Only three Nanaimo city councilors voted against a bylaw that would rezone property at 6124 Metral Drive from a single-dwelling family home to a residential corridor allowing multi-family development.
Concerns over the development of 91 residential dwellings were heard by people in attendance, and over the phone, which highlighted several key issues including safety, environmental, and whether the infrastructure could handle the increase.
One longtime resident of the area addressed council to weigh his concerns about the safety of children as they go to school and conduct their everyday lives.
“The intersection is very active with children going to school,” the resident says. “There are lots of kids on scooters and bikes, and with the increase in traffic it concerns me.”
“Adding more traffic to this particular area doesn’t make any sense to me.”
According to the City of Nanaimo’s Official Community Plan, housing is a growing concern for the region and the plan is to encourage the development, with various partners, to facilitate the development of affordable housing to meet the needs of those living in Nanaimo. But councilor Ian Thorpe says although he supports the idea of rezoning, there has to be a limit to how the city densifies.
“I support the rezoning of this neighborhood and I acknowledge we need family development,” Thorpe says. “How dense is too dense? I think this proposal is too dense for my appetite in this location.”
Councilor Hilary Eastmure echoed Thorpe’s objections to the project and says residents have raised important topics.
“Typically, I would be all for this type of density,” she says. “Given how much we need additional housing, I just think the concerns raised are valid.”
Council did raise some highlights of the development project which would be advantageous for promoting the four-story unit, such as being located near amenities that would promote active transportation.
Councilor Janice Perrino says safety should be a top priority for council, but the location of this development is perfect for the demographics of the area.
“This is within walking distance to everything,” she says. “This is perfect for not only seniors but also for young single couples because it is so close to the mall and shopping facilities.
“It is also perfect for those people who are not only working at Woodgrove and the Superstore, but these are the type of complexes we need in Nanaimo to service those people.”
Mayor Leonard Krog says he is not dismissing the concerns of residents, but developments of this nature are needed to help cut down on traffic.
“Developments near services is exactly what the city wants to encourage,” he says. “People will stay in their cars if they don’t have access.
“This is also a well-served bus route there are sidewalks and bike lanes which are separated entirely from the road, so it is a highly safe metro corridor.”
He says the area meets all the legal requirements for the development, and residents have a safe choice between using active transportation, public transit, and personal vehicles.
The bylaw passed, but councilors Thorpe, Eastmure, and Sheryl Armstrong opposed the rezoning, which will be coming back to council for a final reading.