Sarah Bonar

City of Nanaimo gathers feedback on what to do with former water district land

NANAIMO – Land on Nanaimo Lakes Road outside urban containment boundary and houses some city parks staff.

The City of Nanaimo is seeking public input on what to do with Greater Nanaimo Water District lands along Nanaimo Lakes Road.

The water district folded in 2004, at which time the lands became city property. In 2010, city council greenlit a 14-million-litre reservoir and the lands were no longer needed for storing water, according to the city.

Rob Lawrance, city parks and open space planner, said the lands are primarily second-growth forest. There are old water district buildings that are currently being used by parks operation staff, he said.

“Right now the zoning for the property is considered rural resource, so these are available for large acre lots with their own septic system. Because we are beyond the urban containment boundary in the city, there is no city servicing beyond that, so there’s no water, there’s no sewer line.

“The [district buildings] are zoned community service and that’s primarily for the functions that they are, for the water district and for parks use, but potentially other uses that fall within that zone for community service,” said Lawrance.

There are environmental considerations, particularly to the south of the parks buildings, said Chris Zamora, owner of Aquaparian Environmental Consulting, which gave a biophysical overview of the lands for the city in 2014.

Zamora said the unique features include three sandstone and limestone ridge lines, with linear wetlands in between them.

“These areas seem to capture natural groundwater and surface water sources … on the tops of these ridge lines you’re getting 70-80-year-old stands of Douglas fire trees with mixed old-growth forest remnants,” said Zamora. “You’re also getting open mossy meadows, which is pretty neat.”

Lawrance said there are blue-listed and rare species, such as great blue heron and northern pygmy owls.

There is a future land use map on the official community plan that does recognize a portion of the lands north of the Nanaimo Parkway going into the park system. However, anything south of that has not been recognized, Lawrance said.

“That’s kind of what this process is about, is to have a conversation about what are some options and what should we like to see here in the future,” said Lawrance.

The city held an open house Saturday and is expected to hold another in January.

For more information, please go to Public Engagement, under the City Hall tab at www.nanaimo.ca.

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