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Major Nanaimo development wins council support but First Nation objects

If the city approves the rezoning it would “effectively dismantle the reconciliation-based processes that we have worked hard to put in place,” Snuneymuxw Acting Chief Bill Yoachim says.
Nanaimo council unanimously voted in favour of third reading for a major redevelopment at the north edge of downtown. The rezoning allows for a hotel, about 700 multi-family residential units, and a park. D'AMBROSIO ARCHITECTURE AND URBANISM

A major redevelopment on the north edge of downtown Nanaimo has won unanimous support from city council but the Snuneymuxw First Nation is opposed to the plan.

Bylaws needed to turn the land at Comox Road, 55 Mill Street and One Terminal Ave. into a comprehensive development district zone were passed at third reading at council’s Monday meeting. The vote follows an earlier public hearing. Fourth reading is required to fully enact the bylaws.

Snuneymuxw Acting Chief Bill Yoachim said in a letter to city hall that the planned development is located at Sxwayxum village, an archaeological site, and the nation is opposed to the rezoning plan.

The site carries “significant cultural, legal and historical significance,” to the First Nation, he said.

Standards for shared decision-making were not met in this case, he said.

If the city approves the rezoning it would “effectively dismantle the reconciliation-based processes that we have worked hard to put in place,” Yoachim said.

Mayor Leonard Krog said, “Our jurisdiction does not extend to land claims … title to property and things of that nature in the ordinary sense. We are entitled at law to deal with zoning and development permits and things of that nature and that is our obligation as members of council.”

He said he appreciates that the Snuneymuxw Nation has claims it believes are legitimate but there are other avenues to pursue. “It is not either appropriate, nor our obligation, nor responsible of us to make decisions based on the concerns that are raised.”

Development plans would see a six-storey hotel and conference centre, towers, approximately 760 homes in multi-family buildings, plus townhouses, riverfront improvements, a park and a multi-use path on the property.

Today it is home to the former Howard Johnson hotel, older buildings and a surface parking lot.

Krog said that when people head into the downtown, “You come over the Pearson bridge on the left you have the beauties of Maffeo Sutton Park and on the right we have a piece of property that has cried out for redevelopment for a very long time.”

The proposal from the developer is consistent with past zoning and is “consistent with the best interest of the community,” he said.

Strongitharm Consulting Ltd. submitted the rezoning application on behalf of a numbered company for 444, 450, 500 Comox Road and 1 Terminal Avenue, and Brad Martin and Ralston Alexander for 55 Mill St.

The project would include 10,000 square feet for commercial space.

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