Tag Archives: nanaimo

Nanaimo Events Centre; SIS; Bowen Road; 3.3% tax hike

Nanaimo Council has got off to a running start. The January 9th Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting was held at VICC rather than at the City hall boardroom.

The next Nanaimo Council meeting is coming up on Monday, January 16th. The Nanaimo Events Centre (NEC) is on the agenda again along with arts and culture grants and the Rutherford roundabout.

Nanaimo Events Centre – NEC

March 11, 2017 is the date proposed for the public to vote on whether they want to pay for the Nanaimo Events Centre. The cost of holding this vote is $130,000. This would include staffing, advertising, and space rental.

Leading up to the March vote will be a major ‘propaganda’ push to sell the Events Centre to the public. This push will include open house events in north, south and central Nanaimo starting at the end of January. The City is planning a mass mail-out to inform the public of the upcoming vote.

It will be interesting to see how the ‘question’ is worded. Will ‘Joe the Taxpayer’ understand?  Let’s hope it’s not a double negative question! There’s nothing less worse than not answering a question incorrectly.

City has moved on to Phase 3 of NEC

The City of Nanaimo has outlined 6 phases for the Nanaimo Events Centre project. So far the City has completed Phase 1 and 2 for just under a million dollars. This includes design, public engagement and looking at potential sites for the Events Centre.

In Phase 3 the following are to be completed:

  • architectural design
  • financial contracts
  • legal agreements

Phase 3 involves hiring a Project Manager, Architect and Operations Manager who will work with the City of Nanaimo project team and Yes Committee. The City’s project team includes communications staff and the new Chief Sustainability Officer.

The City anticipates the NEC project will go ahead. After the public votes,  work is scheduled to begin March 31, 2017.

Nanaimo Events Centre Manager

This week, the City of Nanaimo issued a bid opportunity for the management of the NEC. The closing date for bids is January 27, 2017. The contract is to be awarded by February 13th.

Show me the money!

An interesting presentation was given on Monday, January 9th by a concerned resident. Here are some highlights:

NEC is being fast tracked and has many red flags. The numbers don’t add up. The reports provided so far regarding the NEC projected revenue are misleading. The feasibility study was inadequate at best. It showed that the NEC would have 40 hockey games and 30 event shows a year. Currently, Victoria has only 20 event shows a year at its facility. How can a smaller city like Nanaimo have higher numbers than the capital city of BC?

The reports looked at other cities with way larger populations and demographics and income levels than Nanaimo and area.

When the City was proposing a conference centre, they had wild numbers too. The VICC was said to have 70,000 attendees a year and in its actual eighth year of operation there have been 20,000 attendees. [This building is costing the City almost two million dollars per year].

NEC is being built for a WHL team, most likely the Cranbrook team which has been for sale since 2011. Why are we building an events centre for a hockey team? They will get a rent-free arena? And the kicker – for every ticket sold at the NEC, the Nanaimo taxpayer will pay $29!!

Council Chatter:

Bestwick: …$50 is not much for a ticket…there is going to be more than 8 events a year…this is not an exact science…

Hong: …Abbotsford is desperate to get shows…

Fuller: …I wish the propaganda for VICC was not allowed…whatever the people want I’ll go along with…

NEC Questions from Joe Taxpayer

Where is this Nanaimo Events Centre going to be located? If it is at 1 Port Drive – what are they going to do about the contaminated soil there? It was estimated to cost $30 million to clean up the Wellcox Lands. In the 80s, BC taxpayers paid $175 million to clean up contaminated soil on the 82-hectare Expo ’86 site. The land was then sold to a Chinese billionaire for $145 million.

If they put the NEC at the Howard Johnson hotel site how will that affect the Millstone River?

3.3% tax hike for NEC

In the dark days of December council approved the idea of having a 3.3% tax hike to pay for the NEC over the next five years (or more). This money would go into a ‘Legacy Fund’ and provide the $100 million needed for the NEC.

Also, money from the casino in town would go to this new NEC fund. What happened to using the casino money to fund local arts and culture projects? This year culture and heritage grants are worth $316,519. Some groups will be crying in their boots when the money dries up.

Safe Injection Sites -SIS

The big topic on Monday, January 9th was the temporary safe injection site located on City Hall property. The site was started up over the holidays by Councillor Fuller and a temporary trailer was later added.  The City had some concern over safety so they hired two security guards for $357 a day.

The Vancouver Island Medical Health Officer commented that VIHA has been pushing for a safe injection site in Nanaimo for two and half years. They have been warning the public they will die if they use fentanyl drugs alone.

Councillor Pratt commented that the City was sending the wrong message to the community by having security guards patrol where the trailer is located. Basically a ‘not in my backyard attitude’.

The CAO argued that setting up a SIS is not the City’s problem and VIHA should be dealing with it.

Councillor Thorpe who opposed the SIS claimed it was ‘federally illegal’.  Evidently, Thorpe was not aware of Bill C37 which passed in December 2016, making SIS legal. Mayor Mackay was also opposed to the SIS site (on religious grounds?) Councillor Brennan was absent.

In the end the SIS will stay where it is until VIHA sets up a long term solution.

New housing project

The former Mayor of Victoria waited until the end of the meeting on Monday night to ask for Council’s support of a ‘wet housing’ project across from the old Dairy Queen in South Nanaimo. He said that the ‘wet housing’ project in North Nanaimo was a success and had generated few complaints from neighbours in the area.

Monday January 16th Council meeting

Here are some topics to be discussed:

Rutherford Roundabout
The owner of 5200 Rutherford Road has agreed to a land exchange with the City at 5290 Rutherford Road. The  exchange will be for a $1.

1406 Bowen Road
There is a proposal for a 25 unit multi-family development at 1406 Bowen Road. The developer is requesting to reduce the front yard setback from 8.5 metres to 1.2 metres as well as reduce parking from 41 to 18 parking spaces.

3330 Stephenson Point Road
A new home is about to be built at 3330 Stephenson Point Road. The builder has asked to  reduce the watercourse setback from 15 metres to 6.79 metres.

515 Milton Street
A 25-unit housing project is proposed for 515 Milton Street. The builder has asked for a reduction in parking stalls from 25 to 19 and elimination of loading spaces.

Arts Culture Grants
2017 culture and heritage grants are being awarded for a total of $316,519. Thirty community group projects are to benefit. The largest amount goes to the Vancouver Island Symphony.

7 Temporary public art projects
There were 22 outdoor public art proposals presented to the City from across Canada. Seven projects were selected for a total of $25,000. These art pieces are to be located at the waterfront walkway and installed in May. Here are two pieces that will be coming. You will have to go for a walk and find the others this spring.

New Temporary Art for the Nanaimo waterfront in 2017
A life buoy made from old rope – coming to waterfront in May 2017

______

City of Nanaimo Sues the Mayor

The City of Nanaimo is suing its own Mayor. Is that not like the dog chasing its own tail? It is said that Mayor McKay helped a former City employee with her wrongful dismissal grievance by providing a confidential email.

This employee had spent over forty years at City Hall with a clean work record until she was essentially fired (demoted to another lower paying job) last Spring.

Could they not have had an early retirement party instead? It would have been cheaper.

Why waste taxpayers money suing the mayor? Could this be some bizarre way of shuffling money to a law firm and then onto who knows who? There is a provincial election coming up….

You can’t make this stuff up.

Top 13 news stories for 2016 – Nanaimo Theme Song

This is the second year of Nanaimo Council’s four year term. What was the biggest news story in 2016? It wasn’t the Nanaimo Theme Song.  It would have to be the $90 million Events Centre proposed for a downtown location. There is a mad rush on by Council to “get it done”.

Before people will get to decide if they want the Events Centre or not, Council will have spent over $1 million on consultants and reports. All in an early effort to sell it to the public. The big question will come in 2017. Will Nanaimo taxpayers vote yes or no to paying for the Events Centre?

In the meantime Nanaimo taxpayers can have fun on an outdoor rink at Maffeo Park in February 2017.

2016 Nanaimo Council gets 3.35% pay raise

In 2016 Nanaimo Council voted themselves a pay raise. Each councillor will get a 3.35% increase to their base pay. Nanaimo Council also voted to increase their expense budget from $75,000 to $118,000.

In 2016 Council approved:

  • closing Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation (NEDCorp)
  • closing Nanaimo Tourism
  • moving COW meetings from VICC to SARC boardroom, no Shaw TV
  • forgiving $97,000 in unpaid dog permits fees
  • eliminating Environmental Sustainability Committee
  • hiring two senior managers, COO and CSO
  • building a new roundabout on Rutherford Road $2.3 million
  • installing parking meters in downtown Nanaimo

Top 13 Nanaimo Council news stories for 2016

  1. Privatization of City Jail? Brechin Hill ravine, illegal suites
  2. Nanaimo hoteliers raise red flags over VICC report
  3. Legal expenses soar at Nanaimo Council
  4. Nanaimo Core Services Review Report highlights
  5. Nanaimo City Council’s spending for the first six months
  6. $2.3 Million roundabout for Rutherford Road; and last stand of trees
  7. Property Tax increases planned for the next five years
  8. Colliery Dam over budget; an $8 million project?
  9. Departure Bay Heritage lots disappear
  10. Newcastle Brechin Neighbourhood Association concerns
  11. Environment and Grant Committees Axed
  12. Harbour Complaints; Bike Park; Bastion Street Bridge
  13. Rogers HomeTown Hockey; Downtown Merchants Complain

2017 Nanaimo Property Tax increase 2%

Property taxes are estimated to increase by more than 2% in 2017. Also, residential user rates will increase as follows:

  • 5% increase for sewer
  • 7.5% increase for water
  • 2% increase for garbage collection

Looking back, 2016 was a memorable year for Nanaimo Council which even made national news with their drama “debates”.  Will there a category for municipal dramas at next year’s Canadian Screen Awards?

So what will 2017 bring: a new Events Centre, an incinerator, a new Bastion Street Bridge?

Nanaimo Theme Song

Who remembers the Nanaimo Theme Song? It has been 30 years since “Harbour City Lights Nanaimo is the place for me” won the contest of song of the year. It was recorded in 1986. Note the vinyl record says “the fun starts when you stop in Nanaimo”.

Killing the COW; Nanaimo Tax increases; homeless youth

Nanaimo Council voted to hold future Committee of the Whole (COW) meetings at the SARC building rather than the Vancouver Island Conference Centre.  Why? To save some money and to avoid the public eye as much as they can. Who knows when they plan to shut down the videos. This is a step backwards for public engagement.

COW meetings will now take place in the Service and Resource Centre boardroom (SARC) located at 411 Dunsmuir Street.

Voting in favour of moving future COW meetings to the SARC boardroom were: Councillors Hong, Yoachim, Bestwick, Thorpe, Fuller, and Kipp.

Opposed to the move were: Councillors Brennan, Pratt and Mayor McKay.

Concerns from Council watcher

A regular council watcher gave a brief presentation regarding concerns with moving the COW meetings to SARC. Apart from the fact that VICC can accommodate 200 people compared to 25 in the SARC boardroom, other concerns with the new location include:

  • COW meetings will no longer be live streamed on Shaw TV
  • lack of adequate camera/recording equipment in SARC
  • difficult to hear councillors in the new room
  • poor sight lines in the new location

The delegation also questioned how much money is actually being saved by this move.

Council discussion

Fuller: …what about the other three cameras [for the boardroom]? …Are we doing that?

Staff: …we have not identified when they will be installed…

Fuller: …there is one camera now…we just have the backs of councillors shown…

Thorpe: …The structure of the COW meetings have changed from being a committee to actually dealing with Council issues. In fact they deal with all Council issues at COW meetings with the exception of bylaws …I’m not convinced that the savings is much…

Kipp: …half the time I don’t want to be recorded when my emotions get the best of me…the official record is the written record…the cost here [VICC] is expensive…we need to be informal…

Hong: …when we get presentations then we should just defer them to Council meetings so  they can get on TV…

Brennan: …I prefer this setting …it allows more people more to get involved…

Pratt: …We don’t use our COW meetings properly…will we get some changes to procedures?…not sure that we will…the public is going to become very frustrated…

Bestwick: ….I have been advocating that COW meetings be held in tighter locations for a long time…I prefer not to wear a suit and tie…the audio problems can be addressed …cost savings over the years could be $250,000…Parks and Rec is looking for a new venue to hold meetings…

Fuller:..We are subsidizing this place anyway. How much is actual savings? Should we remove the food portion and save $5,000? That would be a savings…to cut the food.

Staff: …this space could be used by someone else for rental…With regards to food…we can look at how we can streamline that…

Pratt: What are we spending to upgrade the SARC boardroom?

Staff: …$80,000 for the upgrades so far….$7,000 for another camera…for another angle

Bestwick: …public hearings could be heard at SARC…we are paying twice by meeting here [VICC]…

Yoachim: I agree with Councillor Bestwick. I support this move…looking forward to ’roundtable’ conversations….

Pratt: Are we paying twice by meeting here?

Staff: We rent this building…get invoiced by the operator…you could say you’re paying twice…but we own the building…

Kipp: At the RDN we never record anything and we never have for years or decades…we pay a huge percentage of their costs…I would like to see some analysis of both venues…

Thopre: … we might not need to record COW meetings in the future…I would love to see more informal meetings…

McKay: …I hate the boardroom at SARC —it’s very cool, very grey on grey…trying to hear councillors is impossible when the air conditioning kicks in…Public participation is growing…don’t support the move…

Kipp: …what about using the empty 3rd floor [in SARC] it cost us $14million to build and is horribly designed…

Fuller: …committee meetings could be recorded…

No homeless shelter for Nanaimo youth

Last week a brave young homeless youth spoke to council about concerns that over ten youths between the ages of 12 and 16 were living in the bush. They were being turned away from homeless shelters because of their age. The homeless shelters in Nanaimo are not permitted to take in youth because of regulations.

Council decided to strike up a committee to look at the youth homeless issue.

At the December 12th council meeting, Council agreed to commit a maximum of $75, 000 for additional staff and beds. Staff said it would take approximately two weeks to get something up and running for the homeless youth in Nanaimo.

Let’s hope no young people die on our streets this holiday season. It is extremely cold outside at night and there needs to be action taken immediately. These young people cannot wait two weeks for staff to get their act together.  Listening to this homeless crisis were three senior staff  who are collectively earning over half a million dollars. Let’s see some action for our money.

Question Period

Some good questions were raised:

Will Nanaimo take over ownership of the Island Highway that runs through town?

Why is the City hiring a new communication specialist? What is the purpose of this and the costs? Who is going to be hired, Mark McDonald? Is his role expanding?

Will police and fire services, which were excluded from the Core Services Review, be looked at next year?

The $200,000 for an affordable housing strategy – is that going to be another consultant job?

Staff was short on answers as the CAO was away. Maybe next meeting the person will try asking questions again.

More than 2% tax increase

Get ready to dig deeper into your wallet. Overall taxes are to increase more than 2% in 2017, when you include the increased user rates:

  •  5 % increase for sewer
  • 7.5% increase for water
  • 2% increase for garbage collection

These increased rates are effective January 2017. The average homeowner will have user rates of over $700.

Quote of the night

The Good Ol’ Days: In 1951 Nanaimo’s population was 8,000 and they held council meetings in a backroom of City Hall and there was no video recording. [Kinda like present day RDN meetings].

Future COW meetings at SARC

No More Nanaimo Council COW meetings at VICC?

Nanaimo council will vote Monday, December 12th to stop holding COW (Committee of the Whole) meetings at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre. Instead, Council wants to hold COW meetings in a board room at City Hall.

The PROBLEM with this move is the boardroom at City Hall is too small – it only seats 25. By the time all the council and staff get seated there is very little room left for the public. In comparison, Vancouver Island Conference Centre (VICC) has a public gallery that seats 200.

New hot topics are first heard at COW meetings. These meetings can attract a large number of people.

If Council really wants to be helpful then why not change the start time of the COW meetings to 6:00 pm?  COW meetings start at 4:30pm. This is too early for most working folks.

Why move?

The two main reasons given as to why Council wants to move the COW meetings to a small board room are:

  • councillors would like a less formal place to meet
  • to save money

Council wants to sit around and have a ‘fireside chat’ about how to spend our tax dollars without the public being able to watch. Keep in mind those mind bending decisions are made long before councillors come to the council table. No one is fool enough to think that any COW meeting will generate novel new ideas.

How much money can be saved by moving COW meetings? The City has reported that $21,000 a year could be saved.

Council spends approximately $20,000 a year on catered meals for their meetings. Can they not pack a snack? Many would do well to go on a diet.

User Rates Increase 7.5%

This week Council approved a 7.5% increase in user rates for garbage, water and sewer. That will be about $480 extra a year in taxes for the average taxpayer. The rate hike does not include the cost of the new automated garbage trucks coming soon. Be ready, because more rate hikes will be coming again.

Council just voted to spend $325,000 for the Rogers Hometown Hockey Event. They are still looking for sponsors.

We are paying over $1.2 million a year for the VICC whether we use it or not.

If Council was really serious about saving money they should look at the millions spent every year on consultants.

Is this COW move really about saving money?

$118,000 expenses

Council has a total of $118,000 available to spend on expenses. This is up from $75,000 from previous years. Council needs to reduce their expenses by half; $50,000 maximum for the entire Council. It’s time to tighten their own belts.

According to the News Bulletin, Councillor Hong is leading the pack with $8,010 in expenses this year. Last year the Mayor was once the highest spender on Council, with $28,000.

Save $83 million

Just before Christmas when most of Nanaimo is drunk on eggnog, do you think Council will approve the Events Centre / Multiplex for $83 million?

Nanaimo Tourism Corporation; Legacy Projects; New Waterfront Plans

Nanaimo Council was busy for most of Monday night discussing the end of Tourism Nanaimo and the start of a new organization. This new organization will be referred to in this article as Nanaimo Tourism Corporation (NTC), for lack of a better name.

Before the NTC is up and running, tourism services are going to be split up between DNBIA and Tourism Association of Vancouver Island (TAVI). Also, there is a bid out for the marketing and tourism services for the VICC and the City’s tourism services which closes at the end of November. The City will see what quality of bids they get.

The Public Speaks:

A total of six delegates spoke about the new direction of tourism—five spoke on how they didn’t want the DNBIA to run the tourism visitor centres in town and one spoke about the proposed NTC and its structure.  Here is some of what they had to say:

Speaker 1:  We are not happy with how DNBIA is spending our money. You are recommending that all the Nanaimo tourism centres be transferred to the DNBIA for an undisclosed amount of money. Is the DNBIA the best to look after tourism services? We are not happy with DNBIA and the $230,000 to be handed to DNBIA. Expanding the DNBIA reach is not what we had in mind when we spoke here last month. The DNBIA have received millions. Where is the accountability?

Speaker 2:  I’m disappointed with DNBIA. Get some VIU students to run the tourism centres or look at other alternatives.

Speaker 3:  I’m not happy. Downtown Nanaimo looks like a ghetto right now with the burned out building around the corner. DNBIA  is already under question. We don’t see a lot of improvements for our money.

Speaker 4:  All of Nanaimo needs promoting. Not just downtown. We need a different group to promote Nanaimo. Not the DNBIA.

Speaker 5:  DNBIA is not handling the money very well. Now more money is going to the DNBIA! What are they doing now? The $10,000 we pay in taxes on Victoria Crescent needs to be spent in a better way. I have never had a phone call or visit from the DNBIA. This city needs tourism. We need to get the best value for our money. We need those funds going to our street.

Speaker 6: This report recommends that tourism centres go to DNBIA and destination marketing goes to TAVI and another group unknown yet will look after marketing of VICC and then another group will look after the Municipal and Regional District Tax (MRDT.) There is no mention of what happens to social media and the Tourism Development Fund and production development and the VICC and sport tourism and the MRDT funds. Any new plans should include the integration of these funds.

What is our next our step? We are worried. We have not discussed splintering things off.  We are worried we will be stuck for two years with no plan. We need assurances that we are going in the right direction. We need the right mix of people in the [proposed Nanaimo Tourism Corporation].

Council discussion:

Brennan: Is there a clear understanding of what is happening?

Staff: …there is some confusion…we have moved quickly and we are explaining it again here tonight…

CAO: …we are not going to get consensus on this…we are coming up with a process …best options…

Brennan: ….We are doing committee work here tonight…we should put the brakes on this and get some degree of buy-in from the people most involved…

Kipp: …we did this five years ago…get the experts going on this…get a strategic planning committee…

Bestwick:…let’s get on with it…I don’t understand why we need visitor centres…that’s why we have Google…let’s get automated…

Hong: …tourism industry wants stability…

Yoachim: …let’s get this rolling…

Brennan: …the experts came and said they need more time…

Fuller: …only one expert came tonight…let’s get this committee going…

McKay: …the City is only one stakeholder…there are many other stakeholders involved…look at the Whistler tourism model…we need Maureen Douglas…if she is available?….she should run this…as a facilitator…

Councillors Brennan, Mckay, Pratt, Thorpe opposed the half-page long motion to set up the new Nanaimo Tourism Corporation.
Councillors Fuller, Yoachim, Hong, Kipp, Bestwick approved the new Nanaimo Tourism Corporation and it passed.

A multi-phase process was proposed over 15 months but this new NTC could happen sooner. The Communications Manager provided Council with a working timeline.

Legacy Projects – temporary ice rink

Councillor Bestwick made mention that Nanaimo needs some legacy projects.  This week it is a temporary outdoor rink and activities for as high as $500,000. Next week the Events Centre for as high as $83 million.

Council waited until 11pm at night to put the temporary ice rink at Maffeo Sutton Park to a vote. Everyone approved it except Mayor McKay.

Rogers HomeTown Hockey Event

The Rogers Hometown Hockey Tour will be in Nanaimo for two days in 2017— Saturday February 25th: 12pm-6pm,  and Sunday February 26th: 12pm-7:30pm. One part of the event requires a temporary ice rink. The other part of the event is having Swy-A-Lana Lagoon transformed into a floating platform for a variety of activities.

After the event, the floating docks used will be moved to the Brechin Boat Ramp, Brechin Rowing Dock, Diver Lake Park and Colliery Dam Park. The project cost of the docks is $271,000. The cost of the temporary ice rink is $325,000.

Council discussion

Yoachim: … we spent $8 million on Colliery Dam what legacy is that…we need a positive family event experience…many people are excited about this…My family will enjoy this…

Fuller: …this temporary ice rink will take the pressure off of Frank Crane Arena…I like the idea…  I remember going to school in Toronto…skating outside of City Hall…I left the Maritimes…I can see opportunities for kids…to get that enjoyment…with global warming…do this once and if it goes well then every year…

McKay: … wish we had a budget for this… there is no budget for $325,000…I love to skate outside …spending $200,000 and all we have left over is $57,000 worth of mats …that we use for two weeks…

Bestwick: …this temporary ice rink will give us more positive  exposure…attract people downtown…we have made little investment in our town….we don’t invest in ourselves… …we will be able to say we did something that no one else has done…they estimate we will get $1 million in ad revenue…we didn’t have a chance to put forward a budget…think of the legacy we will leave behind…cool and fun…

Brennan:…I support this…I think it is a very good lesson on how NOT to plan an event…too little time to put this together…hope we get lots of people out for this…My family will have fun with it…

Hong:…we missed Slide The City…this City needs some fun…can we use the rink for Canada 150 [in July]?

Pratt:…I like the idea…we could build on this…I used to skate on ponds…I support it..

Thorpe:…exciting change…plus with the Events Centre…

Kipp:…it sounds like a lot of money but it’s not… we spent $357,000 on soil…

It was suggested that 8,000 people are expected to come down to Maffeo Sutton Park for the Rogers HomeTown Hockey Event.

There was one speaker who waited until almost 11pm to speak about their concerns that the City of Nanaimo was neglecting its basic core services such as recycling and filling pot holes, while focusing on one time events.

Will we get a referendum?

Odds are very high that Council will vote to approve the Events Centre (Multiplex) in December when everyone is busy holiday shopping.

Recently, former mayor Gary Korpan wrote a letter to the Nanaimo News Bulletin and advised that taxpayers need to hold onto their wallets tightly because a sports multiplex/events centre won’t generate revenue for Nanaimo. In fact it will require taxpayer subsidies (much like the VICC).  Mr. Korpan quoted former Councillor and professional hockey player Larry McNabb who himself opposed a sports events centre, “…hockey is a great game but I ain’t putting Nanaimo taxpayers in the poorhouse.”

Here are the results of our poll on twitter:

Council seems to be on its own course. Deaf as a post. Let’s hope they don’t put us all in the poorhouse.

Emergency Plan

A consultant will be hired to work with staff to develop and implement a business and emergency continuity plan. The cost of the plan is expected to be upwards of $125,000.

Why do we need to hire so many consultants when over 750 people work at the City?

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