The Halifax Planning Advisory Committee (PAC) approved recommendations on Monday for the Halifax Regional Municipality to adopt bylaws to preserve historic estates on Young Avenue.
The avenue is lined with some of the city’s largest homes, but in recent years developers have been demolishing the properties. The empty lots are then subdivided and sold separately to individual buyers.
The PAC will advise Halifax and West Community Council to increase the mandatory minimum lot sizes for mansion properties on Young Avenue between Inglis Street and Point Pleasant Drive. The new zoning bylaws would also prevent developers from subdividing the land which, it is hoped, will stop or minimize the demolitions.
“It’s an interim solution,” said Ashley Morton, vice-chair of the PAC.
Supporters of the new measures say the development and subdivision of the properties is detracting from the street’s historic and cultural aesthetic. They’ve petitioned the HRM to halt further development.
Under current zoning bylaws, the land lots on Young Avenue are large enough (the maximum is 51,000 sq. ft.), to build multiple smaller homes in the place of single mansions, while still meeting minimum property size requirements.
The new proposed minimums would limit that. However, nothing about these new bylaws would explicitly prevent the demolition of the mansions.
“Heritage designation is the way to go,” said Morton.
Halifax does have existing regulations to protect buildings and streetscapes deemed historically or culturally significant — heritage property status — but Morton says getting that designation is a lengthy process.
“At the moment, this is what we can do quickly,” said Morton, adding that development was “raising furor” within the community.
Fellow PAC member Amy Siciliano questioned Young Avenue’s significance and preferential treatment.
While it’s not especially common, neighbourhoods in Halifax have on occasion been granted their own unique zoning regulations from the city because of some distinctive characteristic.
“How do we prevent this jumbled criteria from being applied to other areas to prevent (population) density?” asked Siciliano during the meeting.
The PAC’s recommendations will be passed along to Halifax and West Community Council, but is only one step in the process to amend the city’s zoning bylaws. It could take anywhere from six to eight months for the average rezoning request to be completed, but that isn’t a set time frame.
The request to protect Young Avenue homes in this case was put forward in a motion by District 7 Coun. Waye Mason on May 10.
An online petition on the website Change.org, asking for the public’s support, currently has 317 signatures.