Old City neighbourhood one step closer to preserving heritage

NANAIMO – Council votes 5-4 to not allow duplexes on corner lots, two-storey carriage houses in historic area.

Nanaimo’s Old City neighbourhood asked for, and received, special attention from the city to help preserve its historic appeal when it comes to new development.

Council narrowly passed the third reading to approve zoning that gives the Old City neighbourhood its own zoning amendments attached to Bylaw 4500, a sweeping document passed last summer to encourage population in-filling.

Members of the Old City Neighbourhood Association said reducing lot sizes, while allowing two-storey carriage houses and duplexes, on the neighbourhood’s 16 corner lots would threaten the atmosphere of the historic neighbourhood, which features many homes listed on the city’s heritage register.

Andrea Blakeman, NOCA spokeswoman, said many homeowners were concerned about carriage houses overlooking previously private backyards, as well as the possibility of large duplexes situated on corner lots where heritage homes once stood.

“We consider duplexes on corner lots of 700 to 1,000 square metres really a wrong fit in this neighbourhood,” Blakeman said in March.

Council passed the first two readings 6-3, which allowed for one-story carriage houses and lot sizes of 500 square meters, but debated the duplex on corner lots issue in its third reading, which passed 5-4.

“We’ve consulted a number of people and we’ve arrived at this amendment and we should maintain this direction that we’re on,” said Coun. Bill Bestwick, who supported the request. “Form and character is always something that will be taken into consideration.”

Coun. George Anderson, who voted against the bylaw, said restricting in-filling in the neighbourhood goes against current planning policies.

“On page 29 of the official community plan, it states that planNanaimo supports new forms of higher density residential development … it goes on to say the regional growth strategy encourages mixed use communities for focusing on higher density residential uses,” said Anderson. “I would rather see a design review process, not a flat out restriction of duplexes on corner lots.”

Form and character reviews for duplexes would require an amendment to the zoning bylaw.

Coun. Diana Johnstone said she supports the new bylaw, adding that preserving heritage in Nanaimo’s historic communities is important.

Andrew Tucker, the city’s director of planning, said the bylaw now has to go to the province’s Ministry of Transportation for approval before it is officially adopted by council.

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