rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

The rise of 'development by exception' in Halifax

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca in its summer fundraiser today for as little as $5 per month!

Photo: Lawrence Plug/Spacing Magazine/flickr

Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

Residents attending a community meeting last Thursday did not -- as Metro's Stephanie Taylor put it -- "mince words" about a 29-storey commercial and residential tower proposed for the corner of Quinpool Road and Robie St.

"Sixteen of the 19 people who raised their voices did so to blast the proposal."

George Armoyan's Willow Tree Tower would be built on land currently occupied by a relatively low-rise 10-storey office building and four-storey parking garage.

Speakers didn't like the fact the new edifice would instantly win second prize in the tallest building in Halifax lottery, topping at almost double the height officially permitted under the city's Municipal Planning Strategy. They were also less than enamored by the fact it would ultimately become home to four times the number of people per acre the city says should live there.

To compound those concrete concerns, they point out this tower is only one of a number of community-changing developments approved, proposed or soon-to-be proposed for the area.

There's Danny Chedrawe's adjacent 25-storey residential-commercial-hotel building pitched for the Snow's Funeral Home site on Robie St.; the 3.5-acre former St. Patrick's High School property across the street, the future of which is the subject of a year-long public consultation process; the already green-lit eight-storey office-and-condo project at the corner of corner of Quinpool and Vernon St., the prime vacant lot south of the Atlantica Hotel, and the land that will become available after Ben's Bakery shuts down this fall.

At least two -- and probably more -- of these projects will need "exceptions" from municipal planning strategy and land use bylaws.

That is becoming the rule, not the exception.

"Increasingly," says architecture professor Grant Wanzel, "our officials are developing the city by exception, ignoring established city charter principles, municipal bylaws and good planning processes."

That's why 14 community groups, including one called the Willow Tree Group, got together recently to demand the city suspend negotiating exception agreements with developers applying the current rules until -- and unless -- they're legally changed.

Which raises a question for the coalition.

"If developers insist on exceeding certain limits (resulting in higher profits for them), what would HRM expect from them in return?"

It's a good question. One worth asking -- and answering -- before exceptions are made.

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

Photo: Lawrence Plug/Spacing Magazine/flickr

Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.