Nanaimo council delays hotel decision two weeks

NANAIMO – Conference centre hotel project delayed by work visa applications.

An unsuccessful effort to secure work permits has delayed construction and communication of the SSS Manhao hotel project, representatives say.

Nanaimo Coun. Gord Fuller said he doesn’t buy it and Coun. Jerry Hong said he is tired of excuses.

Nanaimo city council has given itself two weeks to consider developers’ request for a one-year extension for an Option to Purchase Agreement.

The city now has the right to buy back the conference centre hotel property on Gordon Street after SSS Manhao failed to pour foundation before a May deadline. Developers are now calling for more time.

Guoqing Luo, a director with SSS Manhao, and one of the  company’s lawyers, Linda Chen, appeared at a council meeting last week to talk about the project.

Chen, who translated for Luo, said the company has a new investor and if they get an extension the project will go ahead. To date, the delay and lack of communication has been because five people, including shareholders and an architect, were waiting for work permits that were subsequently refused. News of the failed applications came in April by the immigration authority, which wanted to see the project go ahead before permits are issued, according to Chen.

SSS Manhao now has a revised plan and intends to proceed as soon as possible, but Fuller said he has doubts, pointing out they should have poured foundation a month ago. The city could have also been contacted, he said, adding “they chose to let us know last minute and then want a year extension.

“I don’t buy it.”

Hong wanted two weeks to give hotel representatives a re-do. They had no presentation last week and no revised plans to show. He has more questions than answers, including why their architect needs a visa when they already have “one of the best architectural firms in North America.”

“On a $40-million project, they came with nothing,” he said. “I am still in favour of scrapping it unless they can prove to me otherwise.”

Mayor Bill McKay believes deferring a motion on whether to grant the extension was the right thing because there doesn’t appear to be a complete understanding of the overall project and if put to vote then, it would have been defeated.

To say no to this deal means starting from scratch.

“I just don’t think people realize that,” he said.

The hotel extension is expected to go back to council this June.