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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered



  1. These so-called “cities” people don’t want a brand imposed on them, but when it comes to me driving my car to my house in the suburbs, want all sorts of things imposed on me like no parking and the forced expansion of transit.

    It’s all about choice and public engagement unless what the public choose through the places they buy houses and cars disagrees with their current academic line of thinking, then it’s all about getting people to change what they think. It’s the ivory tower snobbery flavour of the decade.

    The loudest voices in this city continue to be predominantly affluent, mostly older white men who think they know better what people need than they themselves do. Same as it has always been in this city. Maybe we ought to turf all these men who’ve been involved in planning this city for decades out and say we don’t want to hear from you anymore and listen to our most vulnerable communities, like rural, and see what they want.

  2. While I agree with many of Professor Palermo’s points about what the Regional Plan should look like, I think we HAVE to move past the Regional Plan for now. Staff resources appear to be very heavily devoted to this process, at the expense of updating or producing documents to implement the Regional Plan strategies. The Centre Plan is completely stalled – without this document a few poor developments could compromise huge opportunity sites in the North End. The military has already provided one example of what that type of development could look like – the new armouries at Windsor Park will be a huge hindrance to redeveloping the Kempt Road area in the future.

    I agree with much of what the Planning and Design Centre and OurHRMAlliance has to say on planning. I don’t, however, believe they speak for the broader public. I think these groups speak for the planning and design community and a small group of activists, mostly from the Peninsula and downtown Dartmouth. I really doubt a majority of residents or Councillors support a greenbelt or high growth targets. Why aren’t we moving forward aggressively on these issues? Because very few people are pushing for them. HRM did drop the ball on consultation, but the agenda being pushed in this piece is probably unrepresentative of what the broader public wants. Is that good? Maybe not, but we live in a representative democracy – the process is in the hands of Council.

    Clearly there has been a failure on HRM’s part to properly consult during the RP+5 process. There has also been a failure to define the scope and goals of the review, and possibly an even larger failure to manage the process. Is the Plan itself perfect? Not even close. But from a practical perspective, and a political perspective, we need to move on. Practically we need to fix the myriad other regulations and plans that are outdated. Politically, we’re just not there yet to get buy in on some of the more aggressive strategies. That’s a problem that can’t be fixed in months, maybe even years. Fortunately, there are other important fights we can win in the short term. Let’s move on.

  3. I suspect that Frank Palermo’s insights into the issues with the plan are dead-on.

    I hesitate to endorse the solution to what he categorizes as ineffective public consultation as more public consultation. I fear that the public being consulted is not the same mindset as those who make up Professor Palermo’s circles of colleagues, friends, and peers, and that we’ll be asking those comfortable with the status quo what they’d like to see. It is entirely possible that the form of public consultation might end up recommending more/bigger roads and more/bigger parking lots – fighting to sustain an unsustainable way of life. It is plausible that the majority of the population of HRM wants to live outside the core and have what it perceives to be easy access to get in and out in its army of massive automobiles (probably carrying one or two passengers each).

    What Professor Palermo suggests as laudable goals for the regional plan are sensible and right, in my opinion. I suspect, also, that they reflect the prevailing thoughts on city planning and design over the past decade, or so. It would not surprise me to learn that while these sorts of active transportation and land use goals are widely accepted in the planning/design/academic community, they challenge what many continue to see as a desirable way of life, and thus are not comfortable theories for the majority to accept, let alone support vociferously in a public engagement process.

  4. Fantastic open letter, great to see the discussions that are taking place in HRM regarding the regional planning situation. Clearly a more integral approach is needed.

  5. This article makes a lot of really great points. For the past sixty years or more it was seen as desirable to separate where people lived from where they worked. Suburbs became the ideal place to live, leaving urban cores under-populated. This style of city is no longer viable. It would seem that the majority of people who still want to live in this way are those who grew up at a time when this was still seen as ideal. As a young university student in Halifax I would like to see a different future for this city. A future where people feel safe riding their bikes on the peninsula and there are bike lanes to facilitate them. A future where people actually live downtown and shops become viable because there are people there to buy things from them. A future where the city says yes to implementing a greenbelt and environmental sustainability is a top priority. It is important to engage with youth and find out what they think is important in the regional plan because retaining young people in the province is going to be an important aspect of keeping the province viable.

  6. I agree with Sean Gillis’s analysis except for one point: I disagree that the OurHRM Alliance only speaks for a small group of activists in the urban core. As someone that is involved in the Alliance, I recognize our urban members have been quite active in the online debate around the Regional plan. That being said, our suburban and rural members have been very active on the ground and in the real world debate. St. Margaret’s bay stewardship association, Sackville Rivers Association, Williams Lake Conservation Company, to name a few, have been among our most vocal and active members. Many suburban and rural residents are rightly concerned about losing the quality of life that made them move to their community in the first place. Targeted growth and greenebelts are important to them too. Ensuring that suburban and rural residents are onside and see the benefits of better regional planning is key to moving forward.