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Snuneymuxw registers opposition as huge downtown development gets through public hearing

‘Insurmountable’ challenges in store for development without First Nation’s involvement, says chief
Snuneymuxw First Nation has registered strong opposition to development of the former Howard Johnson Harbourside Hotel following a vote this week to proceed with site re-zoning. (D’Ambrosio Architecture and Urbanism image)

Snuneymuxw First Nation is expressing strong opposition to city council’s vote to proceed with re-zoning the former Howard Johnson Harbourside Hotel site downtown.

The vote approving rezoning 444, 550 and 500 Comox Rd., 55 Mill St. and 1 Terminal Ave. into a comprehensive development district zone happened following a public hearing Thursday, May 18.

A high-density development has been proposed consisting of 760 units in eight buildings, including two highrises and two six-to-eight storey buildings. There are also plans for a conference centre and more than 10,000 square feet of commercial space.

Thursday’s public hearing was a re-do of a public hearing in October after council took the unusual step of rescinding the third reading of two re-zoning bylaws related to the development, which passed first and second readings Aug. 29, were put to a public hearing Sept. 29, and passed third reading Oct. 24.

Snuneymuxw First Nation penned a letter, signed by acting chief Bill Yoachim, on Sept. 29, expressing concerns about the consultation and decision-making process and SFN’s interaction with the developer, and noting that the properties are located at a former Snuneymuxw village.

The outcome of this week’s public hearing resulted in another letter from from Snuneymuxw containing a statement from Chief Mike Wyse that was released to the media Friday, May 19.

“The proposed development … is a case study in ineffective and outdated ways of working together,” the chief wrote. “The developer, its investors and financing partners are hereby on notice that this site is rich in cultural, spiritual and archaeological value for our people. Any attempts to develop this ancestral village site will be plagued by opposition from our nation, delays from inevitable archaeological discoveries, and other challenges that are insurmountable without our involvement. By working together, we can accomplish outcomes for the betterment of all.”

Trish Webb, City of Nanaimo communication manager, said council and city staff only learned about the letter Friday morning and will comment sometime next week.

The vote at Thursday’s public hearing was 7-1 with Coun. Paul Manly opposed.

READ ALSO: City will re-do public hearing for huge development in downtown Nanaimo

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Chris Bush

About the Author: Chris Bush

As a photographer/reporter with the Nanaimo News Bulletin since 1998.
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