Developers seek to rezone lands and develop a nine-story high-rise with up to 90 units
By Rebecca Hussman
Monaco Investments Partnership’s request to rezone lands on Prince Albert Rd. and Glenwood Ave. in order to build a nine-story building with up to 90 residential units is not sitting well with Dartmouth resident Paul Mombourquette, whose home happens to be situated next door to one of the proposed development sites.
“The proposed nine story apartment (would be) totally incompatible with the nature of our neighbourhood,” he says.
Mombourquette has lived in the same house on Glenwood Ave. for more than 50 years. He says that around seven years ago, when developers purchased properties surrounding his, they approached him and asked if they could buy his house too.
“I love this neighbourhood, and am so strongly rooted in the community so I didn’t sell,” he says.
However, Mombourquette’s choice to stay would end up bringing him and his late wife a whole host of unforeseeable problems, beginning with Monaco Investments’ intent to build a high-rise apartment on the property next door to his.
In 2011, Monaco Investments submitted a rezoning and development agreement proposal, asking to build a 15-story, high-rise building with a maximum of 92 units at the corner of Prince Albert Rd. and Glenwood Ave. After going through the review process, the proposal ended up being rejected by the Harbour East Community Council in Oct. 2012.
Upset by this decision, Tony Maskine, one of the three owners of Monaco Investments Partnership, filed an appeal with the Nova Scotia Utility And Review Board (NSUARB), claiming that “the community council did not fulfil its obligation to reasonably carry out the intention of the municipal planning strategy,” he told The Chronicle Herald at the time.
Maskine also said that it was “quite unheard of and quite unacceptable” for his proposal to be denied by the Community Council, calling it a “travesty in due process.” The developers had conducted all the necessary traffic, shadow and wind studies for the site for their proposal, and Maskine claims to have had support from members of the community who he thinks are “interested in seeing change.”
“The developers have gotten screwed around here forever,” he said to the Herald.
However, the NSUARB then dismissed Maskine’s appeal, siding with the Community Council decision.
“Cynthia and I breathed a sigh of relief, thinking the matter was over,” Mombourquette says. “My wife and I just wanted to enjoy a nice peaceful retirement.”
Yet Maskine and the folks behind Monaco Investments were not going to give up so easily.
On Dec. 2015, a few years later, they submitted another rezoning and development agreement proposal for that same intersection at Prince Albert Rd. and Glenwood Ave. This time, they were proposing a building with nine storeys instead of 15 and a maximum of 90 units instead of 92 units. They were also proposing an underground parking lot with a minimum of 106 parking spots and that the ground floor of the building be used for commercial purposes.
In order to be in line with the Dartmouth Land Use Bylaws, they were also asking to rezone the lands at 5 Glenwood Ave from two-family to multi-family, high density residential and the lands at 307 Prince Albert Rd. from general business to general commercial.
“There’s no way that my wife and I should have had to go through this again, as well as all the other members in the community, after this other building was turned down five years ago,” Mombourquette says.
“We believe the 90 units on 0.6 acres will establish a very high density precedent for our area and this could pave the way for extreme density on congested and dangerous 1950’s highway infrastructure.”
The intersection of Glenwood Ave. and Prince Albert Rd. already has high amounts of traffic and frequent accidents without a high-density, high-rise apartment building on that corner.
“There’s been so many accidents down at this corner, both pedestrian and auto,” Mombourquette says. He also says that a couple of weeks ago, he received a letter inviting him to a meeting with city council members to discuss “solutions to the traffic problem that we have down here and the dangerous road down here.”
“I don’t know (how) even with that in mind, the planning department still recommended this building again, after it had been defeated,” he says.
“If a developer can go into any neighbourhood that has no high-rise development and buy four or five or six properties in a row that are zoned improperly, and then convince council to rezone them, can he tear them down in any neighbourhood and put up a 15-storey or nine-storey building right in the middle of a low-rise neighbourhood that’s been established since the 1950s?” he asks. “It sets a bad precedent.”
Mombourquette also is concerned about the limited parking spaces proposed in the plan for the building, especially since there would be no designated external parking. He and his neighbours fear that an increase of traffic on Glenwood Ave—a street with no sidewalks on it— would be dangerous for pedestrians and especially children, who walk to and from school on that street.
“I’m very, very worried about the parking on Glenwood and the safety of the children,” he says.
The threat of this proposed development continues to be a burden in more ways than one for those living in that neighbourhood.
“The developer has owned the property (at 5 Glenwood Ave.) for about seven years and he has let it deteriorate to the condition now where it’s actually dangerous,” he says.
At 5 Glenwood, there is an old swimming pool that now has dead rodents floating in it (giving off a strong stench according to Mombourquette) and rotting overgrown vegetation entering into Mombourquette’s backyard. There is also a hole in the fence to the property that children from the neighbourhood have begun to use to gain access to the property.
“The shallow swimming pool is filled with this green, slimy water and it’s easy for one of them to fall and get hurt,” he says. “It’s very disconcerting.”
Not only this, the building on the property has been completely neglected as well, making it a hazard for Momborquette every time there’s a storm.
“After each strong wind storm, I am constantly collecting and disposing of shingles that have landed on my property, some even leaving marks on my siding,” he says. “I don’t know if he’s just so confident that he’s going to be able to tear it down that he hasn’t been fixing it up but he doesn’t show any pride in the community, that’s for sure.”
In the end, Mombourquette feels that the lands next door to him should not be allowed to be re-zoned for this proposed development.
“The developer and the people of this neighborhood bought their properties with the knowledge of the current zoning in mind,” he says. “The only fair solution would be to retain the existing zoning at 307 Prince Albert and 5 Glenwood.”
The staff report on the proposal recommends accepting the rezoning and development agreements, but with some caveats, such as including “an approximate 6-metre landscaped buffer” between the proposed building and Mombourquette’s house.
The report also recommends designing the building so that it transitions down in height “from 9 to 8 storeys and then to 4 storeys.” The idea behind this, according to the report, is to make it look “as if the new building is only 3 to 3.5 storeys in height where it abuts the two-storey house.” The report claims that the buffer and the transitioning down in height of the building “will all help in mitigating these concerns.”
To Mombourquette, having a building that is three to four storeys high is still problematic, especially because it will still be far too close to his house.
Currently, a four-storey motel abuts his property on one side on his backyard, which he says has seriously impacted his privacy in his backyard in a negative way, and fears it would be “totally destroyed” if the proposed building is built.
“There’s no way he should be able to rezone that and tear down an existing house here, right next to me, that has provided a buffer for my family and I for 52 years since we’ve been here. It feels like you’ve had the rug pulled right out from under you,” he says.
He also worries for how homeowners in the area who will potentially see a drop in their property values as a result of this development being built.
“Obviously my property value is going to tank if they do that, and it will for some of my neighbours as well,” he says. “It’s just a real nightmare if this goes through.”
Whether or not this proposal will be endorsed by Harbour East Community Council remains to be seen, however. As per due process, the proposal will be open to a public hearing on Thurs. Dec. 7, 2017 at 6 o’clock at the Harbour East-Marine Drive Community Council Meeting Space.