Public meeting on waterfront amendments to zoning bylaw Feb. 20
Halifax waterfront from www.canadatourism.travel
Senior managers and councillors in Charlottetown went on a waterfront design fact-finding mission to Halifax recently.
It’s all part of the process of building towards a comprehensive waterfront master plan, which just happens to be the subject of a public meeting on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Charlottetown Hotel.
Coun. Rob Lantz, chair of Charlottetown’s planning and heritage committees, said they met with Halifax and Dartmouth politicians as well as the local waterfront development firm, essentially the equivalent of the Charlottetown Area Development Corporation.
The tour was hosted by Dartmouth-based Ekistics Planning and Design, the consultant working with the City of Charlottetown on its waterfront master plan.
The Charlottetown crew heard about the history of the Halifax waterfront, growing from a time when retail shops struggled when few people lived near the water to what it is now — a destination for locals and tourists.
“We got a real good sense of how well organized they are and their relationships with government and how everything works over there,’’ Lantz said.
Day two of the Halifax-Dartmouth tour was spent with Southwest Properties, a prominent development company that is well known for its work on Bishop’s Landing. It is considered to be a high-quality collection of shops and apartments.
“That’s a pretty shining example of how to do things right. (Ekistics) described Southwest as first-class developers that go out of their way to consult the public on their own prior to getting their permit process underway.’’
One of the carrots Southwest dangled to entice people downtown was free rent.
“Southwest basically gave everyone free rent for a year until they got a critical mass on the waterfront and now all their shops are really, really successful.’’
Charlottetown is working its way towards writing a waterfront development plan into the zoning and development bylaw. The new waterfront plan will present a 20- to 30-year vision for the area south of Water Street and west of West Street.
The plan will see buildings no higher than four storeys on Water Street and capped at six storeys everywhere else — unless developers can demonstrate some measureable public benefit in their plan to allow for greater variance.
Ultimately, this style of planning is known as a form-based approach with rules set out for the style of cladding, street-facing design requirements, heights and waterview sightline preservation. In other words, developers will have a clear, defined picture of what the ground rules are ahead of time.
“The consensus from staff and the six councillors who were there was it was the best set of meetings we’ve ever attended.’’
And there is one principle that Ekistics keeps drilling into the councillors — it they have to wait for market conditions to change to make the right kind of development possible for the waterfront then do it.
“Ekistics kept repeating to us — no development is better than bad development,’’ Lantz said.