Robert Fuller, front, and Jeff Solomon, who are advocating to retain Greater Nanaimo Water District lands as parkland, take a stroll along a trail in GNWD land near the Nanaimo Parkway and Harewood Mines Road on Tuesday.                                (CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin)

Robert Fuller, front, and Jeff Solomon, who are advocating to retain Greater Nanaimo Water District lands as parkland, take a stroll along a trail in GNWD land near the Nanaimo Parkway and Harewood Mines Road on Tuesday. (CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin)

City council adds park land at Colliery dams

Councillors reverse earlier decision that would have considered development in area

Nanaimo residents can count on more green space in south Nanaimo.

City council reversed its decision Monday to consider development opportunities for a portion of the former Greater Nanaimo Water District lands and preserved it as green space instead. The land will become an extension of Colliery Dam Park.

Earlier this month, politicians defeated a staff recommendation that would have turned 17 hectares of the GNWD properties north of Nanaimo Parkway into park and opted to look at development options and seek public input, including about affordable housing along the eastern edge of the property along Harewood Mines Road.

The southern portion of the GNWD lands –another 80 hectares – is slated to go to an open house with a proposal for it become a mix of park and rural resource that could be considered for potential development or model forests in the future.

Coun. Bill Bestwick called the motion made two weeks ago ill-conceived, poorly contemplated and almost slapstick. He supported the proposed park and was against looking at development opportunities.

Coun. Gord Fuller previously voted against a motion to turn the land into park and had pointed out if properties were sold in one area of the parcel, the money could be put into the park in perpetuity for upkeep.

On Monday, Fuller explained that he doesn’t think a lot of people paid attention to the staff report and he wanted to get people’s attention, “piss people off, get them mad and to look at this,” he said, later calling it a plan to ultimately get discussion going and it worked.

The “affordable housing thing” came from a survey, which heard some support for affordable housing on portions of the property already disturbed along Harewood Mines Road, according to Fuller, who said he thought it might be a great option to subdivide, sell at market value and put money strictly toward Colliery Dam Park.

A total of 122 online survey and open house responses also found more than 90 per cent favoured the former water district lands being designated for park use, a staff presentation shows.

“I am going to support withdrawing the motion and it did piss people off and I hope people are aware,” Fuller said, adding that there are other parks that could be “shaved off” in the future and he doesn’t want to see that. “By getting the public involved in this discussion more and more openly, I am hoping that our parks will grow and that our parks that exist will be saved.”

Councillors Jerry Hong, Diane Brennan and Ian Thorpe were absent. Council agreed to dedicate the land as park and rezone it as such. Fuller made a notice of motion to designate the GNWD lands as parks and open space in the official community plan.

Robert Fuller, Gord’s brother and a resident who called for council to conserve the ecosystem for future generations, is pleased with council’s decision Monday but said he would have preferred the entire water district lands had been taken care of.

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