News / Halifax

Meeting halfway: Halifax developer proposes to grow Willow Tree development

Halifax regional council voted to trim APL's development proposal down to 20 storeys from 29. Now the developer wants 25 storeys.

The Willow Tree proposed development.

WM Fares Group / Contributed

The Willow Tree proposed development.

A Halifax developer is proposing to meet regional council halfway, bringing back a proposal with a few extra storeys.

APL Properties Limited, part of Armco Capital, proposed a 29-storey residential and commercial development for the corner of Quinpool Road and Robie Street – the property known was the Willow Tree.

Before the 2016 municipal election, council approved bylaw amendments to give APL the full 29 storeys, even though municipal planning staff recommended capping it at 20. Then, in March 2017, the new council voted to bring the height down to 63 metres, or about 20 storeys, in line with the original staff recommendation.

Council also voted in March to schedule a public hearing on the development at 20 storeys.

An information report coming to council’s meeting on Tuesday says the developer delayed the public hearing, and then told municipal planning staff it can’t make a business case for 20 storeys. Now, APL is proposing 25 instead.

“They have indicated that the value of the existing office building on the site is too high to warrant demolition in favour of a 20 storey building of the dimensions proposed in the most recent Council resolution,” Carl Purvis, HRM’s program manager of current planning wrote in the report.

APL also wants to be allowed to make the units smaller in the building. Municipal policy requires half of the units have at least two bedrooms, and have at least 1000 square feet of space. APL wants to bring the minimum square footage down to 750, allowing it to pack the same number of units in 25 storeys as it wanted to in 29.

Coun. Lindell Smith, whose district includes the site, said he’s concerned council wouldn’t be following proper procedure if it lets the new proposal go ahead.

“Council gave direction, and that direction wasn’t followed, but they are coming back with an alternative which they feel will work for them,” Smith said in an interview.

“I don’t know if council would want to see them move forward on the direction they want to go, or if they just have to start over in the queue just like anyone else.”

Smith said he thought 29 storeys was too high for the space, but he’s unsure about 25. He wants to hear more about why APL can’t make a business case for 20 storeys.

“That corner definitely deserves height,” he said. “And talking to staff and talking to planning, and understanding what they feel is appropriate, at the time 20 storeys was what they felt was appropriate.”

Council doesn’t normally debate information items, but Coun. Shawn Cleary, who represents the neighbouring district, had the information item added to the agenda “for questions of clarification.”

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