HRM chief plan­ner’s sud­den exit

Memo from CAO says chief plan­ning direc­tor is “no longer a mem­ber of the Hal­i­fax Re­gional Mu­nic­i­pal­ity team.”

The Coast - - FRONT PAGE - BY JA­COB BOON

The mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s top plan­ner is out of a job. That’s ac­cord­ing to a memo emailed to HRM staff on Tues­day af­ter­noon by chief ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer Jac­ques Dubé.

“Please be ad­vised that ef­fec­tive to­day Bob Bjerke, direc­tor of plan­ning and de­vel­op­ment, is no longer a mem­ber of the Hal­i­fax Re­gional Mu­nic­i­pal­ity team,” writes Dubé. “We wish Bob the best of luck in his fu­ture en­deav­ours.”

Bjerke was un­avail­able for com­ment at time of pub­li­ca­tion, but mu­nic­i­pal spokesper­son Bren­dan Elliott con­firmed he’s no longer work­ing with HRM.

Elliott re­fused to dis­close any other de­tails, call­ing it a per­son­nel mat­ter. Kelly Denty, for­mer man­ag­ing plan­ner, will now serve as act­ing chief plan­ning direc­tor.

“The ap­point­ment will re­main in place un­til we fill the po­si­tion per­ma­nently,” writes El­liot in an emailed state­ment. “Also, the mu­nic­i­pal­ity will be ini­ti­at­ing re­cruit­ment ef­forts shortly in or­der to fill the po­si­tion as soon as pos­si­ble.”

The ex-plan­ning direc­tor only joined HRM in 2014, af­ter a na­tion­wide search to fill the newly cre­ated po­si­tion.

Bjerke came to Hal­i­fax from Regina, where in 2011 he was fired as that city’s direc­tor of plan­ning and sus­tain­abil­ity.

At the time, Regina was de­vel­op­ing its down­town plan and fi­nally see­ing im­prove­ments in den­sity, tran­sit and sus­tain­able neigh­bour­hood plan­ning. Ac­cord­ing to jour­nal­ist Stephen Whit­worth of Prairie Dog mag­a­zine, Bjerke was “a huge part” of that progress.

The plan­ning direc­tor’s Hal­i­fax exit ar­rives at a wa­ter­shed mo­ment for the mu­nic­i­pal­ity— just as the de­part­ment’s long-ges­tat­ing Cen­tre Plan comes to life.

De­spite that ac­com­plish­ment, he likely won’t be missed by some in the pri­vate sec­tor. Sev­eral sources in­side and out­side city hall say many of the city’s developers weren’t fond of Bjerke’s ten­ure.

City coun­cil­lors have re­peat­edly over the last year—dur­ing pub­lic meetings and in me­dia in­ter­views—com­plained that developers are un­happy with HRM’s plan­ning de­part­ment, and the time it takes to get ap­proval on build­ing projects.

It’s un­clear if or how those time­lines will be im­pacted now that Bjerke is out of the pic­ture.

Ac­cord­ing to Dubé’s memo, Hal­i­fax’s vi­sion for plan­ning and de­vel­op­ment will “con­tinue to be em­braced” by city hall.

“We have a bril­liant plan­ning and de­vel­op­ment team,” Dubé writes, “I have been for­tu­nate enough to spend time with this team and can see their pas­sion in re­gard to the plan­ning and de­vel­op­ment in the Hal­i­fax re­gion.”

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Bjerke’s out of worky.

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