Nanaimo Harbour Crisis, Wild West Pot Shops, Missing Money

Last week at the Committee of the Whole Meeting on March 27th there were some interesting presentations made to Council:

  • Nanaimo Harbour Crisis and why the NPA should be gone
  • Human Trafficking and what Nanaimo could do about it
  • Wild West pot shops ruining it for other responsible cannabis shops
  • User fees – should they go up at a set rate every year or stay the same
  • Core review – where is the City at in the process
  • Nanaimo Pride Parade – name change

The agenda for the upcoming Monday April 3rd the Nanaimo council meeting includes a number of requests for zoning to be relaxed around waterways.  Also, more larger lots are being divided into smaller lots.

  • new multi-unit building is proposed for 2020 Estevan Road
  • a residential lot on Norwell Drive is to be divided into 10 units
  • six-storey hotel planned for 15 Front Street to get a 10 year tax free holiday

Nanaimo Harbour Crisis

Here are highlights from the presentation given by a local marina operator:

We are in crisis in Nanaimo. We formed the Nanaimo Marina Association because of the rate hikes which started in 2012 after the Nanaimo Port Authority (NPA) went to a different model of billing which caused the rates to go up by as much as 450%. The NPA gets 80% of their money from these rates. The NPA promised to solve this rate crisis in November 2016 but they haven’t listened to the people.

Our members are proposing a solution to have a society model like they have for Victoria harbour which was established 15 years ago. All of the revenue would go back into harbour improvements. NPA generates $9 million gross revenue a year. We need  fair rates with no surprises.

As you can see from the photo, Nanaimo Port Authority has still not rebuilt D dock nearly 4 years after removing it.

Council discussion:

Yoachim: …how is it working in Victoria?

Speaker: …great

Bestwick: …some groups are paying much less than others?

Speaker: …some are paying $40,000; some are paying $120,000 …people are losing money…

Bestwick…if we support you what happens?

Speaker: …we work with Transport Canada to start the process…

Wild West Pot Shops

There were two presentations made to council at the COW meeting.  The Nanaimo Cannabis Coalition made a request to hold 6 town hall meetings to gauge community opinion on such topics as health care, cannabis law, and shops. The hope is prohibition will end soon. Victoria has held many open houses to learn about what people want.

There are 20 cannabis dispensaries in Nanaimo. The presenter asked for a good neighbourhood agreement to avoid a dispensary being near a daycare or school, for example and no pot leaf signage.  They also requested that on-site consumption be restricted to the two existing locations, and a cap on new dispensaries opening.  Victoria has bylaws now which have proven effective.

User Fee Study

There are 200 user fees that the City collects. The City has hired a consultant to study user fees and the full report will be ready at the end of June.

Council had a few questions for the consultant:

Thorpe: …will you make recommendations on how do we compare with other cities?

Yoachim: … are DCC (development cost charges) part of this report? DCC’s are low…

Consultant: No, DCCs will not be covered…and  water and sewer fees are not included…

Bestwick: … anything to do with transit?

Consultant: No

CFO: …transit is the RDN’s domain…

Bestwick: …we pay into transit…can we widen the scope of this report?…

CFO: …not at this point

Hong: …are garbage fees included?…we are about to change our garbage structure…good to have some numbers…

Consultant: No

Mckay: …why don’t user fees go up automatically every year? Langford’s rates go up 3% every year…regardless…

CFO:…a political decision

So far it seems that many areas of ‘user fees’ have been left out of this report. By the summer time people will be in holiday mode and all will be forgotten.  Also, Parks and Recreation is a special case so will we get that in the report? User fees are very important so keep an eye on this one.

Selling sex vs Human Trafficking

A student from a Christian high school spoke about Bill C-36, The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act.  The student requested that business licenses be denied for adult entertainment centres in Nanaimo.

The student presented stats that show 75% of people working in the sex-trade start as children and of those, most had been in government care.

The following resources on the topic were suggested for Council to read: Invisible Chains by Benjamin Perrin, Half the Sky by Nicolas Kristoff, Trafficked by Sophie Hayes, and the CNN special report Children for Sale.

The student’s presentation was enthusiastically received by Mayor McKay and the audience clapped loudly in appreciation at the end. The student asked for a meeting to discuss this topic with Nanaimo’s ‘Chief of Police’ and Councillor Yoachim said he would also like to attend such a meeting.

The Nanaimo RCMP Superintendent was on hand to hear the presentation and left directly afterward.

Before Bill C-36 was passed into law in 2014 by the Harper government there were Senate Committee hearings which heard concerns from sex trade workers that selling sex should not be lumped in with human trafficking.

This legislation has made it illegal to advertise or purchase sex in Canada.

By making it illegal to purchase sexual services, Bill C-36 has forced those looking to purchase sexual services to seek out more isolated, and often more dangerous, locations and to avoid reporting violence, abuse or exploitation to the police. If anything, Bill C-36 has increased opportunities for human trafficking to go unnoticed.

Also, Bill C-36 has made it a crime for anyone to supply any service to a sex worker. Sex workers are prevented from hiring lawyers.

 Core Review

A speaker asked ‘What has happened to the following Core Review items’?

  • six automated garbage trucks (2 trucks not being used)
  • capital infrastructure
  • debt policy
  • consolidation of police services
  • purchase orders of common items
  • VICC management and hotel
  • parking fees

CFO:  …we will have an update soon…

Bestwick: That is an old list (sigh)…the hotel was to come with the conference centre in 2008.

Nanaimo Pride Society

Nanaimo Pride Society is celebrating 20 years and they gave a presentation to council thanking  them for their support during last year’s events and for repainting a vandalised  rainbow sidewalk. This year Pride week will be held June 9 – June 17, 2017 with a parade, music, a dance and other events.

The official name is the Nanaimo Pride Society; the word Gay has been removed to be more inclusive.

2020 Estevan Road

A new multi-unit building is proposed for 2020 Estevan Road. The new building would be 5 levels with 74 residential units which includes rental and owner units and a church space.

An open house was held earlier in March to show neighbours what the project would look like and according to the architects’ report 107 people attended with 31 supporting the idea. Some concerns people had were:

  • lack of green space and play area for children
  • too large, too high, shadow from building
  • not enough parking, too many cars
  • loss of ocean view
  • need housing for seniors/assisted living
  • loss of daycare

Will this new development change the area?

2020 Estevan Road – Brechin United Church corner lot

Norwell Drive changes

There is a plan for a single residential lot to be made into a 10-unit row housing development on Norwell Drive. The applicant is proposing a contribution of $10,000 for improvements to Loudon Park. Unfortunately, this development means that more trees will be gone and the on going deforestation of Nanaimo.

3598 Norwell Drive – row housing

New Front Street hotel

A new six-storey hotel is planned for 15 Front Street with a total of 90 rooms with ground floor commercial space.

The City is recommending that the new hotel get a 10 year tax break.

This is part of the Revitalization Tax Exemption agreement to encourage development in the City. A tax break would give the owner a savings of $202,600 per year.

If the City approves this then the owners have to build the hotel by 2020.

15 Front Street in Nanaimo – how it looks now

The look of Front Street will be very different than the current one level building.

Missing Finance Committee

The Finance and Audit Committee has had a few meetings over the year. Not enough people have been showing up so many meetings have been cancelled.

Other communities are having budget meetings open to the public but Nanaimo has had nothing so far. Where is our budget?