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Re-zone sought for City Hall to open space for private sector

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
March 12th, 2020

The city’s main municipal building is undergoing a zoning change in order to make it compliant under zoning bylaws and to lease out its fifth floor to the private sector.

With the entire fifth floor of City Hall available for rental the city had to rework the zoning to allow the private sector to rent it. The current zoning does not permit commercial, private-sector uses.

“The city wishes to rent out the vacant floor in order to better utilize the city’s existing assets, generate rental income for the city, and to put additional commercial office space on the market for the benefit of local industry,” said city planner Alex Thumm in his report to council.

The new zone would allow for the continued use of the parcel as a public administration building while allowing commercial or residential uses.

“Despite the majority of the building remaining under the public administration use, a wide variety of permitted uses is proposed in order to allow for flexibility and creativity in proposals to lease vacant office space in the building and, should new development ever take place, in future buildings,” Thumm noted.
“As the property owner, the city, through city council, ultimately retains control over the types of uses conducted on its property.”

With the amendments in place, the range of potential land uses would be expanded to accommodate renters when a space that is not needed by government becomes vacant.

The proposed draft new zone would:

  • Provide a maximum height that accommodates the existing building;
  • Permit most of the uses currently permitted at City Hall under the current “Institutional” zone, the C1 Downtown Commercial Zone and the other commercial zones outside of the downtown, but it would not allow for businesses like a car wash, funeral home, service station and shopping centre, to name a few;
  • Include a 0 metre setback from lot line;
  • Lower the parking requirement for “public administration” and “art gallery and museum” uses on the property.

— Source: City of Nelson

Cutting down on the parking

Under the terms of the re-zoning the minimum parking requirement for City Hall is proposed to be lower because it would require 182 parking spaces if it were rebuilt today — over double the current supply (73 spaces).

“Under the proposed parking relaxation, a rebuild of the existing building of the same square footage (59,000 sq. ft.) would only require 32 parking spaces, although more could certainly be provided at the discretion of the city as the property owner,” said Thumm.

The lower parking requirement would not mean removal of parking spaces.

“By lowering the parking requirement for any future redevelopment, while still maintaining the right to provide significantly more parking than required by bylaw, the city wishes to lead by example … by facilitating development that permits more space for active uses, green space, and public space, rather than parking requirements,” the city staff report noted.

Raising the roof

Under the terms of the re-zone, if passed, City Hall will no longer be existing, non-conforming.

Under the current zone the building exceeds the maximum permitted height by nearly 14 metres. The re-zone increases the maximum permitted height.

“The disadvantage of an existing nonconforming building is that, should anything ever happen to it, it could only be rebuilt to less than half its current size,” said Thumm.

Council passed first and second reading of the Official Community Plan Amendment Bylaw and a Zoning Amendment Bylaw and to schedule a public hearing. There is no proposed redevelopment of 310 Ward Street.

Herridge Lane property goes from boarding to strata

A 119-year-old former boarding house in the downtown core that was recently slated for re-development will instead be converted into four separately titled strata properties.

City council has approved the plan to stratify the existing building at 706 Herridge Lane, an MU6 (Downtown Mixed-Use) zoned property.

Although the property — which was built in 1901 as a boarding house — has undergone two proposals for re-development since 2008, it has “hardly been occupied and today is likely unsafe for occupancy,” read a city staff report to council.

City planner Alex Thumm said there were no concerns on the title conversion.

“Staff are satisfied that the building would otherwise be vacant and that this proposal would have a positive effect on housing availability,” he said. “The property’s zoning does not permit either short-term rentals or tourist accommodation, which should reduce speculative investments and in the event that the units are not owner-occupied, they would likely be rented on a long-term basis.”

The original plans for a commercial unit and residential apartments as small as 210-square-feet (below the minimum 280 sq. ft.) were abandoned for four strata-titled apartments, ranging in size from 510 sq. ft. to 886 sq. ft.

The new plans conform to the bylaws with no need for a variance, with the commercial use being removed. The exterior design and site plan remain the same as previously proposed, with the exception of the removal of the previously proposed rooftop deck.

Each unit would be eligible for one street parking permit, with the developers donating a vehicle to the Kootenay Carshare Co-op to be parked on-street at the property on Victoria Street (with a membership for each of the four units).

What is strata title conversion?

Strata title conversion, also known as stratification, is the creation of individual legal units when an existing building is involved.

The Strata Property Act gives municipalities the ability to protect rental housing from being converted into private ownership by requiring council approval for existing buildings applying for stratification.

Under the act, council is required to consider the following when making its decision whether to approve a proposed strata conversion:

  1. the priority of rental accommodation over privately owned housing in the area;
  2. any proposal for the relocation of persons occupying a residential building;
  3. the life expectancy of the building;
  4. projected major increases in maintenance costs due to the condition of the building;
  5. and any other matters that, in its opinion, are relevant.

— Source: City of Nelson

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