March 2, 2017 – Last night Harbour East Community Council met. The two main items on the agenda was a proposal from Innova Corp and Clearwater Seafoods to rezone their properties, 1 Research Drive and 101 Research Drive, on the edge of the Woodside Industrial Park from Institutional to Industrial (I-1). The lands were zoned Institutional because pretty much all government owned property was institutional by default back when the Dartmouth Plan was created. The Institutional zoning no longer makes sense though, leaving Council with the question of what the properties should be now and in the future?
Some nearby residents were concerned about the potential for additional development bordering Eisener’s Marsh and the future of the informal walking trail through the woods. I think they’re right to be concerned, but the problem is that it’s not public land. It’s not reasonable to block another property owner from developing their land because they’re providing defacto park space for free. HRM’s planning rules require a 20 meter setback from watercourses, meaning that Innova could cut down some trees in the future on their property, but they wouldn’t be able to cut them all down and come right up to the edge of Eisener’s Marsh.
The main issue for me was is industrial, and specifically the I-1 zone, compatible with the adjacent residential neighbourhood in Southdale and the new school? I visited the site this week and what I observed is that some I-1 uses in the Woodside Industrial Park would make good neighbours, while others no one would want in their backyard. There is a great deal of variety in the I-1 zone. At the same time, the ability to mitigate impacts on neighbours is limited because the required setbacks for I-1 are minimal and there is almost no language about screening. The Dartmouth Plans are really out of date.
Residential development already abuts the Woodside Industrial Park in the form of housing along Renfrew Street. Standing on the top of the hill on Research Drive, you can look down the dividing line and see how industrial and residential interact under the current rules. What is in the backyard for many houses on Renfrew is a mess of storage and heavy equipment. It’s not a very harmonious interaction.
Clearwater and Innova Corp have no stated plans to change the current use of their properties and the current uses of office space and prototype development really aren’t a problem. The issue is it’s a big block of land and once the I-1 zone is granted, future development becomes as of right and HRM loses its ability to put in place additional controls to protect neighbours from incompatible development. If the section of land that is closest to Southdale and the school is to include industrial uses, it should be by way of development agreement so that HRM can deal with issues of scale, mass, location, traffic etc. It might also be possible to revisit allowing industrial uses as of right after the Centre Plan is implemented if the Centre Plan provides for more control than currently exists under the Dartmouth MPS. Council’s vote last night was 3-1 against the rezoning