Nanaimo council grants development permit for 170 apartments near Long Lake

Concerns raised over traffic around Rutherford Road

A proposed rental apartment complex near Long Lake is closer to becoming reality, despite some concerns from nearby residents.

Nanaimo city councillors voted 6-2 in favour of issuing a development permit for a planned 170-unit apartment complex at 4800 Cedar Ridge Pl. during Monday’s council meeting.

Kelowna-based Highstreet Ventures Inc. is looking to build a one four-storey building, two three-storey buildings and a two-storey amenity building on the property, which is located near the Grand Hotel.

Highstreet requested a number of variances – also approved by councillors on Monday – including increasing the height for three of the proposed buildings.

RELATED: 172-unit apartment development pitched for north Nanaimo

During Monday’s meeting, Dale Lindsay, the city’s director of community development, said although the property’s zoning description makes reference to town home, Highstreet’s proposal meets the zoning’s density. He also said because High Street is planning to cluster the buildings on the site, staff aren’t concerned about the requested variances.

“Staff felt the variance requests are supportable,” Lindsay said.

Bill Fisher, architect for the development, told councillors the height variances are being requested because the site’s terrain is “very difficult.” He said Highstreet explored a range of housing options, including town homes, in an effort to “preserve as much of the landscape as possible” but found that the best option was apartment buildings.

“The town house option basically required much more road and much more parking and basically destroyed a lot of the whole feeling of the upper part of the site,” he said. “At the end of the day High Street chose to go with these three-storey apartment buildings which put most of the parking underground. It also preserved most of the trees.”

All buildings will have energy-efficient windows, water fixtures and solar panels, according to city documents. On-site EV charging stations, short and long-term bike parking, underground vehicle parking, secure storage spaces, residential garden and a dedicated car-sharing vehicle that can be used exclusively by residents are planned for the development.

Scott Butler, president of Highstreet, said the apartments will be good quality and the goal of the project is to provide housing options for those with incomes between $40,000 to $70,000.

“It’s about creating a housing option for those people,” he said.

Councillors and nearby residents, however, expressed concerns about zoning, increased traffic along Rutherford Road and shadowing of nearby homes.

Ed Dziewior, a resident of Salal Drive, said nearby residents are requesting a revision of the proposal, citing concerns over the development. He said apartments are not suitable for the existing R6 zoning and believes the shadows from the buildings would negatively impact his property and others nearby.

“The shadowing effect on our properties is very detrimental to the real estate values. The effect of extending shadowing would cause mould and mildew buildup and it is a serious concern,” he said.

Coun. Sheryl Armstrong, who voted against the application, said she was concerned about shadowing as well as traffic.

“Having tried to get out of that road numerous times and waited 15 to 20 minutes I do believe it will be an issue. However, that is not my major concern,” she said. “My major concern is the shadowing and I don’t know if there is a way we could have some information around that.”

Armstrong’s concerns, particularly around increased traffic in the area, were shared by other councillors including Coun. Ian Thorpe, who also voted against the development.

Coun. Erin Hemmens said while she had concerns about traffic, she was supportive of the project and pointed to a decision by Highsteet to move some buildings back 10 metres and not install windows that would face nearby homes, as an example of developers listening to concerns of residents. She said the project is “progressive” with its environmentally friendly features and the type of development Nanaimo needs.

“I think this is the kind of responsible development that this council is interested in,” Hemmens said.

Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog said he takes the concerns of the residents seriously, but believes the city needs more rental housing and that council must let that happen.

“We have a duty and a responsibility to ensure that people do in fact have places to rent,” he said.

Councillors Armstrong and Thorpe voted against the development. 
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