SPCA seeking support from City of Nanaimo for shelter

NANAIMO – End to long-term lease forces Nanaimo group to develop land on Westwood Road.

The Nanaimo SPCA is appealing to city officials to help pay for a $2.7-million, state-of-the-art shelter.

The local SPCA wants to start construction of a new Nanaimo Regional Community Animal Centre now that its lease with the city expired, asking the municipality to chip in between $150,000 and $200,000 over the next three years to help. The lease contract for the current shelter on Labieux Road cost the SPCA a dollar a year and expired last April. The SPCA says it was told two years ago its lease wouldn’t be renewed, prompting it to launch a feasibility study for a new facility.

According to Bill Corsan, the city’s manager of real estate, council made the decision not to renew the lease, hoping to encourage the organization to use its own 4.8-hectare property on Westwood Road, which it’s owned for the last eight years. The Labieux area is slated for redevelopment, which was another reason behind the decision to end the long-term lease.

“The goal was … you should be moving your facility to your property rather than having a vacant site and using city property for a nominal amount,” Corsan said.

Leon Davis, Nanaimo SPCA branch manager, said when the lease wasn’t renewed, Nanaimo moved to the top of the priority list for facility replacement. The SPCA hadn’t built on its Westwood site until now because it was a “resources issue,” as other shelters in B.C. were in greater need of replacement.

The organization also had to raise money to pay for new construction and find $750,000 annually to run the current animal shelter.

More than $780,000 has been raised by the Nanaimo SPCA so far, and Davis is now asking the city to contribute.

While the city pays to operate and repair its own shelter, the SPCA provides services people wouldn’t otherwise get through the local pound, Davis said.

The city also provides thousands of dollars to the SPCA’s snip program and allowed it to operate on city land tax-free for more than three decades.

“It seems like a natural partnership and the city has been so kind [to] us, but because the lease wasn’t being renewed I thought they could help us out a little bit. If I can raise about $250,000 by September we are a go,” he said.

Coun. Bill Bestwick had yet to review the request but said he supports it in principle because the organization has long provided a valuable service to the community and is self-sustainable.

The funding request was presented at an open council meeting Monday. The SPCA will continue to fundraise if it doesn’t get the dollars. It hopes to go to tender for construction in mid-August.