Artist rendering for a proposed six-storey 66-unit residential condominium at 6340 McRobb Ave. (Salehi Architect Inc.)

Nanaimo council votes 5-4 to change covenant to allow for north-end condo building

Neighbours express opposition to six-storey, 66-unit building on McRobb Avenue

Nanaimo city council, in a close vote, decided to change a property covenant in the north end to allow for a six-storey condo building.

Council, at its meeting Monday, May 25, voted 5-4 to amend covenants at 6340 McRobb Ave. in north Nanaimo.

The amendments will enable Mint Residentials Ltd. to move forward with a development permit application for a 66-unit condo building. The property already has sufficient zoning density – a potential phase 2 of the project includes two 20-storey towers – but covenants from 2009 specified townhouses on the eastern portion of the property where the six-storey condo is now planned.

Council received e-mailed correspondence from neighbours leading up to Monday’s meeting, and at the meeting, two McRobb Avenue neighbours spoke, both opposing the project. Philip Smithwick wondered if councillors understood what a covenant meant.

“Definitely, three’s going to be legal repercussions if this goes through…” he said. “We’re all, in that apartment block, very, very unhappy about this whole situation.”

Kaien Shimizu asked for council to look at what impact the six-storey condo building would have on the overall density of the property and try to visualize the mass of the project.

“This piece of land is quite high, in fact it’s one of the higher sections of that whole development area, and I think it’s important for council to look at that in total,” he said. “Otherwise, you may have a real eyesore on your hands. People don’t realize the size of this project.”

A written submission from the Texada building on McRobb Avenue outlined concerns around density, traffic and aspects of the site plan.

“As the Woodgrove urban node is already being heavily developed in other areas … little is to be gained and scale/liveability to be lost by changing previously approved plans for our neighbourhood,” noted the submission, sent to the city by the strata’s developments liaison, Oakley Duff.

RELATED: Nearly 500 condos, including two towers, proposed in Nanaimo’s north end

City staff’s recommendation was to amend the covenants. Dale Lindsay, general manager of community development, said the original proposal 20 years ago would have seen significant surface parking surrounding the towers.

“Now they’re looking at actually going with underground parking, more of an urban development that we’d want to see in that area,” Lindsay said.

He added that the developer’s concepts show that the current phased plan for the property can meet density limits and parking requirements.

Mayor Leonard Krog spoke in favour of the development for “walkability and liveability” reasons, and so did Coun. Tyler Brown.

“I think the original plan is sprawl with towers; this essentially takes some measures to address that and sees some more gentle density that I think would improve the site overall as it develops…” Brown said. “We have an overabundance of detached units and these are types of units we do need more of in the city and it is zoned for this type of density.”

Other councillors weren’t comfortable with changing the covenant, including Coun. Sheryl Armstrong, who said people make decisions about buying and selling properties based on covenants.

“Certainly, we can change that now if we wish to, but to me, that’s not fair to the people that have purchased there expecting that mix of development,” added Coun. Ian Thorpe. “And to go from townhouses to suddenly a six-storey structure … I just cannot support this change.”

The covenant amendment was approved on a 5-4 vote with councillors Armstrong, Thorpe, Ben Geselbracht and Erin Hemmens opposed.

RELATED: Two high-rise condominium towers envisioned in north Nanaimo

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