Events Centre, Nanaimo marina woes, Bike Park, Bastion Bridge, Illegal suites, Harbour City Theatre

On Monday afternoon, November 14th, Nanaimo Council held a COW (committee of the whole) meeting where new hot topics were heard. It was a full house.

Topics heard were:

  • Plans for a new $83 million Sports and Entertainment Events Centre “Events Centre” downtown
  • Nanaimo marinas facing high lease rates
  • Stevie Smith bike track at Beban Park
  • Bastion Street Bridge replacement
  • Illegal suites – what to do?
  • Harbour City Theatre update

New $69M-$83M Events Centre

As of Monday, Nanaimo City Council has spent more than $240,000 on studies to find out if a new Events Centre is a good idea.

In four weeks a Toronto architect firm Brisbin Brook Beynon (BBB) drew up a proposal for an Events Centre. They have suggested two possible sites downtown.

  • Howard Johnson site at Comox Road and Terminal Avenue
  • 1 Port Drive site on the south downtown waterfront

More reports will be presented to Council on December 19th.  At that time Council will vote whether to approve the Events Centre.

The public can give their  feedback until December 18th online at mailto:eventcentre@nanaimo.ca or mayorandcouncil@nanaimo.ca. OR in person at Beban Park Social Centre during the following open houses held on Thursday evenings from 6pm to 8pm:

  • November 24
  • December 1
  • December 8

In the meantime, Joe “T” Taxpayer should think of some good questions like:

  • Why don’t we get to vote on spending this BIG amount of money?
  • What about the ferry traffic and public transit?
  • How much will our taxes go up with this new project?
$63M-$83M proposed Events Centre downtown Nanaimo
$63M-$83M proposed Events Centre downtown Nanaimo – to be approve in Dec.

Nanaimo Port Authority fees too high

A group of marina operators waited patiently until the end of the evening to present their concerns. They complained that the Nanaimo Port Authority (NPA) rate scheme is among the highest in Canada.

The main speaker outlined the problems they are facing. In a nutshell the speaker said:

The Nanaimo Port Authority (NPA) is charging rates which are based on assessed land values. This makes their lease rates prohibitively high. In contrast, the province of BC manages certain areas of the Nanaimo harbour (see map below) and these rates are based on income.  Those marinas governed by the province have significantly lower fees.

Marina operators cannot recover lease increases by passing on NPA fees to consumers and as a result it is driving business out of Nanaimo.

One marina’s NPA fees increased from $17,000 in 2009 to $96,000 in 2013; a 450% increase. Another marina saw their rates increase from $33,000 to $112,000.

Nanaimo Marinas going broke - different rates
Nanaimo Marinas going broke – different rates

The NPA met with marina owners in October 2016 and said rate increases were directed by Ottawa. A meeting is going to take place in Ottawa on November 22nd and hopefully things can be worked out.

The delegates said they prefer an income approach because it is driven by what the customers can afford rather than the upland value to determine water lot lease rates.

A proposal was made by the group that because the federal government is interested in off-loading Port properties, all parties concerned in Nanaimo should get together and form a non profit society to become official stewards of the Nanaimo waterfront.

The suggestion was to create a NANAIMO HARBOUR AUTHORITY (NHA). Marina operators would pay lease fees to the society keeping the money in the community.

Councillor Brennan made a motion that Council send a letter to the federal government supporting the marina operators’ concerns. This motion passed unanimously.

Stevie Smith Bike Park

Council approved up to $200,000 in funding for the Stevie Smith Community Bike Park at Beban Park.

The cost for this project is estimated at $412,619. Gyro Club of Nanaimo and the Stevie Smith Legacy Foundation have contributed $233,407 to the project with many groups volunteering their materials and time. The Stevie Smith Community Bike Park is scheduled to open next year. Unfortunately, it’s one of the last treed areas in the park.

New Bike Park to open next year in Beban Park
New Bike Park to open next year in Beban Park

New parking meters downtown

Goodbye to the old parking meters. Next week there will be new multi-space parking machines and no more two hour free parking areas.

The downside is you will have to enter your licence plate number to get a parking ticket. That means that the people at the City can monitor your movements downtown (if they need to).

The good news is there will still be free parking in the evenings and weekends on the street.

Bastion Street Bridge: repair or replace

A presentation from staff was made to council on repairing or replacing the Bastion Street Bridge. City staff recommended repairing the bridge. Bastion Street Bridge was built in 1936 and reconstructed in 1978/79 and in 2014 a repair report was done.

Options presented were:

  • rehab & seismic retrofit *recommended
  • rehab only
  • bridge replacement
  • bridge replacement in 10 years

The cost to repair the bridge was estimated at $1.85 million not including the lighting.

Council discussion:

Councillor Bestwick: Is there a bridge safety branch? (cynical eye roll)

Staff: no

Councillor Hong: When is the province going to replace the Pearson Bridge?

The CAO commented that she needed to speak to the CFO (about money matters?) The topic was tabled based on her request.

Illegal Suites

Councillor Fuller said that trying to find housing in Nanaimo for the homeless is next to impossible and that 45% of people in Nanaimo are living in poverty. That was why he was putting forward his motion on illegal suites.

A report on illegal suites is scheduled to come out next Spring. Council decided to hold off on the motion for three months.

The motion was voted on in two parts: Councillors Bestwick and Hong opposed the first line of the motion and the second line of the motion was opposed by Councillors Hong, Bestwick, and Thorpe.

Council discussion:  

Hong: …can’t support it…what is a formal complaint? When someone dies? We are talking about old housing around VIU…zoning is zoning breaking bylaws…we have to come up with the rules first…

Kipp:…fire dangers…fire report?…we don’t educate the public…give people time to fix buildings…

Brennan:…zoning issue…can’t have secondary suites in duplexes in the bylaws…

Thorpe:…secondary suites are money makers for these people…

Yoachim: …look forward to new CSO (Chief Sustainability Officer) Is it a lady?…to take up this topic…

Recycling Contamination

People want to recycle. The problem is it is a pain. You can’t put your plastic bags, glass or Styrofoam for curbside pickup. Don’t put it in the garbage either. You have to take it to a recycling depot:

  •  Nanaimo Recycling Exchange on Kenworth Road
  • Regional Recycling on Hayes Road and Old Victoria Road

How much extra traffic is caused by people having to drive to recycling depots? This new MMBC recycling scheme is a failure and will cost towns enormously in the future.

Harbour City Theatre fills seats

Harbour City Theatre gave a presentation to Council on their progress. They are filling the seats thanks in part to volunteers who work 145 hours a month on productions.  Attendance rates are up significantly from last year with 720 attendees per month this year compared to 474 last year.

Harbour Theatre at 25 Victoria Rd, Nanaimo
renovated Harbour City Theatre at 25 Victoria Road, Nanaimo