Nanaimo council delays decision on land for search and rescue relocation

NANAIMO – City will look at archeological and environmental significance of its Nanaimo Lakes Road property this fall.

A decision to potentially relocate Nanaimo Search and Rescue to civic land south of the city has been postponed, as staff members shake the dust off a report done more than a year ago.

Nanaimo Search and Rescue appealed to council earlier this year for land to build a permanent facility, and while a city report in early August offered two relocation options on the city-owned and former Greater Nanaimo Water District lands on Nanaimo Lakes Road, it also shows it might be premature to introduce a new land use without a council vision for the area.

The lands, near Colliery Dam Park, span 98 hectares, according to the City of Nanaimo. Four years ago, a previous council decided on a three-step process to review park and recreational opportunities for 62 hectares of the land, at 1150 and 1151 Nanaimo Lakes Rd., to make up the loss of community park area as a result of a new reservoir. The work included an environmental and archaeological assessment, public and stakeholder consultation and a plan.

The process, however, hasn’t left the assessment stage and those results haven’t yet gone to council. That’s expected to change this fall.

Tracy Samra, chief administrative officer, asked council at its Aug. 8 meeting to defer a decision on search and rescue for an opportunity to dust off a report from Richard Harding, director of parks, recreation and environment, allow collaboration with the city real estate manager and bring it in front of council.

“It’s huge parcels of fee simple land that you own and there’s a lot of different things that you can do with it,” said Samra. “At least get that [report] in front of you so you have a larger context so you can make a more informed decision about their request to move there.”

Councillors agreed to table the city report after several politicians considered it a quantum leap to grant approval in principle for search and rescue to share water district offices with city parks staff – one of the proposed options.

Harding said with no claims on the property, there was no rush to bring the assessments to council.

Staff were also focused on other issues, such as Colliery Dam Park, changing staff and council priorities.

An updated public process on the water district lands will be proposed to council.

Harding said the report, coming this fall, will help council see parts of the property that have recreational, environmental and archaeological significance.