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Railtown development plan amendments expected to help bring investment into area

The city will be setting a public hearing date on amendments to the Official Community Plan and the Zoning Bylaw in order to help move forward on development plans for the Railtown district.

In an effort to get the train moving on the redevelopment of Railtown the city is considering four bylaw amendments to encourage private development in the area.

Of the four bylaw amendments, two will be going to public hearing — the Official Community Plan and the Zoning Bylaw — while Off-Street Parking and Landscape Bylaw and the Subdivision and Development Bylaw passed third reading.

“Preparation and adoption of these amendments to the bylaws will enable private landowners to have a set of rules to work with as they move forward on development plans,” said Dave Wahn, who was contracted by the city to develop the amendments, in his report to council Monday night during its regular meeting.

“It’s a matter of what is the best and most appropriate development for this area.”

Further amendments may be necessary as the city implements the new regulations through development applications, he added.

The amendments would direct all private developers interested in moving forward with projects within the Railtown neighbourhood to review their plans within the context of the Official Community Plan, the Sustainable Waterfront and Downtown Master Plan, the Railtown SNAP and the Zoning Bylaw, said city manager of Development Services, Pam Meirau.

“These documents provide the context and vision for future development of the Railtown neighbourhood,” she said in her report.

City manager Kevin Cormack agreed, adding that the changes are to bring the future of Railtown a little closer to the present.

“We wanted to create an environment that got things going and brings investment into the area,” he said.

Coun. Janice Morrison said the city is not undertaking the development in the neighbourhood — it did not have the finances to do so — but was laying the vision and framework for how it would like to see it shape up.

“We’re trying to safeguard the concept of the creative vision of the Railtown (plan),” she said.

The amendments were drafted in order to encourage private development that reflects the goals and objectives identified within the sustainable neighbourhood action plan (SNAP).

The 28-acre Railtown neighbourhood has been planned based on a 35-year build out, with approximately 140 units anticipated in Railtown over the next 10 years, along with the potential for approximately 25,000 square feet of new commercial space and 11 acres of new light industrial space (city wide).

Grant funding will need to be secured for many of the projects in the plan (brownfield redevelopment, active transportation and ecological restoration) and the majority of development identified in Railtown is on private land and will rely on the market to drive it, with a few city-owned sites open for development by city staff.

A look at the amendments

The proposed amendment to the Official Community Plan deals with two changes, including a statement that “all new development align with the council approved Railtown SNAP.”

The second amendment updates the land use designation map to reflect the “broad land use expectations” for the various areas within the neighbourhood.

There are six changes proposed to the Zoning bylaw, with an update to the zoning definition of “micro-brewery” to a new definition of “craft brewery/distillery” involving three of the changes.

“This new definition has been developed and derived for the City of Nelson by reviewing best practices in other communities in British Columbia in conjunction with established standards for existing micro-breweries in Nelson,” said Wahn.

The fourth change adds a new zone to the Zoning Bylaw (C4, Railtown Core Commercial Zone) in order to establish land use regulations that would encourage redevelopment of lands to reflect the Railtown SNAP.

Meirau explained that the proposed C4 zone was similar to the C1, Core Commercial Zone, but with a maximum height of 20 metres (16 m, is the maximum height in the C1 zone) and land use excludes “cannabis-related business” and includes “live/work.”

The other amendments dealt with parking and a zoning map of the area.

Four changes could be made to the Off-Street Parking and Landscape Bylaw, dealing with car sharing and an expanded downtown parking area map.

“The purpose here is to move towards replicating downtown parking standards which relaxes parking requirements for developments that include mixed-use developments including residential,” said Wahn.

The other three changes related to parking requirements in the instance of development.

Standards for the works and services requirements are the two minor changes proposed to the Subdivision and Development Bylaw.

“I think the market is going to dictate a lot of it,” Wahn said about the proposed changes.

A public hearing along with required notifications pursuant to the Local Government Act and the Development Applications Procedures Bylaw are to be scheduled.

— Source: City of Nelson

Tracking the Railtown plan

Eight “big moves” have been indentified in a report to transform Railtown.

It is expected to be a set of catalyst projects and public investments that, together, are the seeds that will initiate the transformation of Railtown.

The first is to connect Railtown and Baker Street to the waterfront, followed by the enhancement of the gateway to Railtown. A connection will then be made from Baker Street to the Cottonwood Market, with a pedestrian mews/lane and a Baker Street connection.

The rail yard plaza near the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce is located will be enhanced, and a station park will be created, with an area in Cottonwood Park designated as a mixed-use, multi-family zone.

The public realm and open space projects aim to support a connected active transportation network, including the connection of Baker Street with Government Road. Creating a transit connection through Railtown is also a priority.

The plan also has provision for additional parks and open spaces, with the possible addition of the former CP Rail Station’s superintendent residence on Baker Street to the city’s inventory.

The area the city has dubbed Railtown is bordered by Highway 3A, Government Road, Cottonwood Falls, and the CPR railway tracks. It includes the refurbished CPR station.