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Encroaching development a defining issue in Halifax municipal elections

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Photo: John Douglas/flickr

North Preston's Miranda Cain tells Metro's Zane Woodford the key issue in her District 2 is "lack of recreation." Rod Brunt's main concern, reports Haley Ryan, is cycling safety on Halifax's "shark-infested" streets. "Our issues," Musquodoboit Harbour's Kim Young tells reporter Yvette d'Entremont, "are just basically the oppression of rural development."

And so it has gone as Metro reporters fanned out across the Halifax Regional Municipality's 200 urban and rural communities scattered over a land mass the size of Prince Edward Island to ask a sampling of the region's 400,000 residents what they see as the most important issues our politicians should focus on in the lead-up to the October 15 municipal election.

It shouldn't be surprising -- given that local governments are closest to our everyday lives -- that most of those concerns are specific to local districts or interest groups.

But there is one issue that encompasses and transcends the rest, and it has to do with development.

Our city is at a crossroads.

What do we want Halifax to look and feel like a decade from now?

That question sparked the launch of the Willow Tree Group, a citizens' coalition that originally banded together to fight two mega-high-rise projects slated for their Quinpool-Robie neighbourhood.

But as they considered those projects -- each will require a special development agreement since they don't conform to existing rules -- they quickly realized neighbourhoods all over HRM face similar struggles.

In fact, the group claims there are now 179 "special-case" development agreement applications -- each designed to circumvent existing zoning and land-use bylaws to build bigger, taller, more -- working their way through the system from every electoral district in HRM.

So Willow Tree has come up with its own set of questions it thinks you should put to candidates who seek your vote.

Eventually, the new council will have to say "yea" or "nay" to each agreement -- or perhaps a blanket "no" to them all until new rules are in place.

Whatever your position on development, you need to ask those who seek to represent you their views on development generally, and projects specifically planned for your district.

By the time the questions come up for a council vote, it may be too late.

This article first appeared in Stephen Kimber's Halifax Metro column.

Photo: John Douglas/flickr

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