Commercial properties located in residential neighbourhoods could lose their designation under zoning changes proposed for the second phase of Halifax's Centre Plan, which is now under review by municipal committees and community councils.
The Centre Plan is a comprehensive strategy for land use, urban design and policy for the regional centre of the Halifax Regional Municipality, which includes peninsular Halifax and Dartmouth.
Cathy Walker is a retired lawyer who owns a property at the corner of Quinn Street and Quinpool Road in Halifax and rents it to a law firm.
She had no idea her property could lose its commercial zoning until a few months ago when she applied for a permit to renovate the second floor. Walker spent weeks going through Centre Plan documents trying to figure out what the proposed changes would mean for her property.
"I found it a really frustrating process," said Walker. "They can't just put a complicated document on the website and expect people to try and figure it out on their own."
Under the proposed changes, Walker's law firm would be unaffected, even if she sold it. However, if the type of business changes, the owner would have to apply for a development agreement.
The project manager for the Centre Plan process said certain types of businesses in residential neighbourhoods can lead to a lot of complaints.
"Development agreements involve neighbourhood consultation and we can also control hours of operation," said Ben Sivak.
Walker said the development agreement process can take between 12 and 18 months.
"It's an incredible amount of additional HRM staff time for permission to change a use," Walker told CBC News in an email. "It seems like taking a hammer to kill an ant."
Final approval of the Centre Plan's second phase is expected this fall.
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