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Amendment creates ‘unrestricted residential density’ on service commercial properties

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
June 20th, 2020

It’s far from Dumb and Dumber, but the city just got a little denser.

Council has approved the amendment of its C2 Service Commercial Zone from one dwelling per property to three.

City council passed final reading on the amendment — brought forth by Bergevin Electric — that, instead of applying for a site-specific zoning amendment for 920 Nelson Ave., they applied for a text amendment to the entire C2 zone.

That means 26 commercial properties (61 individual lots) on C2 Service Commercial Zone property outside of the downtown core — mostly along the Nelson Avenue and the Highway 3A corridor in Fairview, North Shore and Hall Mines Road — could expand to more than one dwelling per property.

It made sense to increase density across the spectrum in the zone, said city planner Alex Thumm, in his report to city council.

“Allowing C2 properties to add additional residential units may also help to support neighbourhood businesses’ viability and financial sustainability,” he said in his report to city council.

“I don’t think we want to be losing commercial space, but on the flip side we need have more (housing inventory).”

In addition to a building permit, which is required to create any new dwelling unit, a development permit would have to be obtained for any building containing three or more residential units.

And approval of that development permit requires satisfaction on three site-related issues — access/circulation, layout, and parking — as well as landscaping, lighting, signage, and waste and recycling facilities.

C2 properties are typically adjacent to R1 Low-Density properties, which, depending on lot size, are permitted to have up to three residential dwellings.

The zoning amendment will now move C2 in line with C1 Downtown Commercial, which allows unrestricted residential density, but density is restricted by building height, lot coverage, setback restrictions and parking requirements.

Consulting the public

In the initial groundwork on the amendment it was found that a vast majority of people supported greater density.

A public consultation campaign on the proposed amendment asked people to fill out an anonymous survey and, of the 36 responses received, 75 per cent of people supported a density increase.

Only six respondents (16.7 per cent) indicated that they “live or own property or a business on or adjacent to a C2-zoned property.” Of these six, five were against any density increase.

“Most written comments speak to the need to address the lack of housing in Nelson,” said Thumm in his report to council. “Most people who are against talked about parking and traffic problems. One person wrote that density should be kept downtown or achieved through secondary suites and laneway houses.”

Although council also passed a resolution to schedule a public hearing, due to the covid-19 pandemic, a public hearing was not able to be held on April 6 as anticipated.

However, the Local Government Act empowered council to choose whether to hold a public hearing on a zoning amendment if that amendment was consistent with the Official Community Plan.

— Source: City of Nelson

From C2 to shining C1

In C1, there is no set cap on the number of permitted dwelling units, but rather density is restricted by the height, lot coverage, and setback restrictions, as well as parking requirements.

The following clause from the C1 downtown zone is proposed to be borrowed:

Residential dwelling unit(s) shall:

  • i. be contained in the same building, and
  • ii. be located above or to the rear of the non-residential use, or below the non-residential use, provided that the non-residential use is at-grade; and
  • iii. A minimum of 50 per cent of the gross floor area at street level shall be used for non-residential uses.

This clause ensures that the street-facing, at-grade entrances and façade remain commercial, with residential uses tucked behind, above, or in the basement of the commercial use.

— Source: City of Nelson

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