A resident speaks with Dave Stewart, City of Nanaimo planner at Tuesday’s off-street parking bylaw open house at the Beban Park social centre. GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin

Nanaimo’s draft parking bylaw would treat each development differently

City looks to ease parking requirements in and around mobility hubs like downtown and Woodgrove

A new parking bylaw could encourage people to move around the city a little bit differently.

The City of Nanaimo hosted an open house Tuesday at Beban Park to share and gather information as part of a review of its off-street parking bylaw.

The draft bylaw introduced changes to parking requirements at apartment and condominum complexes and malls. Generally, the municipality is looking to lessen parking requirements in and around mobility hubs in Nanaimo.

Recent permits that have been approved by Nanaimo city council show that developers are asking for parking variances and council is granting those variances.

“We see a trend and we realize there’s a need for a change,” said Dave Stewart, City of Nanaimo planner.

He said the most noticeable change in the draft bylaw impacts multi-family developments, where “one-size-fits-all” requirements are being replaced by variable requirements.

“The city’s not all the same and we’re treating it a bit different…” Stewart said. “In some areas, the parking requirement’s actually going to increase, but in a lot of what we’ve identified as more walkable or transit-friendly areas – our mobility hubs like the downtown, like Country Club Centre, like the Woodgrove area – parking will be reduced.”

For example, in the draft bylaw, a two-bedroom suite would require 0.9 parking spaces downtown and 1.3 parking spaces in other mobility hubs. A two-bedroom suite elsewhere would require 1.4, 1.6 or 1.8 parking spaces, depending on proximity to services, employment density, transit access and other factors.

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Stewart said while the city researched best practices from other municipalities, it also took into account Nanaimo’s specific transportation tendencies, demands and challenges. City staff and co-op students went out and conducted counts at different parking lots at different times of day.

The draft bylaw, Stewart said, is “based on the reality and the observations we have seen here locally and in other communities. It’s numbers that fit reality, but also allow room to grow.”

He said at Tuesday’s open house, he heard concerns about parking in the hospital area and he expects the bylaw will be adjusted accordingly. As for other areas of the bylaw, reactions were mixed, he reported.

“A lot of folks understand what we’re trying to achieve but are worried the city’s maybe not quite there for … a drastic reduction to parking,” he said.

Coun. Sheryl Armstrong said she heard the same sort of feedback.

“I do know the goal is to get people out of cars, but I don’t believe we’re anywhere near there right now,” she said.

She said a lack of parking spots can impact residents’ ability to entertain visitors and can isolate people, which she said is a particular concern with seniors. Armstrong said developers who receive variances to what would have otherwise been underground parking should have to make increased per-space payments to the city which she said could go toward transportation improvements.

Next steps for the draft bylaw will depend on the feedback received at Tuesday’s open house, Stewart said – if staff find that residents are calling for major changes, the public process may continue; if relatively minor changes are suggested, the bylaw could come before council later this spring.


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