This has been the first year of Nanaimo council’s four year term. The major highlight in local politics has to be the Colliery Dams project. The $80 million water treatment plant is now up and running. Not much to report on regarding the core review. Food trucks could soon be coming to Nanaimo. More small lots developments have been approved and the infilling is proving painful for many neighbourhoods.
At the beginning of 2015 some topics were discussed, including:
a bridge to Gabriola
a garbage incinerator at Duke Point
two new hotels for downtown Nanaimo
metered street parking in downtown Nanaimo
What will 2016 bring? Will the new Trudeau government help Nanaimo get a new foot ferry or a passenger rail service? Will the Chinese government decide to sponsor a new Nanaimo sports arena and hotel to train future Olympic athletics and travel ambassadors?
The last Nanaimo council meeting of 2015 will be on Monday, December 7, 2015. Hot topics on the agenda include: road network options for Linley Valley West, Bruce Avenue, 104th Street and the Financial budget.
Road network options for Linley Valley West
In May 2015 four road network options for Linley Valley West were presented to Council. In August 2015 the City entered into an Option to Purchase 5290 Rutherford Road for $850,000. Then in October 2015, public open houses were held with a total of 300 people attending.
The following options were presented to the public:
Option 1 – build a new road linking Linley Valley Drive to Rutherford Road, across from Nelson Road, with a new traffic signal or roundabout at Rutherford Road
Option 2 – use existing neighbourhood streets to link Rutherford Road at Vanderneuk Road and Brookwood Drive with a new traffic signal at Vanderneuk Road
Option 1 is recommended by the City. The construction and land acquisition costs for Option 1 is estimated at $3 million.
In 2016, design and costing will be refined and funding options will be brought forward to Council in advance of the 2017-2021 Financial Plan.
The traffic volume now on Rutherford Road is at 12,000 vehicles a day. What will happen when they close Rutherford Elementary on Hammond Bay Road and parents will have to drive their kids to another school?
A commercial centre at 601 and 609 Bruce is up for approval pending zoning changes.
Many people came to council and to a public hearing on the topic. A petition of 36 people was submitted. Concerns were raised about a Heritage Oak Tree, traffic, noise and a 24 hour store.
Check out this amazing Oak tree in Harewood.
Also up for zoning approval is 2992 104th Street near Norwell Drive. It will rezoned from Single Dwelling Residential (R1) and Community Service One (CS1) to Single Dwelling Residential – Small Lot (R2). Every neighbourhood in Nanaimo is getting these small lot developments.
Additional expenditures have increased the City of Nanaimo’s budget by $2,726,763.
If you drive along Hammond Bay Road you will see small signs that say open and thriving. What is going on? The closure of Rutherford Elementary School is pending but local parents are not going down without a fight.
The 60 day consultation with parents has come to an end as of November 15, 2015. Now the school district has come up with some recommendations on what to do. Here is the list:
The Board approves the closure of Rutherford Elementary School within the next two years
The amalgamation of North Cedar Intermediate and Woodbank Primary into the Woodbank school site as of September 2016
The district works with the Ministry of Education in cost-sharing the construction of a new wing at Frank J. Ney Elementary
The Board approves, in principle, the shift in catchment for Rutherford students to Frank J. Ney, McGirr and Randerson Ridge upon closure of Rutherford
The Board refers the Rutherford Elementary property to the Asset Management program to remain until the Board consults on future use
The District Elementary Skills for Life program relocate to Georgia Avenue Community School for September 2016
The amalgamation of Learn@Home K-7 and Learn@Home 8-12 into the Mount Benson school site as of September 2016
The Board approves the closure of Woodlands Secondary for June 30, 2016 (with hockey, soccer and beach volleyball academies moving to NDSS); and
All construction information and data regarding district programs be shared with the NDSS Advisory Committee for future recommendation as it pertains to the development of the NDSS site.
The above items will be discussed at a Special Board Meeting on Tuesday, December 1, 2015 at 6 pm in the Shaw Auditorium at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre.
Why is it when the City is planning extensive infilling of neighbourhoods and increased densification are they planning to close an elementary school on a main transportation route? Where is the urban planning?
Land sales are not the solution when trying to trim budgets. SD68 has already closed nine schools. Since 2002 the BC government has closed 200 schools. Is this the way to prepare the next generation for a future filled with technology and advanced systems?
On Tuesday December 1, 2015 there was a meeting held and SD68 voted on the closure of Rutherford Elementary School. It was approved. The vote was 5 to 4. Here are more highlights from the meeting:
The Board approved the closure of Woodlands Secondary on June 30, 2016. The hockey, soccer and beach volleyball academies will be moved to Nanaimo District Secondary. Cilaire Elementary will be a feeder school to Wellington Secondary. Forest Park and Brechin elementary schools will feed into NDSS.
The Board approved the closure of Rutherford Elementary on June 30, 2017 or later, subject to the completion of a new wing at Frank J. Ney Elementary. The Board will now seek to secure a project agreement from the Ministry of Education. In the event that capital funding is not approved for the new addition, or construction is delayed such that is not expected to be completed by September 2018, the closure of Rutherford will be revisited by the Board. The Rutherford StrongStart Program will relocate to Frank J. Ney.
The Board approved the reconfiguration of North Cedar Intermediate as a Kindergarten to Grade 7 school effective September 2016. Students from Woodbank Primary will attend the newly-configured school, Cedar Elementary, for September 2016. Woodbank Primary will close on June 30, 2016.
The Board approved the opening of the former Mount Benson Elementary School as the new Distributed Learning (Learn@Home) K-12 school, effective September 2016. Learn@Home K-7 will move from Departure Bay Elementary and Learn@Home 8-12 will move from Nanaimo District Secondary School (NDSS).
The Board directed staff to establish a visioning committee regarding programming at John Barsby Community Secondary School. The committee will be comprised of staff, John Barsby PAC, community members and a Board representative.
The Board approved the relocation of the District Elementary Skills for Life program to Georgia Avenue Community School for September 2016. The Board also directed staff to establish a Consultative Committee for the District Elementary Skills for Life program. The committee will be comprised of staff, parent advocates at both Rutherford Elementary and Georgia Avenue Community School, along with respective principals and Board representatives.
At this upcoming Monday’s Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting, November 23, 2015 at 6 pm the public is encouraged to ask questions regarding the Nanaimo 2016 budget. Also, you can give your feedback on service levels for Fire, RCMP, parks and recreation, water, sewage etc.
Property taxes are set to increase for the average residential home owner by approximately $430 per year over the next five years.
Property taxes provide funding for all or a portion of many City services. Solid waste collection and sewer and water services are funded through user fees. Property taxes also fund capital projects and fill reserves for future capital investment.
Where does your taxes go? Using a residential property in Nanaimo with an assessed value of approximately $331,000 the draft 2016 – 2020 Financial Plan estimates 2016 municipal property taxes to be $1,994.
Out of that $1,994:
$564 goes to Police
$305 goes to Fire Services
$298 goes to Other*
‘Other’ includes the Vancouver Island Regional Library requisition, Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation, Port of Nanaimo Centre and administration services such as IT, Legislative Services, Human Resources and Finance etc.
Corporate Sponsorship – Renaming Nanaimo
At Monday’s COW meeting there will be a presentation from a Sponsorship Specialist. Council will be deciding if they want to spend up to $95,000 on a ‘sponsorship consultant’. What? Does that make sense?
On Monday night the Nanaimo council met for a Committee of the Whole meeting. Mayor McKay was absent (in China) and Councillor Fuller was acting Mayor. All councillors were in attendance.
There was a presentation regarding the development of old Wellcox Lands which the City of Nanaimo purchased for $20 million. The committee tasked with how to develop the lands recommended creating a development corporation. They mentioned that the lands should be developed as one rather than parcelled off. Councillor Yoachim mentioned that the Port Authority, the City, and the Snuneymuxw have not yet sat down together to iron out common goals.
There was a financial report, and Councillor Bestwick asked a number of questions. Confirmed was the cost of the Vancouver Island Conference Centre of $1.4 million per year and the water treatment plant at $72.5 million with possible more costs due to future claims.
The City Manager is leaving on November 13, 2015. Who will be the interim Chief Administrative Officer? With so many senior staff departing it looks like the task will fall on the mayor.
Our question on Twitter:
Should Mayor McKay assume position of both CEO and CAO of #Nanaimo in the interim while City looks for replacement?
75% said No
25% said Yes
Would you like to have food trucks in Nanaimo? Coming up at next Monday’s council meeting the City will put forward a proposal to bring food trucks to the City of Nanaimo.
Presently, there is no system in place to permit food trucks on-street or in City-owned parking lots. As a result, Staff is proposing to create a food truck licensing process to allow food trucks to operate in specific locations.
Here is the list of suggested areas that food truck vendors could operate:
Brechin Boat Ramp (1 vendor)
Departure Bay (1 vendor)
Harewood Centennial Park (1 vendor)
Maffeo Sutton Park (up to 4 food vendors)
May Richards Bennett Pioneer Park (1 vendor)
Merle Logan Field (1 vendor)
Pipers Lagoon Park (1 vendor)
Westwood Lake Park (1 vendor)
Long Lake Rest Stop (1 vendor)
The City may allow food truck operators to purchase a permit (good for all locations) for $790.
Traffic Control Services
Also coming up on Monday is the topic of traffic control services (flaggers). Apparently the City has been tendering traffic control services for over 10 years. Could this be done in-house for less? The value of the 2015 traffic control services contract is $302,625.
Highlights from Monday nights Nanaimo council meeting included the presentations by the CEO of The Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce and the small lot development on Kings Road which many residents spoke of their concerns. Councillors Fuller and Kipp were absent.
Overall the presentation from Mr. Smythe, CEO of the Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce was very gloomy. He spoke about the lack of progress that Nanaimo Council has made so far, the lack of respect that people have for one another, the lack of leadership, and the lack of a shared vision.
Mr. Smythe’s presentation covered six areas of concern:
Updating the 2012-2015 Corporate Strategic Plan – not yet started
Green Tape Committee – stalled while we wait for Core Review
Reviewing development and building permit procedures – initiated
at staff level, but not reached Council table yet.
Overhauling sign bylaws – not yet started
Core Review – initiated the RFP in the past month
Freezing Commercial Tax Rate hikes – completed by freezing tax increases across the boards – other than the asset management allowance of 1%. *(this was an error as there was a 1.7% increase in taxes)
Bestwick: …you mentioned everyone who does business here has a negative experience…our single family and commercial developments are up since 2014…we don’t work at the City…are you talking about the hotel?…it has been on the books for 10 years…
…regarding big ticket items we have to make sure that they leave a legacy that the city can live with…I happen to know that there were three other interested parties in the hotel recently and we have chosen one so there is interest in the conference hotel…
…for you to suggest that we are not business friendly I find that offensive…everything we do is on social media…I learn more in the news about what is going on [some council members are being treated like mushrooms]…we should be working on the strategic plan…we need to have the green tape/red tape committee going, I don’t know why it’s not getting off the ground…
…it’s taking a long time to get to the core review…have you ever invited me for a coffee to talk about your concerns? when? (last December?) you know where I am. I am available to talk with you at any time…
CEO: I didn’t say that Council is not business friendly and I didn’t reference the Hotel project in my speech…
Brennan: …overall you and the chamber have some valid points…thanks to all the members of the chamber who are here…
Hong:…I love report cards. You are very generous…we raised taxes to 1.7% …we did increase taxes by .7% …I would like to see the sign bylaw changes…we need a strategic plan…
Thorpe: …thank you for the courage to give a report card that is not flattering…you make a number of valid points…things take time…we have not been respectful as much as we could be…I’m looking forward to the Watson Report…
Yoachim: …I look forward to meeting with the business community…we have an ‘F’ in that area in my view…we have an ‘F’ in external relations…we should be meeting with all groups…we have been working in silos for too many years…
Since the election we have not met once as a council to talk about our visions for the future…my patience is wearing thin…let’s get to work…
…the hotel people came to council and it was the first time we met with these people…we have to get some cultural awareness going…can we make it easier for people to get through red tape?…
Pratt: …It takes courage to come here and give your report…we are taking steps to move forward and I hope we are successful…we need to step up…
McKay: …It is not an individual effort to manage a council it is a collective…we have a long way to go…
Many residents came to council to express concerns regarding a small lot development on Kings Road. Each expressed concerns about how the small lots would increase traffic congestion and change the look of the neighbourhood. After one hour of debate, Council approved the application for the development. Councillor Bestwick was the only dissenting vote.
This same story has been repeated many times at Council.
What is missing here is careful urban planning. In-filling neighbourhoods should be done with care otherwise neighbourhoods will quickly ghettoize. Pocket parks should be part of urban planning.
Don’t miss watching council meetings – that’s where the action is!