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Business proposal denied by city’s resolve of Railtown redesign strategy

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
September 8th, 2017

A business proposal that ran contrary to the city’s vision for Railtown did not receive approval for a development permit even though no community concerns against the project were received.

City council’s resolve for its newly minted Railtown Sustainable Neighbourhood Action Plan (SNAP) was put to the test when Rocky Mountain Energy applied to re-designate and rezone the property on Government Road where the former Esso cardlock operated.

After some debate during its regular meeting Monday night in council chambers, it was moved to deny the application despite a measure of community support and a recognized need for the enterprise.

“I just don’t believe this is the right place for this,” summed up Coun. Anna Purcell about the application.

The proposal also did not have the support of city staff.

“While it’s been demonstrated that there is demand for a cardlock in Nelson, the location of this proposed cardlock does not align with council’s objective to achieve residential development in Railtown as identified in the SWDMP and more recently in the council approved Railtown SNAP,” said city manager of development services, Pam Mierau, in her report to city council.

“The intent was that this area would be a thriving hub, building on the excitement generated by the restoration of the CP Rail Station and more recently by the upgrades to the Cottonwood market and park currently underway.”

She said an increase in heavy-truck traffic to the proposed cardlock — in an area where the city has been struggling to achieve more jobs and more housing — would likely make it even more difficult to achieve those goals.

As well, there was already one approval given on a permit for a live-work development adjacent to the proposed cardlock site, said Mierau, with plans underway for another mixed-use development adjacent to the cardlock.

The city is also undertaking environmental work on the Coke and Gas Works building so it could also be developed as a mixed-use residential and commercial site. The city is actively searching for a tenant for the building, and formulating zoning amendments to allow for a mixed-use development to take place.

“So we are definitely moving forward and achieving the vision of the Railtown plan,” said Meirau, noting that a cardlock would be a step backward. “It would put in place a permanent barrier to achieving that vision.”

The potential of those projects and Railtown as a vital, vibrant and economically resilient neighbourhood would be significantly impacted by the proposed cardlock development, Mierau added.

Outside the city, the community had not formed any opposition to the proposal. Rocky Mountain Energy hosted an open house on Feb. 24 at the Chamber of Commerce — in which around 125 people attended — and provided a list with 164 names, all of whom have expressed support for the cardlock.

No other city departments or “relevant” external agencies had concerns with the proposed development, and only one member on the city’s Advisory Planning Commission was not in support of the proposed rezoning.

Reasons for support included:

  • it was on the perimeter of Railtown, but still within city limits;
  • it was close to the highway; and
  • it was an existing industrial site.

Coun. Bob Adams wondered where in the city such an enterprise could go if the Railtown neighbourhood was not acceptable.

“I’m not sure if there is a spot for it in Nelson,” said Mierau. “We haven’t had one in Nelson for quite some time.”

Part of the design of Railtown was to allow for light industrial that was compatible with residential, and encourage a mix of residential, commercial, and industrial land uses.

The cardlock proposal did not provide for more intensive land, represented minimal on-site development, and only created a “limited number” of jobs, Mierau noted.

“More importantly, the increase in truck traffic through the neighbourhood could significantly impact the ability to achieve the proposed residential and commercial mixed-use development that is key to achieving the Railtown vision of a thriving, dynamic neighbourhood with increased housing and jobs,” Mierau said.

Coun. Michael Dailly asked where a cardlock could go, and if there was any discussion as to where it could go in the regional district.

His query was echoed by Mayor Deb Kozak, who asked city staff if the notion could be brought up at the regional district level.

“It would be worth a conversation at the regional district level,” she said. “It has been cited as a need.”

She asked Mierau to contact regional district staff this week on the matter, while Kozak vowed she would speak with regional district directors about locating the business outside of the city.

A development permit is required prior to issuance of a building permit. The development permit looks at issues related to the site (access, circulation, layout, and parking), as well as landscaping, lighting, signage and waste/recycling facilities.

Rocky Mountain has asked the city to rezone the property at 45 Government Rd from MU4, waterfront mixed use-industrial and commercial to CD 7, a comprehensive development (CD) zone that mirrors the MU4 zone, but includes the addition of “service station” as a permitted use, with propane refills, accessory office use and retail sales of lubricants.

The previous Esso cardlock on this site provided product for large logging trucks, semi-trailer trucks, businesses with multiple service vehicles, taxis, etc. The proposed cardlock would provide product for many vehicles a day, with numerous vehicles consisting of very large trucks (approximately 75 feet long).

Following its use as a cardlock, Esso remediated the site. The Ministry of Environment issued a Certificate of Compliance (COC) for the subject property in May, 2016. The COC confirms that the site was satisfactorily remediated to meet applicable contaminated sites regulation remediation standards and Hazardous Waste Regulation standards.

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