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‘Willow Tree Tower’ height back before Regional Council with public hearing

Council will be the site of a public hearing on the issue of height for the proposed development at the corner of Quinpool and Robie.
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Halifax City Hall (Meghan Groff/

HALIFAX – Regional Council will be holding a public hearing during Tuesday's council meeting to discuss the height restriction for a planned mixed-use development at the corner of Quinpool Road and Robie Street.

APL Properties has proposed a 25-storey tower across from the Halifax Common dubbed 'The Willow Tree Tower,' but council set a 20-storey maximum for that property last March amid backlash in the area.

A number of residents and businesses have argued the tall tower wouldn't suit the area.

APL Properties, operated by Armco Capital, has set up a website to drum up support for the development and are encouraging supporters to show up for the hearing.

Officials with the company will be present as well to request council consider 25-storeys for the area because they feel it "is the appropriate height for this landmark location," according to the website.

"While there has been significant public support for this project, the vocal minority which opposes it have been the loudest voices heard," a statement on the website reads.

"We are asking that those who support development, growth and investment in our city stand with us and speak in favour of the 25-storey Willow Tree Tower."

The development would include apartments, retail space and affordable housing units in a space that currently houses an office building and parking garage.

Tuesday’s hearing gets underway at City Hall at 6 p.m. 

'Ceasefire' program funding to come before Regional Council

During Tuesday’s meeting, Regional Council will also consider asking for a staff report on helping fund a local violence-prevention program after its federal funding ran out at the end of 2017.

In December, the Board of Police Commissioners recommended council approve a staff report on providing funding to CeaseFire Halifax, a non-profit working in several African Nova Scotian communities since 2012.

The goal of the program, which originally started in Chicago in 2000, is to eliminate violence and gun violence in particular. It was created after a number of shootings in the Halifax-area in 2011.

The province's Department of Justice has provided the group with funding through the end of March after its funding from Ottawa ran out Dec. 31, but after that, its future remains uncertain.

Councillors will debate the Board's recommendation for a staff report Tuesday, which would examine the cost, mandate and possible expansion of rehabilitation services within the program.

If approved, the staff report would be completed by HRM's Public Safety Advisor Ted Upshaw and be required to come back before council before the Municipality's 2018-2019 budget is finalized.

In the Halifax-area, CeaseFire has been active in Mulgrave Park, Uniacke Square, North and East Preston and North Dartmouth, which have seen gun-related incidents fall since its inception.

Mel Lucas, manager of Ceasefire Halifax, said in an interview with News 95.7 earlier this month the program works with young people between 16 and 25 to intervene in possible violent conflicts. 

He said the group has been involved in some 200 ‘conflict mediations’ in the city, including involving a number of individuals carrying weapons, so he feels the program is making headway.

"We're not going to eliminate [violence] altogether...but we're going to do the best we can," he said, adding their work accompanies current police efforts and work from similar groups.

He believes the 11 so-called 'Violence Interrupters' working with the group are putting their lives on the line to "go out and try to talk to these individuals...who may well have a high-probability of getting involved in something they'll regret at some point."

He said the program, which uses a ‘cure violence health model,’ seeks to give people involved in a violent or criminal lifestyle "a reason to consider their actions."

During a presentation before the Board of Police Commissioners last month, CeaseFire officials said the group had submitted three separate three-year funding scenarios to the province.

The first continues the program as is at a cost of about $2.2 million over three years; The second would expand the program's mandate beyond the current demographic of African Nova Scotian males between 16 and 24 years-old, at a cost of roughly $2.6 million; The third option proposes enhanced rehabilitation services for those identified as ‘high-risk,’ with a price tag of roughly $3.4 million.

It’s unclear at this point if the province would continue any funding and how much HRM’s overall contribution to those funding models would be. 

Bike lanes discussion

Bicycle lanes will be back before Regional Council Tuesday on a couple of different fronts.

Council first will debate a motion that if approved, would have HRM give the Halifax Regional Water Commission just over $400,000 from its transportation budget towards the cost of adding bike lanes as part of the Fall River Water Service Extension Project.

HRM's current Active Transportation Priorities Plan proposes the development of a multi-use pathway parallel to the Shubenacadie Canal system from Dartmouth, through Fall River and north towards Elmsdale.

The proposed corridor would also be part of the Provincial Blue Route cycling network and a two-kilometre segment where work is needed in Fall River overlaps with the Fall River Water Extension Project.

This work would include the installation of dedicated bicycle lanes with links to residential streets and schools, the newly opened community centre and connections to the Blue Hill Active Transportation Trail. 

Council will also vote on a recommendation from the Transportation Standing Committee directing staff to continue to develop a permanent protected bike lane to complement or replace the current ones on Hollis and Lower Water Streets. 

If approved, the plan would include a recommended option for implementation next year.

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