New zoning for a proposed housing development at Granite Pointe golf course got the final green light from Nelson city council Monday night.
At a public hearing held just before the meeting four people spoke with concerns mostly about access, parking and density, and especially about the intersection of Choquette Avenue and West Beasley Street as a potential choke point that could affect traffic and safety.
Councillor Cal Renwick responded to this during council’s meeting following the public hearing,
“What I am hearing [about] is access into and out of the development and the intersection at Choquette and West Richards – I want assurance those things will be looked at and dealt with. I want to see some other access off West Richards.”
In response, city planner Sebastien Arcand said, “When this road gets developed we will be looking at the suitability of the access. We are always going to have one way in and one way out, temporarily. We just don’t want to block future connections. That is an ongoing process.”
In written comments from various city departments, Nelson’s fire chief flagged this access issue.
“While we realize this is only a neighbourhood plan at this point,” Len MacCharles wrote, “we are not supportive of the proposed densities with only one way in/out.”
One presenter at the public hearing called the apparent one-way access in and out of West Richards an access hazard in the event of a wildfire.
Several times in the meeting, planning and management staff called the development plan conceptual, saying details would be worked out when the developer applies for a development permit and building permits.
The re-zoning will allow residential development on land currently not zoned for housing.
The proposed development will build 306 housing units over 15 years on 17.5 acres covering about 13 per cent of the golf course lands. It will include small commercial retail space.
There will be a mix of housing types — row housing, duplexes, and pocket neighbourhoods – and it will not encroach on any forested areas. There will be pedestrian walkways connecting to existing neighbourhood sidewalks.
Between new housing units facing existing Rosemont housing, there will be a 7.5-metre buffer zone retaining natural vegetation, and no balconies facing those existing houses. Also for buildings adjacent to existing housing there will be a three-storey height limit.
The property owner, Granite Pointe Golf and Recreation Society Inc., has volunteered to contribute $1,000 per dwelling unit to the city’s affordable housing fund.
Councillor Keith Page said he is concerned residents have not had a say in what the development would look like. Arcand responded that guidelines for possible housing at the golf course had public input when the Official Community Plan (OCP) was developed in 2013, and the OCP encourages housing development there along with an 18-hole course. The current project has been guided by many specific terms of the OCP, Arcand said.
A green building discussion
Councillor Rik Logtenberg attempted to change the plan so the buildings are constructed according to Step 4 energy efficiency, rather than Step 3 as planned.
The Step Code is a provincial initiative that aims to have all new buildings at net-zero energy by 2032, with local building codes gradually increasing their efficiency requirements in five steps. Nelson now requires new buildings to be at Step 1 but will be increasing that soon, according to Arcand, who said many builders are already building to higher steps.
Logtenberg pointed out that the OCP specifies that golf course development should be green development. But this was before the climate crisis, he said, and before Nelson committed to net-zero energy use by 2050.
“This is an opportunity to set the standards for all new major developments,” he said. “We would be setting developers up to succeed, not to fail. These standards are coming anyway, and this is a 15-year project … All buildings will have to retrofitted, so let’s do it right this time. Every month we are learning new techniques to improve. Government needs to give developers a nudge.”
Mayor John Dooley disagreed with Logtenberg, saying it was unfair to come in at the last minute and change the expectations for this development.
“Our job is to represent the greater good of the community,” Dooley said, “and now we come in at the 12th hour to put a new regulation on it. This is unfair to the people who have sat with our staff for six months and come to public hearings. It is a blind-side to the people who in good faith have tried to [work with us].”
Arcand pointed out the Step Code is about the airtightness of houses, not about greenhouse gas emissions. He said a Step 4 house could still have a large carbon footprint depending on what kind of energy it uses.
Councillor Jesse Woodward supported Logtenberg, citing the latest United Nations report on climate change.
“My gut feeling is at some point we have to make these big moves,” he said. “I feel we are treating these decisions like we have time. But we don’t have time. We have a decade to make drastic moves.”
Council ultimately voted against Logtenberg’s amendment and then gave third and final reading to the re-zoning application.