Nanaimo Council gallery drama over Glen Oaks Drive

At the Nanaimo Council meeting on Monday there was a delegation seeking approval for a development variance at 3795 Glen Oaks Drive. The agenda item was brought forward by Mayor McKay. Some members of the gallery objected to the presentation by the builder and his consultant. It was the builder’s second attempt at getting a development variance for this same property in a month. Normally, builders must follow a re-application process which takes 6 months.

The meeting was shut down after people in the gallery shouted out some objections and called a point of order. Mayor McKay said that security would be called to remove some members of the gallery. After the meeting was shut down it started up again and then Councillor Fuller asked if the Mayor could be removed. City staff read out some bylaws and that seemed to be the end of it.

Builder wants two driveways

Glen Oaks Drive in Linley Valley was built in 2012. The original subdivision developer designed Glen Oaks Drive with specific driveway locations for each parcel. This was because the City wanted to try and ensure there was enough on-street parking because the road is extra narrow and on a steep slope.

Glen Oaks Drive Nanaimo
Glen Oaks Drive Nanaimo

At 3795 Glen Oaks Drive, the builder has built two houses on one parcel. The problem is there is only one driveway. Now the builder wants two driveways.

The City has said no. How does the builder get around this problem? Does he contact the Mayor, to whom he contributed to his election campaign? Could the Mayor then see to it that the builder’s re-application is added to the Council agenda?

The builder and his consultant came up to speak to council. They were reminded by Councillor Fuller and Hong that there is an established re-application process and why don’t they follow it like everyone else?

Councillor Brennan commented that the two homes have already been built on the lot so why “punish” the builder; implying the discussion was moot. Councillor Pratt echoed Brennan’s opinion.

Then Councillor Fuller countered with the point that the builder has to go through the proper steps just like everyone else. Councillor Fuller added that if everyone did what the builder was doing, they would have people coming back to every Council meeting with special requests, and it would set a very poor precedent.

Councillor Thorpe said that he could not go along with the builder’s request.  It is interesting to note that in a previous presentation to council for another property variance, the consultant made a point of saying he was a friend of Thorpe’s.

Conflict of Interest

After the builder’s presentation, there were two speakers who spoke about concerns they had with conflict of interest and favouritism as the builder had contributed two percent to the Mayor’s election campaign. Mayor McKay commented that it wasn’t much money.

The vote was Mayor McKay, Councillor Pratt, Brennan in favour of the re-application and
Councillor Hong, Fuller, Thorpe, Kipp voted against. Councillor Yoachim was absent.

Lack of updated building plans and photos

The City of Nanaimo is very lax in updating their building plans and providing Council with updated photographs of building sites.

As an example, Council was shown a picture of a tree-filled lot. The site doesn’t look anything like this now. So why wouldn’t the City provide Council with current photos?

Also, builders in Nanaimo construct first and then get variance approvals later. The situation at Glen Oaks Drive is a good example of what goes on in the rest of the City of Nanaimo.

The planning department doesn’t update their maps with what was actually constructed. Isn’t this unsafe for the fire department? On the map it might say there is one house and there are two houses and two carriage houses.

The City of Nanaimo is very lax when it comes to tree removal as well. There is no protection for urban trees. When builders infill large lots, all the trees are removed from property line to property line; there is no requirement for a setback.

Trees = wealth

Has the builder planted trees elsewhere to make up for all the trees that have been removed? The City has no plans for a tree bank and there are few if any pocket parks for neighbourhoods. This leads to ghettoization of neighbourhoods.

Research published a few years ago shows a tight correlation between per capita income and forest cover.  The researchers found that wealthier cities can afford more trees, both on private and public property. The well-to-do can afford larger lots, which in turn can support more trees.

Mayor McKay frequently advocates for small-lot developments. Is this something we want—cookie-cutter houses on denuded lots? Without proper planning, Nanaimo will soon lose its appeal.

West Vancouver just had a major flood which could have been mitigated by protecting tree cover. When lots are bare of trees then storm sewers will get more runoff and floods occur.