Heritage Development Agreements

What is a Heritage Development Agreement?

A Development Agreement is a legally binding agreement between the landowner and the municipality which says how a piece of land can be used and may include details around land use, building design, the layout of streets and roads and the density of various land uses. 

A Heritage Development Agreement is a subtype of Development Agreement which encourages the conservation and adaptive re-use of registered heritage properties in exchange for additional development rights. This agreement is registered on title and, if the land is sold, all future owners will be responsible for the content of the agreement. Development agreements can be approved by Community Council as long as the proposal meets the policy guidelines held within local planning policy documents, such as the Municipal Planning Strategy (MPS).

What do Heritage Development Agreements allow and why do they exist? 

Heritage Development Agreements allow a property owner to apply for a particular land use or the construction of a building/addition that may not otherwise be permitted in the Land Use By-law. Property owners are required to undertake restoration of the heritage property/building and ongoing maintenance, in exchange for the additional development rights they may get through the Development Agreement. These Development Agreements are available to:

  • Help increase the financial viability of owning, maintaining, and using a heritage property, given that the age of such properties often makes them more burdensome to maintain;
  • Help to incentivize property owners away from demolishing their heritage property, and instead to encourage restoring it in exchange for added development rights; and
  • Help to add housing density to well-serviced (e.g., municipal water and sewer, transit, etc.) neighbourhoods while retaining our built heritage.

What is the Heritage Development Agreement process?

Once a complete application for a Heritage Development Agreement is received, staff conduct a preliminary review of the proposal, facilitate public engagement, negotiate the development agreement, produce a staff report with recommendation, and present the report and Development Agreement to Community Council for their decision. After approval by Community Council, there is a 14-day appeal period for development agreements to the NSUARB. Once approved, subdivision or building permit applications associated with the project can be submitted.

Concurrently with the review of the Heritage Development Agreement application, heritage staff will take the proposal through the application process for Substantial Alterations to the registered heritage property. This review process specifically addresses the impact of the proposal on the character defining elements of the registered heritage property.

Flowchart showing the Heritage Development Agreement process.

What is required of applicants as part of the Heritage Development Agreement process?

The Heritage Development Agreement policies in the Municipal Planning Strategies in HRM (and in the Regional Plan) require an applicant to submit the following:

  • A site plan and elevations showing the location and design of planned buildings or additions, the heritage building and any alterations thereto, and any relevant landscaping features; 
  • A Heritage Impact Statement outlining the heritage value of the property and the planned rehabilitation and/or restoration of the property (this also often includes anticipated impacts of the proposed development); and
  • Any additional documentation which is determined by planning staff to be necessary on a case-by-case basis, such as a traffic impact study, wind impact study, and so on.

An applicant can apply for any use or built form that is not permitted under the Land Use By-law through this development agreement; however, staff often encourage potential applicants to submit uses or built forms that are considered compatible with the existing neighbourhood. This does not mean the proposal must match existing buildings, but rather it should satisfy the applicable municipal planning strategy and be similar enough in use or form that it does not detract from its surroundings.

How to apply for a Heritage Development Agreement:

Please contact heritage staff prior to submitting your application, to determine the application requirements specific to your proposal.

Carter Beaupre-McPhee, LPP, MCIP, CAHP
Planner III - Heritage | Housing Accelerator Fund
Email: Carter.Beaupre-McPhee@halifax.ca
Mail: 5251 Duke Street, Suite 300, Halifax, NS B3J 3S1
Cell: 902.719.9604

After consulting with heritage staff, you may formally submit your Heritage Development Agreement application through the Customer Portal.

How-to guides are provided below to help users navigate the Customer Portal, including: