Artist rendering of a proposed four-storey 76-unit multi-family residential development at 4961 Songbird Pl. (D-Architecture Photo)

Proposed 76-unit residential development would neighbour north Nanaimo mall

Council approves first and second reading of re-zoning application for 4961 Songbird Pl.

Nanaimo North Town Centre could soon have new neighbours.

City councillors unanimously agreed to pass first and second reading of a re-zoning application for a planned 76-unit residential development at 4961 Songbird Pl., during a council meeting on Oct. 7.

Universal Estates Ltd., has plans to build two four-storey multi-family buildings, which according to a staff report would be connected by a lobby and underground parking lot, on the Songbird Place property.

The proposed development is located beside the Nanaimo North Town Centre and across from the Grand Hotel on Rutherford Road. It is also near the Uplands and Rutherford Road intersection.

Re-zoning is required as the property’s current zoning does not permit higher-density residential use that Universal Estates is proposing for the site.

Universal Estates are in discussions with the owners of North Nanaimo Town Centre to establish a “statutory right-of-way” for a multi-use trail that would run between the two properties and connect to the mall’s parking lot, according to a staff report, which notes that the trail would cost $95,000 to build and would be paid for by the developers and count toward their city-required community contribution. Additionally, Universal Estates is prepared to fund improvements at the Uplands Drive and Songbird Place intersection for $45,000 as part of their community contribution as well, the report notes.

The proposed development would be located beside a 63-unit multi-family building that was approved by city councillors in 2013.

During Monday’s meeting, Dale Lindsay, the city’s general manager of community development, said the project complies with the city’s existing official community plan.

“Staff are of the opinion that [the development] both complies with the OCP and the general development that we are seeing in this precinct,” Lindsay said.

Coun. Sheryl Armstrong expressed concerns about traffic in the area and questioned whether there would be an additional road built.

“There are a lot of issues with trying to access the businesses there,” she said. “Quite often there are near t-bones. Will that be addressed? Especially with the added numbers of people.”

Lindsay responded that there would be no additional “road dedication” and that access into the development will be from vehicles travelling along Uplands Drive and turning onto Songbird Place. He also said that the intersection upgrades will improve sightlines and create safer vehicle movement at Songbird Place and Uplands Drive, which is not a controlled intersection.

Coun. Don Bonner wondered whether there were any requests by either city staff or council to require the development to have some units that were below-market affordable housing; however, Lindsay explained that the city’s re-zoning process doesn’t require developers to build affordable housing units, but that developers can provide them in order to obtain more density. He said Universal Estates’ proposal does not include any affordable housing units.

Lindsay also said the proposal has a density of 60 units per hectare, which he said is “at the low end” of the target set out in the OCP, which is anywhere between 50 to 100 units per hectare, according to the city’s website.

As a result of council’s decision, a public hearing for the proposed development and its re-zoning application has been scheduled for Nov. 1. The re-zoning application still needs to pass third reading before council can vote on whether to officially re-zone the property.

Speaking to the News Bulletin afterward, Lindsay said the reason Universal Estates is in discussions with the Nanaimo North Town Centre about obtaining a right-of-way for the proposed trail because it would be on the mall’s property.

“In the event that they are not able to secure an agreement, we would basically take cash in lieu and then we would work with the mall in the future,” he said.

Lindsay said in these types of situations, the developer is expected to reach an agreement with the property owner but that the city can step in and help facilitate discussions if needed.

“We would hope that the developer would go off and have those conversations, and they have in this case, but if it is something that we would need, we could approach the mall ourselves or any other property owner, if we’re talking about trying to obtain a right-of-way,” he said. 
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