Monday, Oct. 7, 2013: The Day the Game Changed
Ron Bolin: Oct. 4, 2013
On Monday, Oct. 7, 2013, the struggle for downtown Nanaimo gears up for a transformative change. On that day Council will authorize a 21 storey, 240 room hotel which also includes 14 commercial rental units to be located at 100 Gordon Street. Notable about this hotel is that it represents a business plan which will have far reaching ramifications for Nanaimo in the coming years. The project is presented by SSS Manhao International Tourism Group of China which will incorporate NITG tourist activities as well as condominium participation in bringing clients to Nanaimo from China, i.e. the hotel is not totally dependent on the vagaries of the accidental tourist market, but is directed from a known source. This source will undoubtedly develop other clusters of tourism related businesses which can rely on the influx and should generate good things for Nanaimo’s downtown as the concept develops. It also proposes to open a channel from the waterfront to downtown which has long been missing.
This development might be near perfect if it weren’t for the 10 year “revitalization” tax exemption which goes with it. But it must be quickly noted that this not a concession to this project, but was opened by Council last year to any Hotel/motel business which would either build a new structure in Nanaimo or perform significant upgrades here. Now that we have (almost) the new hotel –and it sounds like a good one at 4 diamonds or better with a swimming pool and two rooftop restaurants- I hope that Council will consider putting a time limit on additional “revitalization” exemptions. Off the top of my head I am going to estimate that the cost to other Nanaimo taxpayers of the exemption given to this hotel will run somewhere around $350,000 to $450,000 per year for each of the 10 years following its completion. It should be noted that the Staff report does not give any estimate of the cost of the exemption for this project or for others as they are brought forward. This should not be tolerated.
For more about the hotel see Items 8(a) and (b) at:
Monday’s meeting can also be seen as the night of the exemptions. In addition to the hotel renovation exemption we have the Grants Advisory Committee Recommendation for a Permissive Tax Exemption to be granted to the United Way for a property at 9-327 Prideaux Street which last Monday received a transfer of $60,000 in funds designated for parks development to the purchase price of that same property. Again perhaps a worthy cause, but one which will have to be paid by other ratepayers as exemptions do not lead to any decrease in the costs of running the City. For more see the agenda shown above and look for item 9(e). Again, no estimate of the cost of this exemption is given in the report. Is Council aware of these cost estimates before they vote on them?
Another batch of “permissive”, i.e. discretionary, exemptions are to be given their first three readings at this meeting, see item 9(f). This group covers 156 properties serviced by 115 organizations which receive permissive tax exemptions (see Property Tax Exemption Bylaw 2013 No. 7177). The total sum which must be made up by other taxpayers to cover City expenditures was, in 2013 for the City Portion only, $1,429,962 with the largest going to the Port Theatre in the sum of $284,053. There are many worthy causes out there, but at some point we must ask ourselves if picking some pockets to put what has been picked into other pockets is not robbing Peter to pay Paul and at what point Peter will have to join Paul.
Not on this agenda is a list of other gifts, grants, and honoraria which in 2012 totaled some $3,783,354 which must also come from the pockets of general Nanaimo taxpayers. The largest of these in 2012 went to NEDC ($1,563,529); the Port Theatre Society ($474,474); the Nanaimo & District Museum Society ($334,615) and Downtown Nanaimo Business Improvement ($328,545). Put it all together, include the Heritage tax exemptions, the $10,000 exemption for businesses granted by the Province, special rules for the taxation of City, Provincial and Federal lands and we are talking a serious pile of money which must be extracted from other ratepayers. I have yet to find a comprehensive guide to all these items and one should be undertaken before we get much further into the 2014 budget process. [I believe I am correct in believing that “Homeowner” grants are funded by the Province of BC and do not place an additional burden on local property taxpayers.]
We are also (see agenda item 10(a)) proposing to add another $37,400 to the already approved $160,000 which was previously allocated to the remediation of the Nanaimo Centre Stage. The extent to which this will complete repairs for the next 10 years remains to be seen.
Also on Monday’s Agenda is the long awaited report (I believe about a year overdue) on dealing with the minutes of in-camera meetings. There has been a good deal of consternation in the past few years about what is taking place in secret meetings of Council. These meetings which arise from section 90 of the Community Charter which deals with in-camera meetings can arise from situations described in the Charter as matters which “may” be taken in camera (Section 90-1) or a much shorter list which “must” be taken by Council in-camera. I would estimate that in Nanaimo probably 90 to 95% of in-camera meetings are taken by reasons of “may” rather than of “must”. While I will wait to see the list of all in-camera meetings; the corresponding minutes of those which will be released; the extent to which they may be redacted and particularly the vote count on important issues, before I wax too generous, I sincerely hope that this report, along with a proposed new budget format, represents a new era in transparency in Nanaimo. And the truth shall set us free….
Monday’s meeting will be one worth watching.
Only time will tell if ,or not, this project will be good for Nanaimo as a whole & not just real estate.
Nanaimo is NOT a tourist town ; never has been.
Tourism will never supplant industry as a good employer.
Whilst Sasha Angus may drum up real estate related projects I doubt he ever attended the truck logger show or any gathering of industrial related trade shows; indeed the thought of Angus in a hard hat makes me laugh.
That said; the deal is done but I hear no clapping outside of downtown.
But Nanaimo is, even now, a good jumping off point for local activities and if they come for the Island and the region, then I am sure that we have folks in Nanaimo who have the imagination to figure out what might keep more of them in town.
Yes Nanaimo is a good jumping off point.
No one stays for long as the downtown business ass ,economic bla bla bla can come up with nothing more than more subsidies from the taxpayer.
Where have all the entrapeneurs gone?
Tho’s living upon the taxpayers largesse have had ample time to come up with a solution that relies upon free enterprize & not subsidy.
Saturday, October 05, I attended the South Downtown Waterfront initiative Harbour Fair.
“. . . meetings, conferences, interviews, ceremonies, and, above all, papers to be filled out, reports, bibliographies, lists, questionnaires. And on top of that were the demands in the community, the things in which one had to, was ‘expected to’ participate that had not been there or had not been important before.”
I came away with the distinct impression that, yet again, I am being screwed around!
I was unable to attend the Fair. What about it convinced you that you are being screwed around and what would it take to use this real estate opportunity to best advantage?
A project is not a project until a shovel is in the ground, and even then it is not necessarily a project as can readily be seen by strolling around downtown.
These projects are all good for the construction segment of our local economy, that would include all those planners, consultants, architects, contractors, sub-contractors, suppliers etc. What Nanaimo will look like in 20 years or so and how all these projects will have benefited, or crippled the economy is for far brighter minds than mine. I’m not sure I know anyone with a clear vision of what Nanaimo is supposed to be? Tourist, retirement mecca? Industrial hub? Transportation hub? Gateway to the Island? Home to high-tech? Home to green industries? All of the above?
First and formost we must start to realize that ‘Nanaimo’ is much more than just down town.
Growing the population will create as many problems as it solves; water comes to mind.
Growing Nanaimo has as much to do with improving ‘our lot’ not just becoming bigger; think better paying jobs ,parks,access to the ocean!
Nanaimo will have to wear many hats to be successful rather than it’s obession with the down town core.
Nanaimo does not live in a bubble and the world is still grossly in debt with no end in site.
Perhaps our demands have to be tempered with reality.
We really do need to pay attention to Nanaimo’s budget. The onslaught begins this evening as Council wants to approve $1.4+ million dollars in discretionary tax exemptions. Some communities have begun to wind down the giveaways. We need to follow suit. Add up our current gifts, grants and exemptions (a number of these are still not catalogued openly), the deficit in our asset management program, the costs of our administration, and it can be seen that there is little or nothing left over for growth unless we can show that all costs of growth are paid for by those doing the growing. There is still no study or recommendations on Development Cost Charges, though it is nearly two years overdue.
These projects are all good for the construction segment of our local economy, that would include all those planners, consultants, architects, contractors, sub-contractors, suppliers etc. What Nanaimo will look like in 20 years or so and how all these projects will have …
Planners, consultant & architects will likely come from the Chinese mainland .
If history repeats itself the chefs at the proposed restaurants will be from China & their helpers interns from VIU.
Unless the project is out for bids & a Nanaimo company actually wins it many of the construction jobs will be filled by out of town workers.
The spins offs for downtown business during construction will likely be good as will motel business for out of town workers( think Harmac maintenance shutdown)
All this being said it accounts to little more than short term employment opportunity.
Construction is an end to a means; not a means to an end.
It is impossible to create a economy upon endless construction; if we have not realized that by now we are in bad shape!
Jim: The Architects are a very well known and respected firm from Vancouver. They presented to the Design Advisory Panel. I expect the construction will be handled in the same way as any other large project. You are correct that an economy cannot be built by endless construction, but the capstone of this project is bringing tourists on packaged tours to Nanaimo and undoubtedly housing for upscale Asian students at VIU. This creates a market -at least until the world economy fails which indeed could happen soon- which is missing in the ordinary hotel venture. A number of related tourist oriented activities can be expected.
While there is no such thing as a sure thing, the business plan of this venture seems to me to be as good as they come and offers a lot of opportunities for the community at large if we take them.
“What about it convinced you that you are being screwed around and what would it take to use this real estate opportunity to best advantage . . . ?”
How did Marshall McLuhan put it? “Looking for the future in the rear view mirror“.
Ron you have answered your own question. “real estate“! Why always real estate?
There are so many fecund opportunities if only the blind could see!
I harbour a secret respect for Frank Nye as a Battle of Britain pilot but it is then abruptly clouded by his rampant one track real estate obsession infecting the town detrimentally for decades. Real estate sprawl is Nanaimo and the sooner it shakes the habit the more secure our future will be.
Attending the Fair I was startled by the manipulative manner in which the displays have been set up.
*Suggestions please: write your idea on a sticker and glob it to the map: sports, real estate, tourism etc. Well who would have thought? As though Joe and jane public stay wake at nite figuring it out?
No thoughts on the implications beyond the town’s control.
Wellcox is more than real estate Ron . . .
Click to access Wellcox.pdf
. . . implying a food production resource not subject to the whims and vicissitudes of yesterday’s world.
I am utterly surprised, or on second thought not really, that you would automatically see this as a real estate opportunity.
Do you really believe the hotel (designed by a very well known and respected Vancouver firm, no less) is for VIU students rollicking off up Island on jaunts for fun?
I have bridge . . . etc . . . get the drift . . .
Roger: I am not sure what you want to say with your dismissal of real estate. After all, as Will Rogers remarked, They aren’t making any more of it…. unlike the unrelenting production of us, so every act of production, even of food, begins with a real estate transaction of some kind. Until some one comes up with an idea -hopefully a long lived and fruitful idea- for using the Wellcox land better than it is now being used, it is just real estate.
As for the hotel, what would you have…. A taxpayer funded structure like the VICC which has no mechanism to attract enough clientele to ever pay for itself. There is a reason why the hotel folks have shied away from too close an association with the conference centre and I think that the China tourism idea has more legs than the let’s build an attraction to bring folks here from all over the world. The attractions are all around us, but how to we prosper from that.
While I agree with your description of the ubiquitous “let the kids in the candy store and see what candies they would like” approach, I am not sure what other methods are available for finding imaginative ideas. And, of course, there is that nagging problem of who is supposed to pay for whose imagination.
In any event like the effects of cigarettes, asbestos, lead, EM/RF radiation, etc. it will take 20 or more years before we know how this venture unscrambles.
Ron, I have flown this one before. Pay attention.
A hotel for off-shore U students is absurd! Unbelievable to the mature adult mind.
It is my considered opinion that the hotel is a sales office for the entertainment of off-shore clients interested in buying prime waterfront property on Nanaimo Estuary’s shore.
You may notice Wellcox is billed as waterfront. It isn’t. The assembly wharf intervenes: until sales accumulate.
The give away is insistence that it is waterfront!
Nanaimo bills unemployed at 4.5%. That is true only because many able bodies have moved to Fort Mc.
Nanaimo needs productive, import substituting, wealth creating jobs and industry now if we believe in a future for our kids and the town.
Certainly no vision of that was evident at the Saturday Fair!
An off shore sales office has recently been installed on Chapel anticipating overflow from Wellcox.
Roger: ” A hotel for off-shore U students is absurd! Unbelievable to the mature adult mind.”
Wake up and smell the coffee. There is already such a thing that was recently build on Wakesiah across from VIU. Only this one will have the advantage of a downtown location with good bus connections, the possibility of ownership and a foothold on the golden mountain. A cool million has also been “promised” to the college for their cullinary program by the hotel owners.
I am not ready at this time to link this with the Wellcox land though I can see a future through a glass darkly….
Last night councilor Johnstone in typical, flog it off, full flush gimmy the bucks, realtor vulgarity waxed ineloquently about this ship, prow towards the sea, shining in the sunshine. Trying desperately to find that silk purse, hiding the sow’s ear.
In fact it is, despite a very well known and respected Vancouver firm, another cheap inappropriate glass tower that judging from the presentation video is an absolute confusion of structure on Gordon street as it relates to nothing close by, not what I would call appropriate urban design.
But I digress.
Yes another hotel up on Wakesiah and a million for the culinary dept. By implication VIU is debasing its reputation. This reeks of bribery: something’s up! Are not your heckles twitching yet?
This whole deal stinks and we wont know it until it is too late.
A healthy town would be looking a localized economy to develop import substituting, wealth producing job creating endeavors that we control and benefit from: following its tradition of a resources base.
And the sad part is, this is Nanaimo, no one gives a shit that we are being bought? Cheaply and far too easily at that!
Why is this coming Wellcox charrette participation exclusive and not open and why does Dave Witty flip when I suggest participation to be open like most other recent local charrettes?
Why are we building more accommodation for off-shore students when local strata, rental and hotel vacancies are at an all time high?
Two years ago VIU revealed a comprehensive new overall plan for its campus including ample student accommodation.
Why is this plan being ignored?
Putting private monies into an educational establishment is never a good idea.
The small print would be an interesting read.
Usually these monies come with restrictions & expectations often in the curriculum.
With one notable exception, major elements of last night’s Council meeting played out as expected. The Hotel Development Permit was approved,
The United Way exemption was approved, though this turns out to be a substitution rather than addition as they apparently previously had an exemption on their former accommodation.
The overall package of permissive exemptions in the sum of $1,429,962 plus the United Way adjustment plus the cost of whatever the 2014 tax increase comes to was passed after a brief discussion about the propriety of passing 2014 exemptions before the 2014 budget is discussed. As it turns out, provincial legislation apparently requires that permissive exemptions for the coming year must be passed by Oct. 31, of the year prior. While Council could have chosen to use the coming couple of weeks to determine whether they wished to reduce these exemptions as other BC Councils are considering, they chose to pass the whole thing and thus the first stake in the heart of the 2014 budget has been pounded into place.
The long awaited report on the release of the minutes of in-camera meetings was passed unanimously and without discussion. We should be seeing the results on the City’s web site momentarily.
The major glitch in Staff’s plan came when the recommendation to approve an additional $34,700 toward the Nanaimo Centre Stage budget, increasing it to $194,700 in 2013 was referred back to Staff following a delegation from Jim Taylor, President of the Nanaimo Ratepayers Association and pointed Council discussion of the implications of further investments in this City owned building given what was described as a $1 million asset management deficit. Councillors Brennan, Anderson and McKay opposed the referral, I suspect on different grounds.
Also referred was a proposal for two large LED signs at the Departure Bay ferry terminal following a presentation from Mr. Michael Harrison of the Brechin Hill Community Association and several local residents concerning anticipated light pollution from the signs. There was indeterminate discussion of the extent of neighbourhood consultation which took place prior to Staff’s report. One hopes that in the future this may be better understood before a recommendation is presented.
The City displayed two awards which it has recently received for innovation regarding the Budget e-Town Hall Meeting which it held in March of this year. I join in applauding Councillor Anderson and the rest of Council for this effort. I lament that it has not been followed by further such meetings on major issues facing Nanaimo.
Also approved was a suggestion by Councillor Anderson that Staff produce a report on the establishment of an Advisory Youth Council as a Committee of Council. It was passed unanimously by Council. It gives rise to questions about what other demographic sub groups might be put forward as forming Committees of Council. Any suggestions?
I would be interested in your observations about last night’s meeting. How about it?
PS: Kudos to Gordon Fuller who was recognized for his prowess in hot dog preparation at the Wellcox Fair.
The overall package of permissive exemptions in the sum of $1,429,962 plus the United Way adjustment plus the cost of whatever the 2014 tax increase comes to was passed after….
Council also recinded the 80 year olds free use of the pool & gym etc.
It does become a little silly.
Blow the $$$$ save the pennies. ( shoot we don’t have them anymore)
To be fair, I don’t believe that a decision on the use of the pools and gyms by octogenarians has been made, though in light of all the currently available give-aways of some $100,000 per week, it seems trivial to talk about. In any event tomorrow morning at 8am in the board room of the new City Hall Annex or SARC building, budget presentations will begin with that of the Parks Department by Richard Harding. The public can attend these meetings at which the goals and the expenditures of our various City Departments can be heard, seen and measured.
Anyone who is interested can take a look at the City’s 2012 Annual Report which provides a useful summary of the efforts and expenditures of our City’s Departments. The Parks, Recreation and Culture Department Report is shown on pp. 24-28 of that Report which is available on the City’s web site at:
Click to access 2012%20Annual%20Municipal%20Report.pdf
The vision! as seen by City Council.
I have a different optometrist
Isn’t this really the vision of Christy Clark who just “signed” a $36 billion deal with Petronas?
If we did not laugh, we would cry.
Well; according to todays local newspapers it’s official!
And Roger Kemble had it correct all the time , it’s about real estate.
The ‘news’ Papers are gushing with unfettered compliments to their potential advertisers in real estate marketing ( I hate to call it an industry).
No challenge whatsoever to the figures ( 191 visitors per day 365 days per year)
No mention to where the water supply will come form for an expanded Nanaimo(should it occur)
No mention of inflation of home prices for an area with lower than average incomes, NOTHING.
I guess build it & they will come rules, for a minority at least.
To add insult to injury it is suggested that it really is the time to rebuild the railway ,with taxpayer funding naturally.
A costly duplication . . .
I read in today’s, October 10, NDN, under Darrell Bellaart’s by-line, various Island Chambers of Commerce are floating the idea to eliminate one of two Nanaimo ferry terminals.
For many reasons, not the least cost saving for a Provincial government deeply in the red, this is an idea that’s time has come.
At last Monday’s meeting Council received a Brechin Neighourhood delegation, concerned about two intrusive LED signs.
Summertime traffic backing up on Steward Ave, often to Pearson Bridge, is untenable: not only for idling motor’s fumes alone.
January 2010 I attended a Newcastle / Brechin neighbourhood charrette . . .
Click to access Newcastle.Brechin.pdf
. . . at which I made the proposal to remove the Departure bay terminal. The idea was well received,
Why the Departure bay terminal is still acceptable is beyond belief.
The road to Duke Point spends 90% of it’s time as a drag strip.
I suppose that as long as a certain ammount of traffic can be diverted downtown in the hopes of commerce it will be acceptable.
Should the Departure Bay terminal ever be closed just what use do you think Council would
promote for that area?
We are on the same page Trailblazer.
Cheers . . .
While “real estate” will be the first to be impacted (hopefully not too bubbly), to treat it as the main course in what might be coming puts the empha,sis on the wrong syl,lable. What this can enable is more and diverse local businesses and jobs, increasing densities and more rational land use. “Real estate” doesn’t have to be a pejorative, though I agree that, isolated, it can be just that.
An unbalanced real estate economy is not good for Nanaimo.
It has not been, is not, good for Vancouver: population growth 4% diminishing, off-shore speculators driving up the cost of homes, too many sitting empty, loss of jobs, Pixar’s recent closure among others.
A hidden blow to home owners is the rise in property taxes concomitant with rise in home prices: seniors, once secure their mortgage is paid off, are confronted with home taxes they cannot afford.
While Vancouver’s population languishes Metro takes the families looking for affordable homes causing excessive rush hour traffic congestion up the valley as far as Abbotsford.
Empty condos and unaffordable family homes cause realtors to play with the truth. Planning by real estate is no planning and Nanaimo has enough of that.
PS And with a downtown Nanaimo/Vancouver foot ferry operating early 2014 there will be no need for the Departure Bay terminal.
A recent newspaper article said a poll done at the Welcox land ‘Harbour Fair’ suggests that Nanaimoites wish the land to be for ‘Public”use.
Not having seen the printed questionaire I can only guess the format of it’s content.
With that in mind what are the chances of the next questionaire reading somewhat like this…
To what Public use should the Welcox Lands be used.
(A) A Multiplex.
(B) A bigger MULTIPLEX.
(C) A Multiplex with a taxpayer supported Hockey team with free beer & parking.
(D) I am a moron and want more waterfront greenspace.
Well said Trailblazer.
No one asked my opinion at the Harbour Fair and I didn’t see the questionaire. Oh you mean the map with stickers on it: it must have changed drastically throughout the afternoon!
A MULTIPLEX really translates into parking from Port Place to Milton Street.
You get a good view of the estuary from the green space up the bank. I want to see our little town . . .
Click to access Wellcox.pdf
. . . start providing good green jobs to entice our finest back from Fort MacMurray.
. . .
As a waterfront town residents of Nanaimo have little access to it.
Compared to the wonderful beach at Parksville we have little to offer the locals or the occasional visitor.
Generally speaking access & observation of the water is by governed by financial ability.
There has been absolutlely NO discussion or decision to make this better for the majority of those that reside in Nanaimo.
In short .
Nanaimo’s civic decisions have been decided by a select few who would deny the majority of access & enjoyment of our waterfront.
The Swi la na park is an obvious example.
This park was raped to provide a ‘waterfont experience” to potential condo owners which so far has not occured.
When will we realise that our greatest asset are our own inhabitants?
Give them better jobs & freedom to move & we will all be the better for it.
South downtown WATERFRONT initiative.
First off let’s get the labels right! South Downtown Waterfront Initiative is not downtown, it is not on the waterfront, a white awning does not a Fair make and a bus ride is not an initiative. This is a snow job.
I attended the Fair: not the bus ride.
Everyone wants a Mulitplex: who’d a thought!
Wellcox, i.e. SDWFI, is removed from the downtown: two kilometers, walking, Bastion to property center point. The very substantial Assembly Wharf separates the property from the water!
Did Lord Stanley need a phalanx of hangers on to create Stanley Park?
Did Frederick Law Olmsted need an academic minder to keep him from running away with Central Park: he won the competition.
Did Capability Brown need a bevy of consultants and a bus ride to design the gardens at Hampton Court and 169 other English Parks and gardens? Of course not!
Did either of them need public approval? They certainly got it when the work was done.
Yet Nanaimo needs a VIU controller, two local landscape firms, an out of town crowd control consultant, maybe one hundred approving somnambulating fair-going souls, and the work hasn’t even got off the ground!
Where are the green jobs?
This reeks of manipulation: keep the natives distracted while off shore speculators sweep up.
What this town needs DESPARATELY is an engaged public: bring ’em on!
“What this town needs DESPARATELY is an engaged public”. Dead on Roger. But how do you get people who can’t pay attention to the budgeting process to be interested in anything but more candies.