Delays threaten Nanoose project

Delays in the Regional District of Nanaimo’s zoning-approval process may force the owners of a project to walk away from their plans.

Delays in the Regional District of Nanaimo’s zoning-approval process may force the owners of a project that’s receiving unprecedented public support to walk away from their Nanoose Bay plans, says the president of the Fairwinds Community Association.

“It has been going so slowly, the investors have begun to consider their options,” said Gerry Thompson. “We think it could be going a lot quicker … I think we are at a critical stage.”

More than 200 people attended a meeting May 9 in Nanoose Bay to ask questions about the zoning of project, which Fairwinds has said would start with a ‘seaside village’ development at Schooner Cove.

On October 25, 2011 the RDN board of directors adopted two separate Official Community Plan amendment bylaws to integrate the Lakes District and Schooner Cove Neighbourhood Plans into the Nanoose Bay OCP.

The Schooner Cove plan allows for shops, a full-service marina, pedestrian-oriented public open spaces and a maximum of 360 condo units. The Lakes District Neighbourhood Plan includes a maximum of 1,675 single dwelling and multi-dwelling residential units, which represents the remaining balance of the 2,500 dwelling units permitted in the OCP for what the RDN calls the Fairwinds Urban Containment Boundary.

Thompson said members of his association are not pleased with the pace at which regional district staff have worked on this file.

“There has been virtually no closure on major issues regarding the zoning,” he said. “The level of support for this proposal has been unprecedented. The support is solid – it has not deteriorated over time. It’s a popular project.”

Thompson said residents are in favour of the development for a number of reasons, including improved access to the waterfront, local shopping opportunities that will reduce the reliance on automobiles and the amount of employment and general economic benefit.

Further delays could effectively poison the investment climate (in Nanoose Bay) for decades to come, he said.

George Holm, RDN director for Nanoose Bay, said last week he believes the hold-up is with the provincial Ministry of Transportation.

Before any zoning can be approved, the ministry must sign off on the developer’s plans to have roads and sidewalks that are more narrow than what’s considered standard, he said.

Geoff Garbutt, RDN general manager of strategic and community development, said the application is complicated and time consuming and they are working as effectively as they can.

The plan right now is to have the first reading of zoning bylaws in front of the RDN board in November and, if the bylaws pass first and second readings, a public hearing in January, 2014.