Council Notes: Poetry Month, KLH Laundry Jobs, Nelson Commons Variances and Nelson Landing Phase II
Nelson City Council’s April 7 meeting started out with a packed house with about 40 people in the public gallery to attend the meeting that saw a number of high-profile topics on the docket for discussion.
But the evening began with a poetic performance from local scribes, Geordi Campos and Damian John as Mayor Deb Kozak accepted the Poetry Challenge from Calgary Mayor, Naheed Nenshi and designated April 2015 as National Poetry Month in the Queen City.
City asks province to keep KLH laundry workers
Many in the audience were employees of Kootenay Lake Hospital’s regional laundry service whose jobs currently hang in the balance of Interior Health’s decision around whether or not to privatize the service.
After hearing from several councilors about the arguments against privatizing the service, council unanimously passed a motion to petition Interior Health to consider the economic impacts of the loss of 17 jobs to the city and also to send a letter to Minister of Health, Terry Lake to simply cancel the plans to privatize the service and eliminate the local jobs.
The motion also included plans to draft resolutions requesting support from the Association of Kootenay Boundary Local Governments and Union of BC Municipalities and the board of directors of the West Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital District.
Variances denied for Nelson Commons
The next big item on the list was an application for variance permit by Nelson Commons, which saw a fair bit of discussion by council – particularly around a request to have fees waived in return for affordable housing allotment in the downtown development project currently under construction on the former Extra Foods lot.
At the top of the list of variances were requests to designate three units to be sold at 25 percent below market value as “restricted resale” units, in lieu of a $54,000 donation to the city’s affordable housing fund, for a stated dollar value contribution of $225,000 based on the market value of the units minus 25 percent; and a request to waive $9,837 in connection fees for the three units mentioned above due to the fact that their sale would directly support the city’s affordable housing strategy.
Councilor Morrison was very vocally opposed to supporting the above two variance requests, stating that the $225,000 figure isn’t “realized money” and amounts to nearly a 1 per cent tax increase for Nelson residents that rests on the sale of the three units.
She added that at even after the reduction of 25 percent, the cost of the three units would still mean whomever bought them would need to earn $55,000 per year to afford it – which makes it questionable as affordable housing.
Morrison added that she feels approving the variances would amount to helping a private developer and the city shouldn’t be involved.
Councilor Dailly, who chairs the city’s affordable housing committee, asked to have the two variances referred back to the committee to decide how to deal with them, after stating that the affordable housing price doesn’t match the ability of those who need housing to pay for it.
The remainder of the variances were given the go-ahead by councilors, with some discussion. They include: reducing the amount of long-term bike storage, holding off installation of electric car chargers until there is a need for the infrastructure; a change to the method of landscape security payment; and a hold on lot consolidation until after the project is finalized.
Council hears details of Nelson Landing Phase II
Finally on the agenda was a lengthy presentation explaining requests for amendments to the city’s official community plan from the developer of Nelson Landing for the second phase of the project, The first phase is currently under construction on the city’s waterfront near John’s Walk.
City Manager of Development Services, Pam Mierau walked council through the zoning changes and various other technical details of the application to prepare them for first and second readings of the proposed amendments.
The second phase of the project will see construction of a commercial area featuring a businesses like a micro-brewery, mobile food vendor, animal daycare, health services, veterinary clinic and a market, with an adjacent private marina. It will also see mixed –use housing built along the waterfront as far as Red Sands Beach, which will be preserved as a public park.
Other public features of the development including marina stalls for Nelson residents living outside the development but nearby, an extension of the waterfront path along the length of the development, as well as parking and several public access points to the waterfront.
Council asked various questions of Mierau and the developers before voting in favour of motions for first and second readings of the zoning amendments, with full debate yet to come before third reading of the amendments happens.