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Halifax council moves ahead with shorter version of Willow Tree development

A rendering of the proposal showing the view from Quinpool Road.
A rendering of the proposal showing the view from Quinpool Road.

A controversial proposal for the corner of Robie Street and Quinpool Road has shrunk by nine storeys after a debate in Halifax regional council on Tuesday.

By a vote of 13 to four, council voted to approve a recommendation from the Halifax and West community council to take the proposed development for the Willow Tree down from 29 storeys to 62 metres, which is about 20 storeys, and schedule a public hearing on the proposal.

Before the municipal election last fall, the last regional council approved bylaw amendments to allow for a 29-storey development on the site, even though municipal planning staff recommended capping it at 20.

During more than an hour of debate, council wrestled with the idea of contravening its earlier decision.

Coun. David Hendsbee argued that taking the maximum height down to 20 storeys was a “disservice” to the developer, George Armoyan’s Armco.

“We haven’t even had an opportunity to hear from the developer in regards to the economics of building such a building,” Hendsbee said.

“Trying to handicap and take one third of the building capacity away, will probably make the project uneconomical.”

Peninsula councillors Lindell Smith and Waye Mason argued that council shouldn’t have those kinds of concerns when it comes to development.

“It’s not our job to guarantee that people make money when they make a speculative real estate purchase,” Mason said.

“Our role is to decide, ‘what do we think, based on the systems and processes, is the best plan for developing in the city?”

A community group has argued that council should stop approving developments like this one until the municipality’s Centre Plan is complete.

The draft plan allows for a 20-storey development at that corner, and Smith argued there was no need to halt development approvals to wait for the plan.

By a vote of 13 to four, council voted to approve a recommendation from the Halifax and West community council to take the proposed development for the Willow Tree down from 29 storeys to 62 metres, which is about 20 storeys, and schedule a public hearing on the proposal.

Before the municipal election last fall, the last regional council approved bylaw amendments to allow for a 29-storey development on the site, even though municipal planning staff recommended capping it at 20.

During more than an hour of debate, council wrestled with the idea of contravening its earlier decision.

Coun. David Hendsbee argued that taking the maximum height down to 20 storeys was a “disservice” to the developer, George Armoyan’s Armco.

“We haven’t even had an opportunity to hear from the developer in regards to the economics of building such a building,” Hendsbee said.

“Trying to handicap and take one third of the building capacity away, will probably make the project uneconomical.”

Peninsula councillors Lindell Smith and Waye Mason argued that council shouldn’t have those kinds of concerns when it comes to development.

“It’s not our job to guarantee that people make money when they make a speculative real estate purchase,” Mason said.

“Our role is to decide, ‘what do we think, based on the systems and processes, is the best plan for developing in the city?”

A community group has argued that council should stop approving developments like this one until the municipality’s Centre Plan is complete.

The draft plan allows for a 20-storey development at that corner, and Smith argued there was no need to halt development approvals to wait for the plan.

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