Nanaimo city council has heard from citizens and is preparing to move forward with approving the new master plan for Sandstone.
The city held a public hearing Thursday, Feb. 17, for an official community plan amendment for Sandstone, a 294-hectare, 2,200-home development planned for both sides of the Trans-Canada Highway. The developer, Seacliff Properties Ltd., is planning 1,200 single-family homes or townhouses in Cedar and the Cinnabar Valley, 1,000 homes in a mixed-use residential and commercial centre in Cedar, and industrial development in the portions of the land closest to Duke Point. The master plan also calls for 121 hectares of parks, trails and greenways and potentially space for a new school and community centre.
After hearing mostly support for the OCP amendment from 10 members of the public at the hearing, council voted in favour of third reading of the plan.
“I believe we need this,” said Coun. Don Bonner. “It is sprawl, but I know that’s going to happen anyway. The land is going to be developed and things are going to happen there.”
Mayor Leonard Krog suggested the plan is part of appropriate development within city limits.
“This is a proposal that incorporates a number of elements that are important to the residents, important to Snuneymuxw First Nation, that meets the needs of our community and allows, I think, for densification within the boundaries of our city as opposed to further sprawl into the Regional District of Nanaimo,” the mayor said.
Coun. Erin Hemmens said she struggled with the decision on how to vote on Sandstone, but suggested future councils can guide thoughtful development during build-out.
“We have stringent ethics around environmentalism, etc., and I think that’s something that we’ve tried to drive as this council, and I think overall, this doesn’t meet those targets,” she said. “But it meets so many others that are important.”
Following a public hearing, #Nanaimo city council has voted in favour of 3rd reading of an official community plan amendment application for the Sandstone development in Cedar and Chase River. Vote was 7-2 with councillors Geselbracht and Brown opposed… pic.twitter.com/8tZ7hDt0oG— Nanaimo Bulletin (@NanaimoBulletin) February 18, 2022
Coun. Ben Geselbracht said he was concerned with the quantity of single-family homes and their impact on greenhouse gases as well as the city’s financial sustainability.
“It’s a development pattern that everywhere is blaring that we need to move away from and focus on densification in the areas that we already have,” he said.
Coun. Tyler Brown agreed, saying the master plan proposes “dated … if not harmful models of city-building,” and he expressed concern about the plan’s lack of clear phasing. He felt the project should have been shelved until the city had completed its ReImagine Nanaimo master planning process.
“This is sprawl, totally sprawl, with clever branding and green-washing. It will not create a complete community for existing residents…” Brown said. “It perpetuates poor urban planning and I really hoped we were moving beyond that legacy in Nanaimo.”
Coun. Sheryl Armstrong said she felt the project had strong support from the community, so she wasn’t concerned about approving it before the new ReImagine Nanaimo official community plan.
“If we’re going to listen to the community, they want it,” she said.
She said she had concerns about the traffic that would be generated from development in that area, but added that she has those concerns already, without Sandstone, and said it’s up to the city to address transportation issues there.
Coun. Ian Thorpe agreed, expressing hope that development of Sandstone would hasten construction of a new school and community centre and transportation improvements in that part of the city.
Council voted 7-2 in favour of third reading of a bylaw to amend the OCP with Sandstone’s new master plan. Geselbracht and Brown were opposed.