together which reduces significantly the cost of waste and snow removal. We do not have school bussing costs. We do not have access to such wonderful recreational facilities as the community centers in Fall River or St. Margarets Bay etc.
    Our development pattern is the most environmentally sustainable. Halifax has declared an environmental emergency, yet we still punish people in this neighborhood by forcing them to pay many multiples of the cost to service.
    I am one street away from Young Avenue. On my block? small business owners, students, young families, retired working-class couples, every nationality imaginable, young professionals, and, increasingly a lot of airbnbs who again don’t live here but also see us as a cow to be milked indiscriminately.
    So yes, this is important enough that I DO expect the rest of the city to help.
    The rest of the city takes over our neighborhood for many traditional events – including the Run for the Cure, and the Bluenose and many, many others… and part of that is Point Pleasant Park and the approaches. The approaches include Young Avenue.
    The same 8 architects that designed Young Avenue as the Approach to Point Pleasant designed Central Park and its approaches. This is about more than this neighborhood and “the rich white people”.
    If someone threatened Central Park the way these ignoramuses of developers threaten Point Pleasant I would not expect the people of New York to leave the defense of Central park only to the people whose property abuts it.
    Those interested can sign the petition here https://www.petitions.net/no_high_density_multi-unit

    PETITIONS.NET
    Petitions.net
    With this petition we respectfully request that Halifax City Council deny opening up the Young Avenue historic streetscape to multi-residential development, and that City Council defeat the pending vote put forth by Steve Adams (Spryfield), who does not represent the wishes of those south end neighb…

  4. Adams is retiring in 2020 so this is probably part of his retirement plan – real estate development. Watch for it !

    When I first moved here 30 years ago from NYC I was so innocent in my delusions of the goodness of Nova Scotia society, how sad to learn it is as corrupt as any backroom brawl in Queens.

  5. Creighton St near Charles has a proposal for a 19-storey tower in the middle of a 2 to 3-story area that’s a chill residential neighbourhood. SO MUCH FOR THAT! And what’s going to happen? Whatever the developer wants, we can assume. It’s sickening.

  6. It would be great to see a deep dive into how much council in general is in the pocket of developers – Adams in particular.​

    1. Yes, and campaign donations need to be made public before the election. Releasing that information after the fact hardly helps anyone in making an informed decision.

    2. The information for the 2016 election is available online, all donations over $50 are listed.
      Some councillors are in the pockets of cyclists and some are in the pockets of other lobby groups.
      Odd that voters are not aware of the publication of donations to HRM council candidate, there was plenty of information available after the last election and plenty of media coverage.

      1. Back room deals, lunches, cruises on yachts etc are not put on any campaign disclosure forms. Let not be either disingenuous or plain stupid.

  7. Thank you for the report on the Young Avenue threat.
    Did our Mayor ever release the list of his supporters? I remember he refused to prior to the civic election.

    1. The donors are listed on the HRM website as are all donors who gave over $50 to candidates for mayor and council. Councillor Mason received a donation from a prominent developer but I very much doubt it had any impact on how he voted on any planning matter.
      The empty land on the east side of Young Avenue is large enough for a well designed higher end
      condo/apartment development; most of Buckingham Palace would fit on the property.

  8. Of all the reasons Councillor Adams would initiate this bizarre request for a change in established development planning, absolutely none are legitimate. Absolutely astonishing that the Mayor’s office would not immediately launch a formal investigation.

  9. Six property owners on the opposite side of that Young Avenue block saved over $32,000 this year thanks to the assessment cap.
    The Tsmiklis properties are an ideal place for tasteful densification.
    Pension funds are major investors in REITs.

    1. The point is that we have old planning rules (based on consultation) and incoming new planning rules (based on consultation). Why would we throw that out the window? That’s undermining any semblance of respecting democracy or rules at all. The rules should serve the citizens at large – not just the developer class. If the developer thinks an exception would benefit the neighbourhood, they should pitch that to the residents. If the residents want it, the councillor should probably go along with it. But that’s not the case here. I don’t live in that neighbourhood, so, as a democracy-minded person, I’d defer to those residents. We should all do the same, including Councillor Adams.