The Rezoning ‘Game’

Rob MacPherson appears to have a specialty in changing the land-use previously set out by council. Ten days after he submitted the 2016 Industrial Application for Goffs Quarry (Fall River Quarry) as president of Scotian Materials, he sought a “development agreement” for an equestrian farm already in existence in Lucasville (yes, he was acting as president of RMP Consulting at the same time as acting as president of Scotian Materials). There, he sought to “legalize the existing equestrian farm by way of development agreement in accordance with the Municipal Planning Strategy for Beaver Bank, Hammonds Plains and Upper Sackville.” That’s just a wordy way of saying re-zone, isn’t it? 

The proposed Goffs Quarry / Fall River Quarry does not have the appropriate zoning for resource extraction.

The proposed Tote Road / Tantallon Asphalt plant does not have the appropriate zoning for industrial use such as asphalt plants.

Rob MacPherson also worked with Dino Capital in getting in higher-density residential units than was allowed under zoning.

Back in 2004 Rob MacPherson proposed that Kimberly Lloyd be allowed to build higher density units (R-2 zoning) where R-1 zoning applied.

A conservation group tried to fight Rob MacPherson when he was GM of Kimberly Lloyd Developments. During appeal hearings with the Utility & Review Board, the group brought in several experts, who referred to the municipality’s Policy 7.3, which states the “city shall protect environmentally sensitive areas,” when proposals for development require rezoning. Three times over seven years, the group lost its appeal to keep a sensitive area from being rezoned into residential. According to a media article, the group brought forth relevant points about water quality and environment, but to no avail. Armco now touts Governor’s Brook Development as an “environmentally planned” development.

We also find it really interesting that this conservation group has had recent success in protecting its lands from rezoning for development from developers no longer controlled by Rob MacPherson. What exactly is it that he does to get his own way wherever he goes? What kind of promises does he make? What does he offer for this “fee-based contract”?
The media article we researched on this topic has now been taken down, but here are some relevant quotes:

“The area is part of a 350-acre expanse of trees and marsh owned by George Armoyan’s Kimberly-Lloyd Developments. The company is trying to have the 156-acre section officially rezoned from what’s known as Holding (which permits only single-unit dwellings) to a Residential Development District. This will allow the company to build 870 housing units, which would bring about 2,700 more people to the area within the next 20 years.

The Williams Lake Conservation Company is a volunteer, non-profit community organization, which was established in 1968. It works to maintain the quality of Williams Lakeand the surrounding environment. The group is opposed to Kimberly-Lloyd’s development plans for several reasons:
· Untreated sewage would flow into the waters of Herring Cove (The housing units could be built in early 2005, but the sewage treatment facility wouldn’t be completed until at least 2007).
· The land is “environmentally sensitive” (as described in Policy 7.1 of the Mainland South Strategic Planning Strategy.).
· The water quality won’t be protected (The proposed development doesn’t ensure that the water quality of the lakes or river will be protected, and once it’s damaged, it might be irreversible).
· Traffic will drastically increase (The already-crowded Armdale Rotary would be clogged with an estimated 3,344 additional vehicles every day).”

In response to one of Rob MacPherson’s attempts to have land-use by-laws changed (working as a consultant for client Dino Capital), some attendees spoke up, according to the minutes, and pointed out that changing the by-laws sets a dangerous precedent, that the developer was receving special treatment, and that the developer is using mistakes of the past by other developers to justify making further mistakes. They also noted the planning advisory committee and HRM planning staff were not in favour. It was pointed out in a letter to the legislature on this case (Case 19326 and 19987 Wellington St) that developers are now doing our planning for us.

This sounds all-too-familiar! A resident commented that, “in 2012 a small group of neighbours met with the developer regarding the proposal for the site. She advised that the group was informed that new designs for the property would be implemented based on the concerns brought forward by residents. She suggested that none of the concerns were properly addressed over the course of the redesign work and was told by the developer that project investors in Montreal required more units to be constructed in the proposed buildings to secure their investment.”

Another attendee stated that, “the opposition to this project is much larger than one proposal but rather affects every single little side street in Halifax… if one developer asks to change a planning strategy, an opportunity is given to others developers to do the same thing.” He commented that “the request on behalf of Dino Capital should have been stopped at the very beginning … an average homeowner would not receive the same type of treatment that is being afforded to the developer… the proposal has been rejected by HRM’s planning staff and residents many times… how [can it] keep moving forward, in spite of the fact that it is far out of line with current planning policies and By-laws which are in force.” He concluded by “encouraging Council listen to HRM’s professional planners and to reject the proposal that is before them as soon as possible.”

Another attendee commented she was “opposed to the proposed development but is not opposed to change.” She noted that “HRM has planning policies in place to manage change to the benefit of neighbourhoods,” and she struggled to “comprehend how the proposed development will benefit the area… there will be serious repercussions if the development is approved in terms of closing the flood gates of inappropriate development applications… several instances in which the same type of mistakes were made in the past… a process was developed to protect the area from it happening again… the developer is trying convince members of council using the mistakes of the past, to justify making another mistakes.”

Yet another resident noted, that she “does not understand why the proposal continues to move forward and noted that the wishes of the community are being made very clear.”

Another resident aptly commented, “this is not a NIMBY (Not in My Back Yard) issue but rather an issue of process. He advised that Councillors are elected to make city laws and listen to the advice of city staff who are recommending that the project not proceed.”

In the end, the project was voted in favour 9-6.

Some people might look at all of these cases together and conclude that Rob MacPherson doesn’t hold much respect for zoning by-laws. Some might conclude he acts as if all of the work that goes into the municipal land use strategies is unimportant. Some people might say he acts like his ideas for land use (i.e., maximize profit for the corporation) are better than the committees, better than the municipality, better than the public, better than the local MLA and councillor… Some people just might think those things.