News / Halifax

Wanted: Thousands of more people to live in a re-vamped downtown Dartmouth

City staff are in the midst of re-writing planning policies for downtown Dartmouth in the hopes of ridding the core of the “one-size fits all” approach to development.

During a public meeting on Monday evening, Jacob Ritchie explained there are three new policies staff believe will help grow downtown Dartmouth, beginning with the introduction of character-precinct planning – a new process that breaks down development needs into nine specific areas, rather than making decisions from one general plan.

Other changes include instituting clearer guidelines for building heights and forms, as well as implementing a site approval plan process, which will force developers to follow a set of design rules.

The overall vision of the policy changes, Ritchie said, was to draw 4,000 more residents to live in downtown Dartmouth.

“We really believe we need these tools to help achieve that (goal),” he said afterwards.

A crowd of hundreds gathered at Alderney Landing to hear these latest updates on the proposed amendments to the Downtown Dartmouth Municipal Planning Strategy, which have been in the works since Halifax regional council initiated a major re-write of the plan in 2011.

The first-phase of public consultation was held in January, which saw residents discuss appropriate building heights in the downtown and waterfront areas.

Ritchie explained the main focus of Monday's meeting was to collect feedback on the new precinct-planning approach, and gather thoughts on overall changes suggested for the different areas, such as new housing units and taller building heights.

“Going with a precinct based approach rather than one-size fits all encourages diversity in the community, and variety in downtown,” city staffer Mitch Dickey explained.

Since January, provincial legislation has changed, allowing for Dartmouth and rest of the peninsula to use the same approval process and density bonusing as downtown Halifax.

Many of the meeting’s attendees agreed with city staffers who said having a new planning process would ensure the neighbourhood’s historic identity is maintained.

“There are a lot of cities that have a definite set of architectural rules … and Dartmouth is kind of this weird (hodgepodge) of everything and it’s not something that’s particularly pleasing to the eye,” said resident Joe Gnemmi.

Municipal planning staff will table a report with recommendations to council by January.

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