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Dictionary Terms

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Our HRM Dictionary

In speaking about the Seven Solutions, the following lingo may be used. Please check out what we mean:

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A strategy for moving a project forward that includes timelines, resource allocation and measurables for indicating progress.

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Active Transportation:

Active transportation is a human-powered mobility option. It includes moving for the purpose of transportation, for fitness and for recreation. It enables people to meet some or all of their daily physical activity requirements, breaks up sedentary time, and increases quality of life. It can include, but is not limited to, walking, running, cycling, skateboarding, inline skating and rowing.

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Appropriate development:

Development that occurs in already-serviced areas that requires little or no additional infrastructure from the Municipality. The developer must be held accountable for costs, including replacement costs over 50 to 100 years.

Approved lot:

The Alliance has contacted HRM planning staff to clarify how this term is used by staff (09/08/2012).

Brownfield sites:

A site that has previously been developed and is not “virgin land”.

Building Permit:

“When you apply for a development permit, you will also apply for a building permit. Staff will examine your application to help ensure it meets the requirements of the zoning by-law.

A building inspector will examine your plans/sketch to help ensure that it meets the National Building Code.”[6]

Capital Cost Contributions:

Soft services; hard services

Capital Cost Contributions are a type of infrastructure charge. A study by SGE Acres Ltd defines Capital Cost Contributions as a type of infrastructure charge. An infrastructure charge “is a specific dollar value per lot or per acre that a municipality imposes on a developer to finance the offsite capital costs associated with new development”. Presently, HRM can charge for “hard services” such as construction, engineering, interest, land, surveying, professional studies, water and roads. The Municipality needs provincial approval before it can also charge for “soft services” such as libraries, policing, and fire. HRM Council is seeking the ability to charge for soft services.

Complete Communities:

The ideal complete community is walkable, with transit and active transportation available to all residents. In addition to being walkable, opportunities for work, recreation, education, locally grown food, childcare and housing are nearby. A complete community can be measured by the services available within a certain number of meters of sidewalk or bike lanes.


The number of people per area. An urban density as defined by Statistics Canada is 400 or more people per square kilometre or 40 people per square hectare. The most common density measure for HRM is 0.679 persons per hectare. The density of the built up area of Halifax, Dartmouth, Bedford, Sackville and Spryfield is closer to 10.45 persons per hectare.

Density Bonusing:

Density bonusing is a planning tool that allows a municipality to grant extra density (i.e. extra units or height) to a building in return for public benefits such as affordable housing, streetscaping, and green space.

Currently density bonusing is only allowed in downtown Halifax as per the HRM Charter. HRM is requesting that the Legislature amend the Charter to extend the use of this tool to other areas of the municipality. Density bonusing happens at the discretion of HRM staff and, unlike the development under a development agreement, does not require public consultation.

Development Permit:

“A development permit is a written approval that your plans for your property (construction/alterations/use) comply with the Land Use By-law for that area. A development permit is not a building permit: it indicates that your intentions are in accordance with HRM's regulations and by-laws for your specific location.”[7]

A building permit is also needed before actual construction.


Traditionally a greenbelt is a band of park around an urban area where residential and commercial development is not allowed. For example, Ottawa, Ontario’s Greenbelt.


A four-zone approach to protect the natural characteristics and communities of HRM from inappropriate development. The approach increases density in appropriate areas, including the Regional Centre and rural growth centres as identified in the Regional Municipal Planning Strategy (RMPS).

Our HRM Alliance’s four zones of Greenbelting:

  1.     Protected areas and natural corridors
  2.     Natural Resources and agriculture
  3.     Rural communities and coastal management area
  4.     Regional Centre and suburban growth centres

Ontario’s Greenbelt still allows some development in particular areas while protecting other areas

Protected areas and Natural Corridors (Zone 1):

This zone links “protected areas” and “natural corridors” designated for wildlife and recreation. Here, the natural state takes precedence over development.

Natural Resources and Agriculture (Zone 2):

Grennbelting protects land for the continuation of forestry, farming, fishing and mining rather than allowing residential or commercial development.

Rural Communities and Coastal Management Area (Zone 3):

Setbacks (vertical and horizontal); riparian buffer

Protecting the rural coastal lifestyles that define Nova Scotia, this zone uses HRM’s Community Visioning to set boundaries for growth centres. HRM should also designate and enforce a Coastal Management Area.

Regional centre and Suburban Growth Centres (Zone 4):

To reach sufficient density, growth must be channeled to already-serviced areas where green spaces, urban agriculture and sustainable building practices are encouraged.

Greenfield sites:

Land that has been used for agriculture or forestry, or is previously undeveloped.

Greyfield sites:

Lands that were previously used for parking lots, pavement or shopping malls.

Growth Centres:

Growth centres are areas of the Municipality identified in the RMPS. The Alliance wants these centres to be funded and supported in order to provide affordable housing, parks, local road improvement, increased mobility and provide appropriate zoning for growth in an effort to direct businesses and development to locations within growth centres. The Alliance calls for a review of the centres and specification by HRM of what services will be provided and when.


An area identified for potential development that will negatively affect the community identity, local environment and watershed or livability for residents. These areas are in immediate need of re-evaluation to prevent inappropriate development from irreversibly damaging local features.

Inappropriate development:

Unregulated development or development that occurs in areas which undermine the success of urban core businesses or negatively impact local wildlife, natural resource industry, agriculture, community visioning, recreational opportunities, coastal management, groundwater or that does not follow sustainable building practices.


Mobility describes the movement of people and goods in a variety of ways such as transit, car sharing, active transportation and private automobiles. Integrating multiple forms of mobility will allow for more livable communities, healthier residents and increased economic and social prosperity for the entire Municipality.

Many organizations and all levels of government have addressed the need for increasing active transportation and transit to reduce the dependency of HRM residents on private automobiles. The community-based ‘It’s more than buses’ initiative, HRM’s ‘Stepping Up’ program, the Province’s ‘Thrive!’ strategy and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ ‘Communities in Motion’ solution address the need for increasing the network of mobility options for residents.

HRM must develop a comprehensive strategy to address the opportunities and challenges of mobility solutions for its residents. Priorities for the Municipality should include:

  1.     Building an integrated multi-modal transportation system
  2.     Develop comprehensive investment plans for mobility infrastructure
  3.     Emphasize the integration of land-use and transportation planning
  4.     Commit to continuous collaboration
  5.     Advance mobility goals through innovation


Bringing life back to the streets of an area by establishing or promoting community identity and complete communities.


Development, which requires the over-extension of municipal infrastructure at an unwarranted cost to the entire tax base, when viable development potential already exists in serviced areas. The new development threatens agricultural land, forestry land, watersheds, natural vistas and other green spaces. Sprawling development does not offer someone living there the option of walking to basic amenities.

Rural areas must be excluded from this definition – in this area most amenities must be provided for independently. Existing communities are not considered sprawl simply because they are at a distance from the urban core.


As used by the Our HRM Alliance, sustainability refers to environmental and economic viability.

Urban Containment Boundary:

Promotes growth within an area already serviced by water and sewer, thus protecting unserviced land from development. This promotes the preservation of wetlands, water recharge areas, agricultural land and forestry land. It limits servicing costs to the Municipality.


                          HRM Planning

Regional Municipal Planning Strategy (RMPS) Section 1.7.1 - Important terms:  

"There are three frequently used terms found in various policy statements of this Plan - "shall; "should" and "may". The word "shall" denotes a mandatory action, the word "should" denotes a discretionary action and "may" denotes a permissive action.

The term "shall consider" frequently appears in the context of policies respecting secondary planning strategies. This term denotes the consideration of policy concepts but does commit HRM Council to the eventual adoption of policy in secondary planning strategies."

Objective of HRMxDesign: The overall goals of this Plan include fostering a positive downtown development climate, making a beautiful public realm, improving heritage protection, investing in public spaces, promoting high quality architecture, and well-designed streetscapes. These objectives are taken into consideration and balanced among each other at all times in the planning process. This Plan will:

a) improve heritage protection and heritage assistance;

b) create clarity and predictability in the development approval process so that quality development can occur more efficiently and with fewer appeals;

c) acknowledge that it is people (residents and workers) that make a lively, vibrant downtown and to achieve that we need design standards to improve the beauty of downtown’s architecture and public spaces;

d) bring more people to live and work in the Regional Centre, by directing a mix of quality residential and commercial development to areas that can both accommodate it and benefit from it; and

e) further HRM’s regional goals related to sustainability, economic competitiveness and walkable, and cycle and transit-oriented communities.

Objective of the RMPS: see pages 10-12 of the RMPS (http://www.halifax.ca/districts/dist17/documents/RegionalPlan.pdf)

Objective of RP+5: The Regional Plan, adopted by Council in 2006, forms a comprehensive guide for the future growth and development of HRM. It presents a coordinated and integrated approach for achieving sustainable and balanced growth in a way intended to preserve the environment, maintain a strong economy, emphasize the provision of transit services, and promote communities that would be compact, well planned, vibrant and healthy. The Plan remains a strong and well-conceived blueprint for growth.

However, understanding that conditions change over time, the Regional Plan was written as a living document intended to be responsive to emerging challenges and opportunities. It therefore contains within it a mechanism requiring that it be formally reviewed and updated every five years. The first of these 5 year reviews ("RP+5") was initiated by Council on October 4, 2011 and is expected to run until September, 2012. Because the overall policy framework and intent of the 2006 Plan remains sound, the review is proposed to be an issue-based process as opposed to a rewrite of the entire document.

Objective of the Centre Plan: The Centre Plan is necessary because the Regional Centre is currently governed by multiple planning strategies and by-laws. These documents are out of date and tend to be unresponsive to current opportunities and challenges. The Centre Plan project will address this through creation of a new Regional Centre Municipal Planning Strategy and Land Use By-law which will include design standards.

[1]HRM Charter, Purpose of Act 2(c)(ii/iii) and; Nova Scotia Municipal Government Act sections 8 and 9

[2] Nova Scotia Department of Community Services. (2012). Poverty Backgrounder. Page 1. Retrieved from: http://novascotia.ca/coms/department/backgrounders/poverty/Poverty_Stats-May2008.pdf on 09/08/2012.

[3] Statistics Canada, CANSIM, (2012). Census families include couple families, with or without children, and lone-parent families. table 111-0009. Last modified on 2012-06-27. Retrieved from: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/tables-tableaux/sum-som/l01/cst01/famil108a-eng.htm on 09/08/2012.

[4]Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. (2012). Affordable Housing: What is the common definition of affordability? Retrieved from: https://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/corp/faq/faq_002.cfm on 09/08/2012.

[5]Halifax Regional Municipality. (2005). Affordable Housing Handbook.

[6]Halifax Regional Municipality. (2012). FAQs and Departmental Services: How do I get a Building Permit? Retrieved from: http://www.halifax.ca/planning/planques.html on 09/08/2012.

[7]Halifax Regional Municipality. (2012). FAQs and Departmental Services: What is a development permit. Retrieved from: http://www.halifax.ca/planning/planques.html on 09/08/2012.