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City plans sweeping rewrite of Nanaimo zoning bylaw

One of the city's largest and most complex bylaws could be getting a complete rewrite that, if adopted, will change the face of Nanaimo in the years to come.

Nanaimo's zoning bylaw, complete with more than 70 different types of zoning designations, most of which are residential, is in the process of being rewritten as a response to the Official Community Plan's call for improved sustainability and population densification.

City planning staff have worked on the new bylaw for more than two years.

"Over the years this could have a profound impact on the city," said Dave Stewart, city planner working on the project. "Zoning regulates everything that people can and cannot do on their property."

The public has already had four opportunities at open houses to provide input on the new bylaw. There will be one final opportunity on Wednesday (May 4) from 5-8 p.m. at Beban Park Lounge to view previous public survey results and provide feedback. The bylaw is tentatively set to go before city council June 13 for its first two readings.

"We're trying to downsize the number of zones to a certain extent to make it a little less confusing for people wishing to change the zoning they're in," said Mayor John Ruttan. "We felt it was necessary to make some changes now. I really think in the next 10 years we're going to see some unparalleled growth and we need to position ourselves accordingly."

The proposed zoning bylaw includes a number of significant changes, including: smaller residential lot size requirements; new corridor zones that, for the first time in Nanaimo, will establish a minimum height and maximum setback requirement; additional density rewarded to sustainable building practices; increase the height and size for detached secondary suites to two storeys in order to permit a carriage house above a garage; the ability to include residential units on the same property as shopping centres; and urban agriculture will be encouraged by allowing urban food gardens in all zones.

"It's fair to say it's a sweeping document," said Stewart. "It includes things never before seen in Nanaimo like non-strata row housing, two-storey carriage houses, which the surveys indicate have 68-per cent public approval, and residential units on shopping centre properties because shopping centres are reinventing themselves all over the world."

Stewart said growing trends show people want to live, work and play all in the same area and that mixed use development allows that, while also enabling the city to achieve its goal of reducing transportation demand.

City staff had originally written a section prohibiting two dwellings on large lots because it prevented efficient subdivision, but retracted the idea after the surveys indicated public opposition.

The open house will provide those unable to attend previous open houses to learn about and comment on the proposed changes, as well as see the results of the previous public survey.

The entire proposed new zoning bylaw can be viewed at www.nanaimo.ca.

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