Two new car dealerships are steering toward Nanaimo.
City council voted unanimously at a meeting Monday to allow a rezoning application to proceed for Porsche and Subaru dealerships on the former Long Lake Nurseries site at 4900 Island Hwy.
The application came before council because city staff recommended against the project due to concerns over how it fit with the City of Nanaimo’s official community plan.
“Our OCP and transportation master plan both talk about the importance of creating mixed-use walkable villages, mixed-use walkable centres,” said Dale Lindsay, the city’s director of community development. “We believe that this land use is not in keeping with the intent of the OCP.”
Mark Holland, president of Holland Planning Innovations Inc., spoke on behalf of the GAIN Group on the project and said some land uses just don’t fit well with village hubs.
“Our argument is it’s next to a four-lane highway … a super busy intersection with Mostar right immediately there. And while there are some other uses, this is not a nice little pedestrian village like many other areas are,” Holland said.
GAIN’s plans for the site include a pre-owned auto showroom as well as the two new-car dealerships. The buildings would be two storeys with a section of underground parking and Holland said the design would manage stormwater so as not to negatively impact Long Lake.
He estimated that the project would cost $10 million, provide 35,000 hours of work to construct, and result in 70 “high-paying” jobs, all above living wage and some upward of $100,000 a year.
Building designs would conform with the standards of Porsche and Subaru.
“They’re lean, they’re simple, they’re modern, they’re contemporary,” said Holland.
Also speaking in favour of the rezoning application was Kim Smythe, Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce CEO.
“It is being presented by an established and responsible corporate citizen and is a fitting addition to our business landscape,” he said.
Coun. Bill Bestwick noted that concerns were also raised prior to other GAIN dealerships being built in Nanaimo, but suggested those have turned out to have had positive economic impacts whereas the properties might have otherwise sat vacant.
“It’s difficult to get people to spend $10 million … in Nanaimo and so we have a company that’s purchased a property, that wants to put a $10-plus million venue there and employ 70-plus people for the economic benefit to everybody who lives here,” Bestwick said.
Councillors Diane Brennan and Gord Fuller said they supported the project moving along to the public consultation stage. Councillors Ian Thorpe and Sheryl Armstrong indicated they were in favour of commercial development at that site partly because residential buildings wouldn’t be a good fit there.
“I’m in support of the project,” Armstrong said. “I think it’s very good for the community and I think [about] bringing in the businesses and all the people that will come with that and all the jobs.”
Council’s support for the project means that city staff will continue the rezoning application review before forwarding the application to the community planning and development committee.