At last Thursday’s public hearing at city hall about the proposed re-zoning of a portion of the Nelson Landing property at the old Kootenay Forest Products site on Kootenay Lake, the most prevalent concern expressed by residents was that there is only one road access point into the development and that a second will not be added for many years.
Currently the only access is the rail crossing at 4th Street leading onto Sproat Drive. The plan for the development calls for putting in a second access route to the development after 70 units are developed.
About two dozen people attended the hearing and eleven made presentations. Council has yet to make a decision about the rezoning.
The developer, Storm Mountain Development Corporation, has asked for zoning changes to make way for its development of a mixed commercial-residential development of 265 housing units and a hotel, to be carried out according to a phased development agreement over 20 years.
Allard Ockeloen of Storm Mountain opened the hearing by describing the property and focusing on the ways the development has accommodated community concerns including the contribution of the waterfront pathway and Red Sands beach to the city, the clean-up of contaminated lands, a $70,000 park improvement fund, $25,000 to public art, a publicly accessible dock and marina, public access to the entire length of the waterfront, and a pledge to use local labour and materials.
There were no questions from council for Ockeleon after his presentation.
Then Mayor Deb Kozak read three emails council has received from the public since the hearing was announced.
Erin Sedlebauer expressed the concern that the public marina would mean too many power boats, threatening the canoe and kayak culture on Kootenay Lake.
Herb Couch expressed his support for the retention of Red Sands Beach as a public space and Erica Conrad expressed concern about the lack of a secondary access route to the development.
Eight members of the public made in-person presentations.
Robert Simmerling talked about the problem of having only one access point and the wear and tear on the single railway crossing by large trucks.
Ian Campbell wanted to see green space with a play area for children. He also expressed concern about the narrowness of the streets within the development and the difficulty of residents backing out of driveways with enough visibility. He said the contribution to affordable housing by the developer should be $1000 per unit, not the current $250. His final point was there should be two access routes to the development for the sake of safety.
Alon Gelcer said he likes the preservation of Red Sands but it does not go far enough and that the beach should be designated as clothing optional. He said the clothing optional character of the beach is the basis of a distinctive subculture in Nelson and that taking it away would be like taking away the skate park or the hockey rink.
Peter Schramm supported Gelcer by pointing out that Vancouver has protected Wreck Beach. “I hate to see Vancouver being groovier than Nelson,” he said.
Jenny Robinson said Nelson is in an affordable housing crisis and that the rent for a one bedroom apartment has jumped by 8 per cent in the past year. She recommended charging the developer $1000 per door toward the city’s affordable housing fund.
Tom Prior said he would like to see more energy efficiency, composting, and green space at the development, and fewer units. He said the development has a “large carbon footprint except in rhetoric” and he said developers are bankers and “we have to get the bankers under control.”
Matt Caldwell said the fact that the Nelson Landing community can be accessed by only one route scares him because it could hamper emergency services. He also said the single access point results in too much traffic past his residence.
Marion Campbell, who lives on Sproat Drive, said she is concerned about large, high- speed trucks going past her house all day, and other vehicles speeding through the neighbourhood. She said there should be a second access route into the development.
Public hearing procedure allows the developer to speak again in response after the presentations by the public.
Ockeloen said, regarding motorized boats, “We will limit the use of the marina to the neighbourhood, with no fuel stations and no commercial infrastructure. It is a downscaled marina for the neighbourhood.”
As for the concern about access, he said the traffic has been bad lately because they have been hauling in fill to develop and remediate the property, but that that will die down soon. He said creating a second access route will mean putting a second crossing across the CP rail line, resulting in trains blowing their horns an additional time and he wants to spare the resident that. He said a traffic study has shown that the area can handle the traffic until 70 units are built.
Responding to the call to spend more per unit on the affordable housing fund, Ockeloen said, “This a very expensive property to create. It is within our core values to develop affordable housing, but this project does not allow us to, because of (the cost of the) remediation of an industrial land site, we can not support everything we would like to support.”
Councillor Valerie Warminton asked Ockeloen if there are aspects of the construction that will be more energy efficient compared with regular construction. Ockeloen responded that the R-values in the construction are at levels considered green and that it will comply with the building code, which is, he said, “the tightest building code in North America.”
Councillor Michael Dailly asked Ockeloen if instead of waiting until 70 units are constructed to build the second crossing, he could do it at 40 units instead, and if instead of paying the city $250 per door for affordable housing he could pay $1000.
City manager Kevin Cormack and Mayor Deb Kozak interjected and said that a public hearing is not a forum to negotiate, and that if council wished, it could direct management staff to discuss these with the developer.
Councillor Anna Purcell asked Ockeloen, “What is Nelson to you?”
Ockeloen replied, “It is a place where to go home to my parents, where I grew up (in Queens Bay), where I grew up in business working with Pacific Insight. This property feels like an opportunity. We have put something together that gives something to the community because it remediates an industrial site. Nelson is the most spectacular community I have ever seen, the commitment to its early architecture, the culture, that is what keeps me coming here.”
Council did not make a decision after the hearing because phased development agreements of 20 years or more require the consent of the provincial inspector of municipalities, and city staff say they will probably not have that until early July, after which the rezoning will come before council for a vote. After a public hearing has taken place, council is prohibited from hearing any more input from the public on a rezoning before it votes.