Nanaimo city council is considering rezoning for a safe consumption service on Wesley Street. FILE PHOTO/News Bulletin

City of Nanaimo mulls rezoning for supervised consumption site

The public can weigh in on a safe consumption site at Nanaimo’s Wesley Street supportive housing complex as city council mulls zoning changes to allow the service.

Nanaimo city council passed the first two readings of a zoning amendment bylaw Monday that’ll allow Island Health to open a proposed supervised consumption site on Wesley Street. The issue goes to public hearing May 29.

There’s already an authorized overdose prevention site at 437 Wesley St., which Island Health opened in January under direction from the B.C. health minister. Now it’s looking to establish a longer-term service, which requires rezoning from the City of Nanaimo and an exemption under the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Island Health is in the process of making an application to Health Canada.

Coun. Gord Fuller supported the first two readings to see the issue go to public hearing.

“We know why we set up the one early on in January – it was to save lives. We know why this one is there – it’s to save lives but there are issues,” Fuller said, adding that tenants in the building find people are not respecting their space. “Personally I would prefer to see it on a piece of our property as a stand alone and not in a residential area and I’d prefer more than one.”

The rezoning application would see the definition for the supervised consumption service included in the city’s zoning bylaw and while the use would be limited to the Wesley Street complex, Dale Lindsay, city director of community development, said future applications can be made for other properties.

Dr. Paul Hasselback, Island Health’s chief medical officer for central Vancouver Island, said the consultation process for the zoning bylaw amendment helps inform the health authorities supervised consumption application, which it hopes to send off this summer.