Last year, Nanaimo’s population surpassed 100,000 people. This year, we can have a say in how our city will grow from here.
The City of Nanaimo has scheduled two significant public hearings this month, Feb. 17 and 24, with city council set to make decisions about official community plan amendment applications for the huge Sandstone and Green Thumb projects, respectively.
The public hearings were supposed to happen in January, but the city chose to postpone them when the spread of COVID-19’s Omicron variant necessitated moving meetings online.
Both Sandstone and Green Thumb shape up as potentially transformative projects in opposite ends of the city.
The Sandstone lands cover 294 hectares in the Cinnabar Valley and Cedar. Developers want to build 2,200 homes plus neighbourhood commercial and some industrial, but have moved away from past notions of a south Nanaimo ‘urban node.’
The Green Thumb project, now being branded as the Bowers District, proposes approximately 2,500 homes on 17 hectares with a mixed-use main street at the centre. Developers essentially want to add the west and north portions of the property to the Woodgrove urban node to allow for higher density there.
Both applications were submitted to the city before the ReImagine Nanaimo master planning process was underway, so although councillors are being asked to amend the existing OCP, they can certainly consider any and all public input, including views about how the next OCP should look.
Probably, both public hearings this month will attract mostly neighbours of the two projects who will raise concerns about density and traffic. At the same time, councillors will be tasked with considering questions of growth, infill and sprawl, and will ultimately need to cast their votes with a very real housing crunch in mind.
If the two major OCP amendments are approved this month, they will be significant milestones for those developments, but won’t do much to firm up any blueprints. Private projects the scale of Sandstone or Green Thumb, so early in the process and so conceptual, will proceed or stall unpredictably, depending on which phases make good business sense. Future councils and members of the public will have a say then. In the meantime, there are opportunities this month to influence city council’s decisions on some of the biggest development applications that have been presented to city hall. Here’s a chance to have a say in how Nanaimo grows, from Sandstone to Green Thumb and everywhere in between.