A significant downtown building in Nelson will be getting a new look.
NDN Partners Inc., owners of the former Nelson Daily News building at 266 Baker St. and the developer of the project, intends to create 17 separately titled properties through renovations and additions.
The result will be seven commercial units (six existing, one new) and 10 residential units (one existing, nine new), along with 11 parking stalls.
The building will be known as Deane Terrace, named for Francis J. Deane, the journalist and politician who launched the Nelson Daily News in 1902.
Council approved the developer’s request to convert the units to strata title (separately owned units) at its Sept. 7 meeting. B.C.’s Strata Property Act gives municipal councils the authority to convert a building to strata title with no required public consultation.
Council also agreed to a development variance permit in order to increase the maximum lot coverage permitted in the city’s zoning bylaw from 90 per cent to 97.3 per cent.
Before council discussed the motion to accept the proposed strata title conversion and the variance permit, Councillor Keith Page introduced an amendment. He wanted council to stipulate that the project would contain a minimum of three long-term residential rental units and a cap of one short-term residential rental unit.
He said Nelson’s downtown area has lost many long-term rental units to short-term rentals in the past few years.
“The data is clear that we are leaving many of our residents in the cold,” Page said. “We have a responsibility to the people of our city to ensure that development meets the community’s needs.”
City manager Kevin Cormack said the developer has put years of planning into the project and has done so based on current city policy, and to change those rules so late in the game would be unfair.
Councillor Janice Morrison said she disagreed with Page, supports the development and did not want to put up roadblocks at this late date.
”We have been looking for some time to invigorate that end of Baker, and I look forward to not seeing an empty parking lot there,” she said. “I am excited about the whole project going forward.”
The developer’s building plans presented to council can be found at https://bit.ly/3jToqvi.
Councillor Cal Renwick called the project a boost for that part of downtown, an impressive architectural achievement, and “a great project that we can collect some taxes on.”
If council changed the rules now as Page proposed, Renwick said, “If I were the developer I would walk away from this.”
Councillor Nicole Charlwood said she appreciated the point of Page’s proposed amendment but supports the project as written, even though she is not sure the new units would free up other housing in the city, rather that they may bring in people from outside to purchase and invest. She agreed with others that council should not blindside a developer with a change of policy or regulation in mid-stream.
Councillor Rik Logtenberg said the recent opening of the nearby SHARE housing development balances off the affordability mix in that part of town, and Councillor Jesse Woodward opposed Page’s amendment also, despite concerns.
“We are becoming a very hard town to get into,” Woodward said. “Will my own child ever be able to afford to buy a house here? I would like to challenge the planning department to think about that. It’s an important discussion to have for the future of Nelson.”
Mayor John Dooley described the planned Deane Terrace as “a marvellous project for our downtown. It will help fill a space we have been complaining about for 20 years that has been nothing more than a dust bowl down there.”
Page’s amendment came to a vote and failed, with all councillors, including Page, ultimately voting in favour of the strata change and zoning variance.