An artist’s rendering showing conceptual buildings making up the Bowers District on the Green Thumb property on Hammond Bay Road. (Barefoot Planning and Design image)

An artist’s rendering showing conceptual buildings making up the Bowers District on the Green Thumb property on Hammond Bay Road. (Barefoot Planning and Design image)

Nanaimo’s huge Green Thumb plan gets go-ahead to move to public hearing stage

Approximately 2,500 homes pitched for ‘Bowers District’ in the north end

Development plans for a well-known nursery property in north Nanaimo are advancing to the public hearing stage.

Nanaimo city council, at a meeting Monday, Dec. 6, voted in favour of first and second readings of an official community plan amendment application for the 17-hectare Green Thumb property at 6261 Hammond Bay Rd.

The amendment would re-designate the west and north portions of the land as urban node, allowing for higher density than is currently allowed under the property’s corridor designation.

Notably, the branding of the project has changed since the application was submitted to the city a year and a half ago and the development is now being called the Bowers District.

“The Bowers District master plan is focused on creating a compact urban village with a focus on high-quality open spaces and pedestrian-friendly design,” notes the document, prepared by Barefoot Planning and Design on behalf of the Wilhelmina Group Limited Partnership. “The plan creates a natural land use transition between the low-rise residential areas to the east and the high-density commercial areas to the west.”

The master plan concepts show approximately 2,500 residential units around the edges of the site with a “mixed-use main street” at the centre. A residential area with low- to mid-rise housing is envisioned for the south and east portions of the property. Mid-rise and high-rise buildings of six or more storeys could be built on the west and north portions of the site.

Dale Lindsay, the city’s general manager of development services, noted that even though the applicant is seeking to amend the OCP, the number of units being contemplated conform with the current allowable range of 50-150 units per hectare.

“So there’s no change to the overall density. What’s proposed is a change to the building form for a portion of the property,” Lindsay said.

The applicant’s plans for transportation include a new road connecting Enterprise Way with Calinda Street. The Bowers District road network is planned in a way to try to discourage motorists from finding a shortcut from the old Island Highway to the Parkwood neighbourhood off of Uplands Drive.

The applicant’s parks and open spaces plan would include greenways – one north to south and one west to east – as well as other public parks and preservation of two forested areas.

City staff recommended that the project move to public hearing, saying the master plan provides “a clear vision.”

Members of the Dover Community Association asked that council defer or deny the application on the basis of insufficient consultation, negative traffic impacts and perceived over-development of the property.

Some councillors also expressed concerns. Coun. Sheryl Armstrong, who stated that she is a resident of neighbouring Parkwood, said residents in the area are opposed to high-rises there and she also had concerns about traffic and public school capacity. Coun. Ian Thorpe said he had unanswered questions about transportation, density, building heights and public consultation.

“I’m not convinced that the neighbourhood is supportive of this,” he said. “I have a lot of concerns myself and I think these are preliminary things that need to be discussed before we even talk about moving it to a public hearing.”

Coun. Ben Geselbracht wondered about the application coming while the city was working on an OCP update as part of the Reimagine Nanaimo process, and director of development approvals Jeremy Holm replied that that “at this point, the proposal’s not inconsistent with scenarios that we’re exploring through Reimagine.”

A majority of council wished to allow the application to go to a public hearing. Mayor Leonard Krog said the site is “ripe for development” and suggested that he gave weight to staff’s recommendation on the project.

“In terms of a general concept – which is all I’m supporting tonight – this looks pretty good to me,” the mayor said. “This envisions the kind of urban node, if you will, that I would love to see around this city.”

Coun. Tyler Brown noted that a master plan that leaves out some of the details means there is flexibility for future councils to make decisions that will help guide the project’s development over the long term.

“Working out those details as you get down towards a more buildable project makes a lot of sense to me, and at no point in that process do I see the public not having a say in the final product,” he said.

Council voted 6-3 in favour of first reading of the OCP amendment application, with Armstrong, Thorpe and Geselbracht opposed. Following the debate, council voted 7-2 in favour of second reading with Armstrong and Thorpe opposed.

RELATED: Green Thumb developer asking for ‘urban node’ land use in north Nanaimo



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An artist’s rendering of what the village main street might look like in the Bowers District in north Nanaimo. (Barefoot Planning and Design image)

An artist’s rendering of what the village main street might look like in the Bowers District in north Nanaimo. (Barefoot Planning and Design image)