Save Georgia Park in Nanaimo – act now!

Several major concerns were raised by some councillors and the public about the land deal for the proposed Hilton Hotel which will occupy 10 and 28 Front Street and use up 60% of Georgia Park.  City staff has recommended that the City lease the park to the developer at no cost for an estimated 80 years.

Four key requests from the developer for the new Hilton Hotel are:

  • Increase in density (doubled the building area) [approved]
  • Increase in height (from 25 to 35 storeys) [approved]
  • Purchase the laneway for $475,000 [to be approved at September 29 council meeting]
  • Lease 60% of Georgia Park [to be approved by AAP or referendum or council]

While some councillors mulled the idea of a referendum on the issue of ‘leasing’ the park, Staff said that a referendum is not required, it’s too late to bring it forward for the election and even if a referendum was held, the City wouldn’t necessarily base their final decision on it.

Here is how it went down at the last council meeting on September 8th:

Bestwick:  … the park portion must go to referendum..?
Swabey:  … it would be up to council if you want to go to referendum or AAP [alternative approval process]
Johnstone:  … the laneway was not designated for traffic…
Staff:  … lane was dedicated in 1937 … to provide access to rear of a building…
Johnstone: …but for this particular purpose?
Staff: …the applicant is proposing to purchase the lane and consolidate it with the lot
McKay: … when disposing of a roadway there is no requirement for elector assent…am I correct?
Swabey: … there is no requirement for electoral assent
Kipp: …we do have to go to the public…my key thing is anytime we dispose of parkland we go to referendum and I don’t like AAP…I am concerned that we are selling the laneway before we give them the parkland…it’s not in the right order…
Pattje: …we are getting something that has four portions to it but in three separate portions; last week we had the height and  density. Today we have the laneway.  Next the parkland…which should go to referendum…all connected…like Kipp said it’s [backwards]…
Swabey: … the lane purchase if we authorize it tonight wouldn’t be closed…
Ruttan: …What is our pleasure at this point?
Bestwick: …if this laneway doesn’t pass 3rd reading tonight we can bring it back? …
Swabey: …if you turn down the bylaw [sale of the lane] tonight then the applicant would have to go back to the drawing board…
Ruttan: …motion seconded  by Anderson…motion before us is to [sell laneway] passes third reading.

In favour: Councillors McKay, Anderson, Johnstone, Bestwick, and Greves and Mayor Ruttan. Opposed: Councillors  Kipp, Brennan, and Pattje.

Discussion continued after vote passed to sell laneway:

Kipp: …throughout this process I never received a financial analysis.  What are the development cost charges; what is the taxation loss/cost, what do they get for lift?… What I have estimated is that this project will cost us $2.8 million in DCC costs; $10 million in taxes; the lift of 10 storeys is worth about $11 million for the extra 11 storeys we approved through rezoning…So what are the social, environmental, and financial components to this project? …
Swabey:  …we have had this discussion many times…
Johnstone: … can this council make the decision to go to a referendum or AAP process?
Swabey: … council can make a motion…
Johnstone: …this is such an important decision…I [will] be putting forward a notice of motion that the issue of the Hilton Hotel be brought forward to the electorate by the referendum process rather than the APP process…
Ruttan: …[warning] you will have to deal with staff to make sure if it works…
Brennan: …I move that the issue of the financial report issues that Kipp mentioned be reviewed by the development review committee.
Bestwick: …as chair of the Development Committee we will put it on the agenda tomorrow…
Swabey: … this request will not affect the Hilton project
Pattje: … I like the ‘sound’ of Johnstone’s motion …I will ask my question for the third time…because I have not received an answer…Why do people think a referenmom tagged onto the November 15th election is NOT in the works because it is too late
Swabey: … in order to do it [referendum] and not make a mistake, we have to come up with the question…; we have to advertise…;  hold public open houses and road shows; …but I don’t think we can do it before the November 15th election… a referendum is possible at any time…the cost can be charged back to the developer… I would like to do it right and not have it fail…
Bestwick: … we should speed up the process and have it on ballot November 15th… then we don’t have to charge the developer for the question? ….
Swabey: …  that’s another point I didn’t mention we shouldn’t be doing the referendum until the rezoning is completed…so the [referendum] needs to wait…First council needs to decide on the land use…get on with the [sale] of the laneway and go to AAP… the land use is driving everything.. there is no sense doing a referendum and finding out that the public doesn’t want the park to be sold but you have already approved the rezoning application or vice versa you have to take the land use to a certain point…
Bestwick: …based on what you said then shouldn’t we be doing the referendum first?
Swabey: …the land use is the most important decision it involves the [sale] of the laneway and [sale] of the parkland so you need to be… you wouldn’t want to get ahead of yourself and have the land use to happen and then go out and see if you want to lease the parkland….
Bestwick: ..we don’t decide, isn’t it up to the electorate?
Swabey: … NO – it is up to you the council, even if it goes to referendum it is still up to council on what you want to do, it doesn’t matter how the public votes, it is just your way of gauging what the public thinks, [referendum] it is not mandatory
Mckay: …do we not have to have all the bylaws adopted concerning this project prior to six weeks before general voting day?
Swabey: …I am not aware of that.
Brennan: …point of order…this is a notice of motion… not the time for discussion. No one has any answers.
Ruttan: …Where are we? [laughter]

Questions raised by public:

Public: …will the sale of the laneway be considered prior to the lease of the parkland?
Staff: …we have had 3rd reading of selling the laneway already and it passed tonight.  So the laneway will be consolidated with the property. That will get final adoption by the next council meeting. Then we would bring forward the draft lease agreement for Georgia Park. Then council would decide if it is to go to AAP or referendum.

Public: So the sale of the laneway would be passed before the lease of the park would be approved?
Staff: Yes …

Public: So if the lease of the park falls through and the developer cancels the development then we will have increased the size and value of his property by the sale of the laneway, and by passing rezoning increases of floor and height areas? Would there be a covenant that would revert back to what it currently is if the development doesn’t happen on this property within a specified number of years? We have increased the value of the property.
Staff: …no sunset clauses, not possible.
Public: … no a good deal for us …

The City of Nanaimo could just as easily add the laneway to Georgia Park and make the park bigger. The terrible news is that we are about to lose 60% of a public waterfront park.  Let us Save Georgia Park. Parks are for the people.

This is an election year— email mayor&council@nanaimo.ca let them know you want to keep parks public and/or start a petition and help Nanaimo Save Georgia Park.

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Loyd Sherry speaks out about Georgia Park

You know trouble is on the horizon when former City of Nanaimo Councillor Loyd Sherry has to come and speak to council. The last time Sherry addressed council was two years ago regarding the Colliery Dam issue which has become a major public relations disaster and  a financial boondoggle.  Now we have Georgia Park ready to be given away.

The following are the main highlights from Sherry’s presentation to Nanaimo council on Monday, September 8, 2014:

“…You are proposing to close a lane and dispose of it. Does the community know what’s happening? I look at this laneway and it butts right up next to the park…If you have a big building next the park, it creates a big shadow in the park and something that should be considered.

LSherry 204x300 Loyd Sherry speaks out about Georgia Park
Loyd Sherry: Nanaimo’s longest serving Councillor with 31 years continuous service 1980 – 2011

“…I understand that the developer wants to get the laneway so that his building can encroach into the laneway. If that is true then when will there be a public hearing [for the laneway disposition]?”

Swabey: “…The public hearing was last Thursday and we have to be careful about crossing over into the land use issues…”

Sherry: “I am not talking about what happened last Thursday. I am talking about what’s coming down the road. My understanding is that the laneway has a different legal description that is another subject than last Thursday. So therefore, it is a different kettle of fish, it should (without clarification from Victoria) require another public hearing.  If this is the avenue that this council is going to take.

“My objection is when you look at that lane there is room beside the development to run a vehicle back and forth. Why does the park need to leased out? Well, because the roadway is going to be taken up by the building. Don’t sell the laneway. You have it right there.  The price that has been suggested of less than a half million dollars …when was the last time they made waterfront property…that property is more valuable than was suggested

“…Bylaw 735 shows the dedication of Georgia Park. That document is in existence. The bylaw has not been rescinded.  Previous councils fought tooth and nail to dedicate parks so they could not be sold.

What is the difference—leasing and selling? Oh, pardon me, we are not ‘selling’ it we are ‘leasing’ it. What is the difference? I heard they were talking about an 80 year lease… I request you do some serious consideration about giving up this lane away…

There is a canoe there [in the park] where did the canoe come from? … At the open house I asked what are you going to do with the canoe? City staff said they would take it down to Maffeo Park.  I find that hard because when the canoe was donated to the City it fronted on Front Street and always has…not hidden away down in the gully by the beach….There were war canoe races in the past and the grass was always full of people… I enjoy the parks… The Gyros created parks… What are you doing? What view is there going to be for people?  …. Previous mayors will roll over in their graves if you go ahead with something like this…”

This is an election year— email mayor&council@nanaimo.ca let them know you want parks for people and/or start a petition and help Nanaimo save Georgia Park.

BC Ferries: profits and problems

BC Ferries is an independent company with a contract to provide ‘ferry services’ for the BC government. It should actually be called ‘Corrigan’s Company’ or something that doesn’t make it sound like it’s a government department.

This spring, Transportation Minister Todd Stone approved $19 million in cuts to BC Ferry coastal routes. Over 3,000 sailings were cancelled. At the same time, BC Ferries introduced a 4.2% increase in fares for the major routes, a 2% increase on Northern routes and reduced the passenger fare discount for BC seniors travelling Mondays to Thursdays from 100% to 50%.

How did these cuts to service and increased fares play out?

Record Profits

In August, BC Ferries announced that net earnings from April to June 2014 were $13.9-million, compared with $4.3-million in the first quarter of the previous year.

These profits have come at a cost.  Coastal communities are being killed off one by one and those in government that are paid to listen are deaf as a post.

Discovery Coast Passage Route

CoastalFerry BC Ferries: profits and problems
Discovery Coast Circle Tour – affected by BC Ferries cuts

On April 28, 2014, BC Ferries discontinued the Discovery Coast Passage Route with direct service from Port Hardy to Bella Coola.

They have taken out the regular sized ferry, the Queen of Chilliwack, and replaced it with the smallest open-deck car ferry “Nimpkish” which can only take 16 vehicles and up to 95 passengers.

Tourists now ride the open waves for 10 hours, arriving in the dark; hungry and stiff because there is no food only a vending machine and nowhere to sit.

If BC Ferries ran the Queen of Chilliwack it would take more passengers (389) and it has amenities. Tourists can sit on a seat or eat in the cafeteria. It has coin-operated showers, recliner seats, an elevator, and washrooms for people with disabilities. The Nimpkish has no amenities. None.

The Discovery Coast Passage route has been used by European tourists, who took the ferry from Port Hardy to Bella Coola and drove through the Chilcotin to Williams Lake and back down to Vancouver for a circle tour.

According to legislative reporter Tom Fletcher (who normally toes the government line) it was a bleak summer for tourism in the region as a result of the ferry changes. A bus tour of Canadian seniors heading west from Williams Lake was cancelled after 14 years. One tourism operator is considering closing down and other Cariboo-Chilcotin operators lost up to 90% of their business. This has a cumulative effect and soon there will be no operators that can survive.

With the tiny 16-vehicle Nimpkish now on the route, even if every sailing was filled to maximum capacity only 720 vehicles can be carried. That means the traffic level can only reach about one-third of the 10-year average. Two-thirds of the traffic that would have used the ferry in a typical year will now be turned away, unable to visit the region at all.

What does this mean for tourism on Vancouver Island?

Resource Extraction over Tourism

Why would the BC government want to kill coastal tourism and particularly in the area of Cariboo-Chilcotin? Would it be because there are plans for the world’s largest open pit mine that will take up 90% of the area?

Nanaimo waterfront deal: Hilton Hotel vs Georgia Park

Nanaimo is about to lose a downtown waterfront park! How could this happen? It is happening because the new Hilton Hotel planned for Front Street needs more space.  The hotel needs 60% of Georgia Park for a loading bay and patio.

You must make plans to attend the Thursday, September 4, 2014 Public Hearing, 7pm at VICC regarding rezoning of 10 and 28 Front Street.  The future of Georgia Park is at stake.

GeorgiaMap Nanaimo waterfront deal: Hilton Hotel vs Georgia Park
Georgia Park and Hilton Hotel

Nanaimo Hilton Hotel
At the August 11, 2014 council meeting the rezoning bylaw to lease Georgia Park to the Hilton Hotel passed first and second reading. The bylaw was approved by the Mayor and four Councillors; only Councillor Pattje opposed.

The new Hilton is planned to be 35 storeys or approximately 114.3 meters. This is too large for the existing lot so they must use approximately 925 square meters of Georgia Park.  The hotel plans for 59 parking stalls and will use a parking lot off-site for more parking space. Construction is expected to begin in 2016.

The developer, Mr. Koo of Insight Developments, has had a long history in Nanaimo with projects such as Longwood Station, Hawthorne Corner, Origin Retirement community, and soon Linley Valley Drive & Turner Road Plaza.  This proposed new hotel on Front Street will get  a 10 year property tax exemption just as the other proposed hotel behind the VICC.

Why is the builder not being asked to reduce the size of the hotel and not encroach on  Georgia Park?

NewHilton2 Nanaimo waterfront deal: Hilton Hotel vs Georgia Park
Developers view of Georgia Park

The developer states it will secure $1.187 million for park improvements but isn’t this for just for the benefit of the hotel and its guests?

Georgia Park—one of Nanaimo’s oldest parks
Georgia Park was dedicated as a public park in 1948. The land was donated by the Gyro Club and Native Sons of Nanaimo.  For generations, people of Nanaimo have enjoyed this public park and its wonderful views of the Salish Sea and Coastal Mountains.

GeorgiaPark Nanaimo waterfront deal: Hilton Hotel vs Georgia Park
Sunrise over Georgia Park’s dugout canoe a gift from the Snuneymuxw First Nations

Upon visiting Georgia Park you will see this Squamish dugout canoe, a gift from the Snuneymuxw First Nations to the City of Nanaimo via Albert Wesley.  The canoe was carved from a single giant red cedar in 1922 on the Squamish First Nation Reserve.

GeorgiaParkUphill Nanaimo waterfront deal: Hilton Hotel vs Georgia Park
Georgia Park : How could a city give it away its public waterfront parkland?

No busking on the waterfront
What will happen to the first nation carvers, artisans, and  buskers that sit in front of Georgia Park? Will they be told “don’t disturb the hotel guests”? For example, the Pacifica residents have asked that buskers not use the area around ‘The Sails’ because the noise is too much. These highrises will create canyons that affect noise, wind, light, and views.

GeorgiaParkWalkway Nanaimo waterfront deal: Hilton Hotel vs Georgia Park
Georgia Park Walkway; public vs private spaces – Will hotel guests come first?

Ultimately, if this Hilton Hotel project is not modified then the City of Nanaimo will lose control of what happens to Georgia Park. This is an election year— email mayor&council@nanaimo.ca and/or start a petition and help Nanaimo save Georgia Park.

What is the future vision for Nanaimo’s waterfront? Remember, back in 2013 when the harbour was to be sold to a developer for $9 million.

If 70,000 people from China are planning to come to the proposed Conference Centre Hotel down the street, how many are to come to the Hilton? Will there be enough space for everyone on the walkway or just those from the hotel? An urban planner comments on twitter:

PacificaHilton Nanaimo waterfront deal: Hilton Hotel vs Georgia Park
Nanaimo’s waterfront – will people come from China for this?

Where will people go for that old 1950s motel experience? Chinese tourists may want to head up to Parksville and pay $150,000 to spend the night in an authentic ‘roadside’ motel. Maybe that’s where the real money is.

50sHotel Nanaimo waterfront deal: Hilton Hotel vs Georgia Park
1950s roadside motel in Parksville; rooms for $150K a night

 

Top 12 posts for first half of 2014

Reflecting back on the first half of 2014, what happened on mid Vancouver Island?  Here are the top 12 posts for the first half of the year:

Diver Lake riparian bylaws broken but fines waived
Nanaimo taxpayers lose out with no bidding process on exclusive water works deal
Outrage over empty schools in SD68
Recycling in BC with MMBC: taxpayers pays twice
Yellow Flag Iris: Silent killer choking Buttertubs Marsh
SD68 budget: 44 full-time jobs to be cut 
BC Ferries increases fares: a slow death for coastal communities
SD68 in BC Supreme Court for all the wrong reasons
Nanaimo Recycling Exchange faces closure
Nanaimo providing water to Lantzville especially for Foothills Development
Four schools close in Parksville and Qualicum SD69
What can Nanaimo learn from Spokane’s experience with waste to energy

Other news items that are being watched are the construction of Linley Valley Drive and the option to purchase parkland in Linley Valley.

Some community healing took place in January with the Ka Na Ta Conversations.

Healthcare is in trouble; Nanaimo was ground zero for the new Care Delivery Model Redesign and patients are suffering.

Mid Island news will be back here at the end of August.  Have a great summer.

Experimenting with chocolate in a Nanaimo kitchen

Everyone enjoys a good story and a sweet treat.  Here is the famous Nanaimo Bar story:

After World War II, recipes for sweet unbaked desserts such as refrigerator squares became widespread when butter and sugar were once more available.

By 1950, ingredients such as marshmallows, sweetened condensed milk, and crumbled cookies became well-used. This era also saw confections made with brands such as Bird’s custard powder, Baker’s chocolate, Fry’s cocoa, and Tropic coconut.

The bottom layer was inspired by two recipes: ‘Chocolate Quickie Square’ submitted on April 18, 1947 by Mrs. Lois Light of Vancouver,  and a 1948 recipe ‘Unbaked Chocolate Cake’ submitted by Jean Haines of Wildwood (north of Powell River). This recipe was reproduced in the 12th Edith Adams Prize cookbook.

NanaimoBars Experimenting with chocolate in a Nanaimo kitchen

As the recipes were shared and tested, a new dessert began to emerge. The women of the Nanaimo Hospital Auxiliary invented a new frosting, and capped the dessert with chocolate.

The first known recipe for Nanaimo Bars was submitted by Mrs. E. MacDougall for the 1952 Nanaimo Hospital Auxiliary cookbook. She called it ‘Chocolate Slice’.

The recipe for Nanaimo Bars appeared later that year in the 14th Edith Adams Cookbook. Read more about the Nanaimo Bar Story and follow the Nanaimo Bar trail.