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Nelson council ponders application to build RV campsite within city

Villa Motel owner has asked council to rezone his property
The owner of the Villa Motel wants the City of Nelson to rezone its property to allow a recreational vehicle campground. (The number of requested campsites is now seven, not eight as indicated on the sign pictured above.) Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Nelson City Council has acted against a recommendation of its planning staff on a question of whether an RV camping site should be allowed within the city limits.

Woody Kim, owner of the Villa Motel at 655 Highway 3A, wants to build a seven-site RV-only campground on a part of his property that was destroyed by fire in 2019.

Nelson’s current zoning bylaw does not allow recreational vehicles on that site, so Kim applied to council for a re-zoning of his property.

In his application he said his RV sites would be limited to short-term stays, and that his customers could be trades workers, RV dwellers, and visitors to the area.

Kim’s proposal includes removing trees and other mature vegetation, re-engineering the site to build a retaining wall, planting vines and other vegetation on and near the retaining wall, levelling the slope for RV parking alongside the motel, and creating seven new RV campsites.

This map shows the location of the Villa Motel property just across the bridge on the the north side of Kootenay Lake, in a small part of the north shore that is within the city boundary. Map: City of Nelson

His detailed plans can be found by clicking on agenda item 13a at

The city’s planners recommended that council reject Kim’s application on these grounds:

• Allowing RV campers and a concrete retaining wall might detract from the aesthetic and visual appeal of the gateway to the city.

• The narrow site, steep exit grades, and tight turning radius might make the site difficult to maneuver.

• Planning staff does not consider RVs to be appropriate winter housing. Changing this zoning to allow RVs, in light of the city’s shortage of housing, might encourage tenants to stay long term. Enforcing the short-term rule might be difficult because of a shortage of bylaw enforcement staff, and because tenants staying long term might fall under jurisdiction of the Residential Tenancy Act.

But at its March 7 meeting, council decided to go to the next step of drafting a bylaw and holding a public hearing on its contents, after which council would make a decision.

The city has already asked for public feedback in the neighbourhood and held a public open house on Kim’s request. They received mixed reactions from both processes. In addition to the issues listed above, council heard a concern about odour from sewage tanks.

The city’s Advisory Planning Commission (APC) has advised in favour of the rezoning. The volunteer APC advises council on land-use questions including project design, landscaping, community planning, bylaws, and permits.

Kim, in his application and a follow-up letter to council, stated that permanent occupancy would not be allowed, and the campground would not become a “permanent trailer park.” Residence would be restricted to 30 days per pad, and the entire campground would be closed for 10 weeks each winter.

He would do his best to beautify the property, he said, adding that there would be “more green added than taken away.” He submitted an engineering study that proposed a design he said could address council’s concerns about access and traffic.

At the March 7 meeting, council had two choices: they could accept the staff recommendation and deny the application, or they could decide to look into it further. Procedurally, the latter choice would involve drawing up a draft bylaw amendment and holding a public hearing.

Council discussed this at some length and seemed genuinely torn. The uncertainty was summed up by Councillor Jesse Woodward.

“Part of our hesitation is that it is not clear-cut,” he said. “There are many pros and cons. It is the entrance to the city so it is a pretty prominent piece of property. The Welcome to Nelson sign is right in front of it. So there is a lot of hesitation just around what is the best mix.

“I am very unsure myself, and I think we need to go down the road a bit more to answer some of these questions, to flesh them out a bit more.”

READ MORE: Fire finally out at Villa Motel in Nelson

Bill Metcalfe

About the Author: Bill Metcalfe

I have lived in Nelson since 1994 and worked as a reporter at the Nelson Star since 2015.
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