HRM Planning & Development is proposing changes to some policies and zones in the Beechville area that will incorporate community priorities into land use planning. These priorities are outlined in the Beechville Community Action Plan that Regional Council approved in September 2020.
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Proposed changes are to rezone some properties from Light Industrial (I-1) properties to Local Commercial (C-1), and to rezone some Single Unit Dwelling (R-1) properties to a new Beechville Comprehensive Development District (CDD) zone that would be created to address community priorities.
Community action planning is a process that supports residents in developing a vision for the future of their neighbourhood. Residents identify strengths and weaknesses, create a vision for the future of the community, and, with support from HRM, develop an action plan outlining steps to achieve it. Community action planning is a tool HRM is using to address historic injustices that contribute to social and economic disparities experienced by African Nova Scotian communities. With primary responsibility for land use planning, one of HRM’s most effective actions is to bring community priorities into municipal planning strategies and land use bylaws.
Beechville is one of the oldest African Nova Scotian communities in the province, dating back to 1813. Throughout the 1970s and 80s governments encouraged industrial development in the area, and significant residential development began in the 1990s. The original African Nova Scotian community has shrunk significantly through expropriations and tax sales not always considered fair or appropriate.
In 2020, the Beechville Community Development Association requested the municipality initiate a community planning exercise in Beechville to review impacts of development and address community concerns. This work, Case 20226, led to the adoption of HRM’s first Community Action Plan. It directs the municipality to ensure matters identified by the Beechville Community Development Association are investigated and resolved whenever possible. The Association has created a list of issues and priority areas that form the basis of the Community Action Plan, such as more housing developed according to community vision, green space for community use, and protection of cultural and heritage assets.
To support the Community Action Plan goals, HRM is proposing changes to land use planning documents that would:
a) Introduce a new Beechville Comprehensive Development District policy and zone for large, undeveloped tracts of land. This designation and zone would require a comprehensive neighbourhood design plan for development.
b) Rezone I-1 industrial properties along the south side of St Margaret’s Bay Road to Local Business (C-1), to address incompatible uses that currently exist.
Beechville Comprehensive Development District
There are large, undeveloped tracts of land between the Munroe subdivision and Highway 103, and between Sheppards Run and Highway 103. Given their size, these lands have the potential to be developed as new subdivisions. HRM is proposing a new policy and zone that would ensure these lands are developed according to community vision and objectives.
The lands are currently zoned R-1, which allows single unit dwellings to be constructed. Changing the zone would change the existing development rights for the lands. HRM is considering creating new policies that would require a comprehensive neighbourhood design plan for development.
Master neighbourhood planning requirements are implemented by using Comprehensive Development District (CDD) policies and zones. CDD policies require site-specific criteria to be created and addressed in a development agreement – essentially a contract between a developer and the Municipality setting out what can be constructed. Development agreements generally set out road connections, park and open space locations, infrastructure like water servicing, and number and type of units permitted. They can also address site-specific considerations, which in this case would be community priorities. These priorities are established through a public engagement process to allow residents more control over the future of their community. The process is as follows:
- Designate lands as CDD & include policy direction requiring site-specific development agreement criteria as part of a master planning process
- Public engagement process to develop vision, priorities and development agreement criteria
- Approve development agreement that includes site-specific community priorities, open space, culture & heritage assets, etc.
While there are already CDD policy and development agreement requirements in the current Timberlea-Lakeside-Beechville Municipal Planning Strategy, this proposal is to create new, separate CDD and development agreement policies specifically for the undeveloped areas between the Munroe subdivision and Highway 103, and between Sheppards Run and Highway 103 (see Map 1: Beechville R-1 to CDD zone for impacted properties). No development would be possible until the master neighbourhood planning process is complete and development agreement criteria are established. The only development that would be permitted in the meantime are those currently enabled through the existing R-1 zone (see Appendix A below for complete list of uses permitted under the R-1 zone). Subdivision and creation of new public streets would not be permitted, and those specific properties would not be eligible to apply for the existing CDD zone.
In summary, a new Beechville CDD zone would still allow development but would require it to be done in partnership with the community to ensure that development achieves certain goals. It does this by making the community goals the conditions for a development agreement. In the case of Beechville, those goals would be the priorities set by the community (e.g., shared housing such as housing for seniors, protection of cultural & heritage assets, green space, etc).
Industrial to Commercial Rezoning
Originally the type of land use along St Margaret’s Bay Road in Beechville was primarily residential. In the 1970’s and 80’s many properties were rezoned to I-1 (Light Industrial), to encourage industrial development in the area. Introducing industrial zones to a historically residential area created incompatible uses side-by-side – an issue that remains today.
Limiting further industrial encroachment has been a consistent priority for the community. There is interest in allowing some level of commercial use to support small local businesses, but not uses that involve large trucks, heavy machinery, vehicle repair or other uses with intrusive noise or smells. Rezoning the remaining I-1 properties along the south side of St Margaret’s Bay Road to Local Business (C-1) would permit single unit dwellings, variety stores, food stores, and service and personal service shops (see definitions of what these include in Appendix B). Map 2: Beechville Light Industrial to Local Commercial shows the impacted properties.
The application will be considered under the municipal planning strategy and land use by-law amendment process.
An open house was held on October 19, 2022, to share information and answer questions. A handout, Comprehensive Development District (CDD) fact sheet and table comparing the current and proposed zones were shared. Comment cards were available for attendees to share their input, and municipal staff are continuing to receive feedback from all interested residents. Please contact the Planner below with any comments or questions.
Municipal staff are now completing a detailed analysis of the application informed by feedback from the public and the planning team prior to sending a recommendation report to Halifax Regional Council.
Prior to any considerations on this matter, Harbour East - Marine Drive Community Council is required, under the Halifax Regional Municipality Charter, to hold a Public Hearing. At that time, an additional opportunity for public feedback is provided. Notices of the date, time, and location of the hearing will be advertised in the future.
Documents Submitted for Evaluation
The applicant has submitted plans and studies required by municipal staff to properly evaluate the application.