Newcastle Brechin Neighbourhood Association concerns

Last week at the Nanaimo council meeting there was a presentation from the Newcastle Brechin Neighbourhood Association with concerns that their neighbourhood issues are being  ignored especially regarding pedestrian safety.

A pedestrian was hit and killed in a crosswalk at Estevan and Larch in December. The person who was killed was a member of the neighbourhood planning team.

Estevan Road was originally planned to be an arterial road with four lanes of traffic but now it is no longer needed as an arterial road. Unfortunately, drivers speed along the four lane section of Estevan which also includes a sharp curve at the south end.

Reducing the traffic to two lanes with curbside parking would slow traffic and make Estevan Road safer.

The residents spoke of a Comprehensive Pedestrian Connectivity Plan for the neighbourhood that needs to be implemented. They spoke about Terminal Avenue and the need for greater pedestrian and bicycle safety measures. Their questions were:

  • How and where can we widen the sidewalk on Terminal Avenue between Stewart and  St. George so there is a “safety strip” style boulevard between the pedestrians and the cars?
  • There were two locations identified in the neighbourhood plan for possible crosswalks across Terminal Avenue at Rosehill and at Mount Benson. The engineering RFP only refers to the Rosehill and Terminal crosswalk.  What is the rationale for ignoring  Mount Benson?
  • How could we coordinate the current project on the Townsite and Terminal and Vancouver intersections with the Terminal Avenue project?

According to the residents, the Newcastle Neighbourhood Plan did not envision a “road widening project” along Terminal Avenue.

How many people are killed every year as a result of poor urban planning?

Departure Bay Heritage Lots; Bakery; Office Romance

There were a number of presentations made to Nanaimo Council on Monday night from members of the public who had particular concerns about their neighbourhood.

There were two speakers who raised concerns about subdivisions of Departure Bay heritage lots. One resident spoke on behalf of the Departure Bay Neighbourhood Association and addressed the problems with the City’s subdivision approval process and how people feel shut out.

Departure Bay Heritage Lots up for small lot development
Departure Bay Heritage Lots permitted for small lot development in blue dots; red dot is active subdivision

The problem  started when 10 out of 20 of these very large lots, about 0.8 acres to 1.1 acres, were permitted to be subdivided into smaller lots.

In 1954 a residential development called Lynburn Estates was created in Departure Bay.  A building scheme was placed on the entire development which stated that Lynburn Estates properties could not be used for commercial purposes and could not be subdivided. The building scheme was destroyed in an ugly court battle and basically the City stood by to watch the fight.

(Above, the map with blue dots indicates lots that can be subdivided into smaller lots, and the red dot represents an active permit for a subdivision at the corner of Lynburn Crescent and Sandringham Avenue.)

Departure Bay Heritage Lot divided in to 6 small lots
Departure Bay Heritage Lot to be divided in to 6 small lots at Lynburn Crescent and Sandringham Avenue approved

The City has approved 4 single family residences, and up to 2 duplexes where there currently is one single family home at the corner of Lynburn Crescent and Sandringham Avenue.

If the houses also contain a secondary suite, 12 dwelling units are possible. Considering the number of properties that can now be subdivided in a similar way the potential impact on the surrounding, established neighbourhood will be considerable. Overall it appears that there could be more than 40 single family residences and duplexes where there are currently now 10 residential homes.

The green gateway to Departure Bay provided by the large heritage residential lots along Departure Bay Road will be no more. Is this poor urban planning?  Comparatively, would the City of Vancouver consider creating small lot subdivisions in Shaughnessy?

The big question is will Departure Bay residents stay and fight or pack up and move?

Home Based Bakery

It was painful to watch Council struggle for one hour with concerns raised by two residents regarding a proposed production bakery to be operated as a home based business in a residential area in the 5400 block area of  Rutherford Road.

The residents brought forward a petition signed by 30 neighbours. It was clear that they had serious concerns on the topic.  Yet no one seemed to know how to help the residents.

Several Councillors tried to offer some suggestions:

Councillor Hong suggested for the residents to contact VIHA or if the home based bakery was approved by the City, to call a bylaw officer if the neighbours saw any regulations broken.

Councillor Fuller suggested looking at the Home Based Business Bylaw and seeing if it needed to be re-worded. He was shot down by the Mayor who quipped how many reports he had been requesting of late. The City Manager appeared to concur with the Mayor on the large volume of reports requested by Councillor Fuller and maybe he should re-think his request. Looking stunned, Fuller shrugged his shoulders.

Councillor Thorpe couldn’t understand the residents’ concerns with traffic if the bakery wasn’t going to have retail sales.

Councillor Bestwick made several attempts to try to get something rolling and each time he seemed to be stonewalled by the City Manager who couldn’t seem to see a way around the problem.  In total frustration Bestwick said, “we can’t do anything?”.  Finally, Bestwick with the help of the Legislative Services Manager drafted a motion to address the issue of the home based business at that specific address and it was approved by all except the Mayor.

Office Romance

In addition to signing a code of conduct, did Mayor and Council and City executive staff also sign a policy regarding romance in the workplace? This could protect the City from emotional workplace tensions, as many have witnessed, as well as any future lawsuits.

Beaufort Park Nanaimo land swap

At the March 7th Council meeting, Council authorized a park land swap with a local developer to build a multi-storey parking facility and medical offices across from Nanaimo General Hospital at 1515 Dufferin Crescent.

Under the agreement, the City and the Developer are exchanging 82.7m2 (890 sq ft) of land.

The developer has plans for a new trail to Beaufort Park. Final approval of the land exchange is subject to an Alternative Approvals Process (AAP).

In order to proceed, Council is required to have approval of the electors prior to bylaw adoption, in accordance with the Community Charter. Approval of the electors may be received by way of an Alternative Approval Process (AAP), or assent voting (i.e. referendum). If 10% of the electors oppose the proposal by submitting a valid elector response form then the land swap cannot proceed.

The approval process applies to the whole of the City of Nanaimo which has 64,996 voters so 6,500 would need to sign petition forms and submit them to the City by Monday, April 25th.

Beaufort Park Nanaimo
Beaufort Park Nanaimo – park land swap for 1515 Dufferin Crescent

The Beaufort Park looks like it has been nibbled away over the years, what remains is a very odd shaped park.  Previously in  2013 park land swaps were  common.  Another example of the City cannibalizing its own parks is the recent Georgia Park/Hilton Hotel land swap.


Duke Point Terminal Expansion project

post Panamax cargo ship
post Panamax cargo ship

Duke Point Terminal Expansion Phase One is complete. There were $9.3 million in improvements made at the Duke Point Terminal which included upgrades of the new barge berth and a deep-sea berth, as well as a $4 million shore crane.

The Nanaimo Port Authority (NPA) contributed $4.65 million for Phase One with the other half coming from the federal government through a short-sea shipping fund from the $1.4 billion Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative.

A used 2008 Liebherr LHM 500S 104-tonne capacity shore crane (see video below) was purchased last summer from Brazil to replace a 40-tonne Canadian-made Canron container crane, which the NPA had acquired for $1 in the 1980s.

New Barge Berth at Duke Point Terminal Nanaimo
New Barge Berth at Duke Point Terminal Nanaimo

This Liebherr shore crane can service post-Panamax ships of any cargo type. (Post-Panamax ships are too large to pass through the locks at the Panama Canal). So far the shipments out of Duke Point are dimensional lumber, wood pulp, and bottled water.

Duke Point Terminal Expansion Phase Two

Phase Two expansion planned for the Duke Point terminal will require a $50 – $70 million investment. For this the NPA will have to borrow $20 million. The NPA has its sights set on 2020 for the start of Phase Two with a focus on more inbound cargo.

The project would add a second berth, 600 feet long, and other improvements that would enable the 13.5-metre-deep terminal to handle ships with capacities of up to 4,500 TEUs.

Duke Point Terminal Cargo handling

In 2014 the cargo handled at Duke Point totalled 4.85 million tonnes.  In 2015, 241 ships visited the harbour, one fewer than in 2014. NPA handled 24,405 TEUs in 2014.

Among Canadian container ports, Nanaimo was ranked sixth, behind Vancouver, Montreal, Prince Rupert, Halifax, and Saint John. In 2014, Nanaimo was ranked 48th among North America container ports in TEU volumes, according to figures from the American Association of Port Authorities.

At present the terminal occupies about 20 of the 75 acres the NPA owns at Duke Point. The rest of the land is leased out and contains brownfield areas where the terminal could expand.

Lower Colliery Dam: an $8 million project?

On Monday night the Lower Colliery Dam was on the agenda. Important questions were raised by delegations as to why the remediation project is over budget.

The combined cost of the initial engineering studies and the construction costs of the spillway is approximately $8 million so far. The next phase will be the middle dam. Don’t be alarmed if $15 million is the final price for fixing the Colliery dams.

Councillors appeared to be surprised by the $4.5 million construction costs so far. This is $300,000 higher than the original estimate of $4.2 million. The reasons given for the extra costs were a temporary bridge, excavation and engineering monitoring.

Councillor Fuller put forward a motion to have a forensic audit of engineering costs for the Colliery Dams project but no one seconded the motion so it died on the table.

Councillor Kipp: “We put a proposal out for someone to review engineering costs on the dam… no one would touch it.”

Remember way back in July 2015 when these questions were raised about the $3 million spent on engineering studies. Did Nanaimo Council ever get answers?

  • What are the dimensions of the lower dam?
  • Is the concrete strong enough to resist erosion?
  • Will it fail if overtopped?
  • What is the spillway capacity?
  • What are the spillway measurements over a high rainfall season?
  • What is the make up of the concrete and rock buttressing?

Construction of the Lower Colliery Dam Auxiliary Spillway started in September 2015 and is scheduled to be completed in April 2016.

Colliery Dam - spillway concrete pour
Colliery Dam – spillway concrete pour – February 2016

Copcan Civil Ltd. was the successful bidder for a cost plus contract for the construction. Engineering design and supervision of the spillway is being undertaken by Golder Associates. The City retained Herold Engineering to provide structural design, field review and survey services.

Here are the numbers for the project so far (not including the $3 million engineering studies):

Lower Colliery Dam Auxiliary Spillway Costs

Design/Construction 2015 Costs (Sept - Dec)Estimated Total Cost
Golder – Geotech Design $549,004 $663,504
Golder – Field Services $175,344 $317,953
Allowance – Seismic Monitoring $50,000
Herold – Structural Design $125,972 $135,000
Herold – Field Services $5,453 $15,878
Herold – Survey

Copcan - Construction
Allowance – Landscaping $190,000
Other $22,472 $25,764
Totals $2,221,576 $4,545,599

Will the Regional District of Nanaimo Devolve?

Will the Regional District of Nanaimo Devolve? RDN stands for Regional District of Nanaimo. It covers a huge area from Deep Bay and Qualicum Beach to the north all the way down to Cedar and Cassidy to the South and Gabriola Island and Mudge Islands to the East.

The three myths of the RDN:

  • RDN doesn’t include cities such as Nanaimo or Parksville
  • RDN board members meet once a year
  • RDN will soon be renamed Regional District of Mid Vanisle

The RDN does collect taxes which are going up again. There are four municipalities in the RDN – Nanaimo, Lantzville, Parksville, and Qualicum Beach. Each receives a variety of services from the RDN and is represented on the Regional Board. Eight of the seventeen RDN board members are from the City of Nanaimo (hence the name “Regional District of Nanaimo”). The RDN board meets twice a month.

New RDN Chair

For the first time in 13 years, the board has elected a new chair. In a secret-ballot vote at a meeting in December 2015 Area H director Bill Veenhof defeated Joe Stanhope for the board Chair position.  Mr. Stanhope was the Chair of the RDN board since 2002.

Bill Veenhof is the RDN Board Chair and Colin Haime, District of Lantzville Mayor, is the Deputy RDN Board Chair.

RDN Tax increases

The RDN board is expected to finalize the 2016 budget recommendations at its February 23, 2016 regular meeting. This will see the following tax increases:

  • City of Nanaimo will see property tax increase to $98 per $100,000 in 2016 from $96 per in 2015.
  • Gabriola Island (Area B) property tax is expected to rise to $98 per $100,000 of assessed value in 2016. It was $91 per $100,000 in 2015.
  • In Area C (Extension, East Wellington and Pleasant Valley), property tax will remain steady at $141 per $100,000 of assessed value.
  • Area A (Cedar, Yellowpoint and Cassidy) could see property tax at $154 per $100,000 in 2016, which is a decrease from $155 per year in 2015.

RDN Regional Growth Strategy

The RDN is in the process of changing its Regional Growth Strategy.

Why the change? Will the urban planners consider climate change in their decisions. Will they curb the sprawl of one level strip malls? You have until February 23, 2016 to give your feedback.

Regional District of Nanaimo - covers mid Vancouver Island
RDN – Regional District of Nanaimo

Swallowing Area G

Area G includes French Creek, Dashwood, and Englishman River.

Could Area G be taken over by the municipalities of Parksville and Qualicum Beach? If they did would that mean a 30% tax increase for the residents? Will that region outgrow the regional district governance model?

Water is a big issue. Currently, thousands of RDN residents are being supplied by a private system owned through a company called Epcor run by the City of Edmonton.

New Community Plan for Area H

People living in Qualicum Bay, Bowser, Deep Bay, Dunsmuir, Horne Lake and Spider Lake are getting a new Official Community Plan. What does this mean? The OCP is the road map for how the communities will grow and connect.

Some changes that have already taken place are the expansion of Deep Bay Harbour,  allowance for secondary suites, and introduction of building inspection.

Homelessness a serious problem

According to the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD), estimates of people in the Valley who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless range from several hundred to more than 2,000.

Nanaimo, Parksville and Qualicum Beach are also facing serious issues with homelessness.

No live streaming of RDN Board meetings

Unfortunately, there is still no live streaming of the RDN board meetings. Every small community is providing this public service. Why not the RDN? If you would like to see the RDN live stream their board meetings let them know. It is good to know where and how your tax dollars are being spent.