Our efforts and concern around development at the Upper Tantallon Crossroads have reached a critical juncture. On behalf of the Stewardship Association, the Chamber of Commerce and the Tourism Association, we ask that you take a few minutes to consider what may befall us very soon.
The W.M. Fares Group has proposed to build three additional buildings on the St. Margaret's Village site (details are here: http://www.halifax.ca/planning/Case16770Details.html). One building is 34,000sf with a 17,000sf footprint, one is 7500sf and one is 9,600sf, with an apparent drive-through configuration.
We have many concerns about this proposal. First it is a thinly disguised strip mall. Little or nothing has been done beyond cosmetics to comply with the requests put forward by the community over the past five years. Second, there is a very real danger that the Fares application will set a precedent for other development applications, notably the Cobalt/Genivar application for the 3/333 corner property. We believe both developers should be treated equally and that both should be bound to comply with the standards articulated by the community more than a year ago.
Those standards have been languishing in HRM Staff offices despite repeated promises to get them before Council.
So therefore, by law, these applications need to comply with the previous regime, the Development Application Review Criteria. In many ways these criteria embody the same spirit as our proposed standards albeit in much sketchier way. We were therefore astounded that HRM Staff has claimed that the Fares application is compliant with these criteria. We could not disagree more. For example, criterion (a) stipulates "the architectural design of the buildings … reinforce the style, character, and scale of the area's traditional built form." There is nothing traditional about these buildings -- one, in fact, is simply a replication of the Lawton's complex. As to scale, traditional buildings in our area rarely exceed a footprint of 5000sf, yet the average footprint in this proposal is well over11,000sf -- more than double the traditional maximum.
Another key clause of the criteria is clause (j), which says "any other matter relating to the impact of the development upon surrounding uses or upon the general community…" For us it is no less than astounding that HRM Staff have chosen to completely ignore the history of community involvement. One impact upon surrounding uses not considered is the precedent set for the Cobalt/Genivar application, some 500 meters away. On a social and community level, approval of this development would essentially discard five years of civic engagement, volunteerism and collaboration with HRM. Who could deny that this would have profound "impact … upon the general community"? If built, these buildings could be with us for the next 50 years. Who could say this is not a profound impact? If approved, this development would all but close off the possibility for a coastal village, and it would be a clear signal that citizen engagement has little weight in our political process.
Our recommendation to Western Regional Council is (1) to defer approval of this development and (2) that they direct developers and HRM planners to work with community representatives to create a development that is consistent with the proposed zoning amendmentsd for Tantallon at the Crossroads.
Hubley Community Centre
4408 St. Margaret's By Road
Ellen Helmke, President, St. Margaret's Bay Chamber of Commerce
Shelley Webb, St. Margaret's Bay Tourism Association
Robert Ziegler, Chair,St. Margaret's Bay Stewardship Association