A scene from Cable Bay Trail. Nanaimo city council voted to increase a buffer zone to 100 metres at its May 16 meeting. (News Bulletin file)

A scene from Cable Bay Trail. Nanaimo city council voted to increase a buffer zone to 100 metres at its May 16 meeting. (News Bulletin file)

Nanaimo council votes to increase natural buffer zone around Cable Bay Trail

Nanaimo Forest Products told council it supports 100-metre zone after previously seeking 50m zone

City council has voted to direct staff to boost required green space surrounding a popular trail at the southern tip of the city of Nanaimo.

Councillors voted, at the May 16 regular meeting, to increase the buffer zone along Cable Bay Trail to an average of 100 metres, from 50 metres. While a representative for Nanaimo Forest Products Ltd. previously requested the 50m buffer be maintained for recently purchased land west of the trail, officials from the forestry company said at the meeting that they were receptive to the 100m buffer.

Paul Sadler, mill CEO, pointed out that mill employees built the trail and bridges and said the 50m buffer was based on the city’s ReImagine Nanaimo official community plan draft recommendations.

“Certainly NFPL and myself saw this as a starting point in analyzing the needs of the community, including the Cable Bay Trail users,” Sadler told council. “It’s evidently clear to us at [the mill], that council wishes to define the Cable Bay Trail buffer now during the OCP process. To that end, NFPL will support the OCP policy that an average 100-metre buffer, which is estimated at 27 acres of property, will be allocated to the Cable Bay Trail adjacent to our lands.”

The company will work with the city during future re-zoning to implement the buffer, with considerations for topography, environmentally sensitive areas and other ways to “improve the effectiveness of the buffer zone,” said Sadler. The company will also work with the city to determine how community amenity contributions, park dedications and other means can be identified in exchange for land added to the buffer, he said.

Paul Chapman, Nanaimo and Area Land Trust executive director, told council the 100 metres was not reached arbitrarily and the trail has mature forest situated outside protected areas.

“This mature forest supports a number of values and services, such as critical habitat, connectivity corridors, riparian and riverine protection, slope stabilization, flood mitigation, shade to offer respite from heat extremes and recreational opportunities for our community,” said Chapman. “When we decide on a buffer, it is to support these values and protect them for the edge effects of development.”

Effects include windfall, sunlight intrusion into the understory, introduction and proliferation of invasive species and noise and light pollution, Chapman said.

Council passed the motion unanimously. Coun. Erin Hemmens suggested she was happy with the forestry company’s decision and said the business-versus-environmental tension isn’t beneficial.

“We’re going to continually, as we grow as a city, come up against this,” she said. “I think when we … entrench into, ‘if the environmentalists get it, then it’s anti-business’ and ‘if it’s business, it’s anti-environmental,’ I just don’t think that’s true and I would encourage everyone to think a bit more holistically.”

Lisa Bhopalsingh, the city’s director of community development, told the News Bulletin the motion relates to the draft city plan. The plan is expected to receive first and second readings at the end of May, go to a public hearing in June and potentially be adopted in July.

READ ALSO: Hiking options abound in parks and trails in Nanaimo

READ ALSO: City of Nanaimo draft OCP now ready for review


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