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Commercial plaza with coffee shop, dollar store in north end of Ladysmith receives permit

Development permit issued for shopping plaza at 1130 Rocky Creek Rd.
Artist’s renderings of a commercial plaza proposed for Rocky Creek Road in the north end of Ladysmith. (Urban Design Group Architects Ltd. image)

A commercial plaza in the north end of the town has gotten the go-ahead.

Ladysmith town council, at a meeting Sept. 20 at the Ladysmith Seniors Centre, voted to issue a development permit and a variance permit to allow for a shopping plaza at 1130 Rocky Creek Rd.

The applicant intends to build a 2,250-square-foot coffee shop with a drive-thru, a 10,350-square-foot dollar store and another 7,500-square-foot building with space for six retail units.

The variance permit allows the developer to build retaining walls one metre higher than would otherwise be permitted.

Mayor Aaron Stone said the proposal will be a dramatic improvement for a property that has languished for two decades.

“I’m not necessarily a huge fan of the specific proposed businesses in here, but they do serve a market need that’s under-serviced in Ladysmith and for folks to have access to those opportunities would require them to either drive or have other transportation to places like Nanaimo,” he said. “So although they might not fit everyone’s sensibilities, our aim is to have a complete community that somebody who lives here can really access without having to leave town. I think there’s a place for this sort of thing.”

During discussion, council briefly debated the proposed construction fencing that will be set up around the Phase 2 portion of the development.

“I just wish we could have a better-looking product,” said Coun. Marsh Stevens. “My worry is … this is a gateway-to-the-town project and with a softer market, the second phase might not get built for who knows? Ideally it would be less than six months but [what] if it got into two, three, four years with a tattered fence?”

Council approved the development permit with Marsh opposed.

The meeting was a chance for council to get back into the swing of things after taking a bit of a summer break with only one meeting in August.

The Sept. 20 meeting at the seniors centre represented a change as now council meetings, committee of the whole meetings and other meetings with potential for large public turnouts will be held there.

The move was made because the public seating, in the former council chambers, could not handle the crowds that sometimes attend council meetings. The new meeting digs will be able to handle double what the old room did, and citizens will still be able to view live-streams of the meetings as well.

The first piece of business on the agenda was the public hearing for Lot 5 at Holland Creek, which was followed by third reading.

The developer is seeking to build 170 single-family and townhouses, and there will be suites and laneways. The amended version of the plan has more than 30 per cent of the 17-hectare parcel as dedicated park and also includes up to five kilometres of trails. The development will be on the south side of Holland Creek and include a crossing over the creek.

“We feel good this project has an opportunity to participate in the planning and realize the vision of the OCP as well as bringing real affordability to the marketplaces within Ladysmith,” said Paul Fenske, principal with Ekistics Town Planning Inc.

Several council members praised the plan including Stevens who said it’s something to be proud of.

“We started with essentially a plot of land that was going to have provision for single-family homes and estate homes and we’ve ended up with a real crazy mix of great uses and a lot of affordability, a lot of active transportation and alleyways and all the great things…” he said. “I think we’ve really ended up with perhaps one of the best-zoned neighbourhoods, if I can be so bold, that we’ve maybe ever seen in modern times here.”

Stone said he would call the plan a “complete neighbourhood” rather than a “crazy mix” but also listed several aspects of the plan that he liked including protection of environmentally sensitive areas. He noted that the development will be concentrated on previously cleared land and the community will benefit from the park land for years to come.

Coun. Tricia McKay said the land has always been earmarked for development and said it’s exciting that plans have reached this stage.

“I realize the crossing is still to be seen, but I’m optimistic that if the same amount of integrity … and willingness to accommodate that’s gone into the designing and the layout of the project, fingers crossed, I’m optimistic that the crossing will also be acceptable,” she said.

Third reading of the bylaw passed unanimously.

The 2023 Town of Ladysmith council meeting schedule was presented to councillors for approval. It includes all council meetings as well as committee of the whole meetings. Council will meet on the first and third Tuesdays of each month, except for August when the meeting will be only the first Tuesday. Committee of the whole meetings will be every other month, starting in January, on the third Tuesday.

Ladysmith Unparalleled official community plan was presented for first reading from town staff. The bylaw requires the town to present to the Agricultural Land Commission as well as to Stz’uminus First Nation, the Cowichan Valley Regional District, the Regional District of Nanaimo, the Municipality of North Cowichan, the Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group, Snuneymuxw First Nation, Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools, B.C. Hydro and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure for feedback.

The town’s permissive tax exemption bylaw was back for third reading. At the previous meeting staff had recommended that the resources centre building at 314 Buller St. be granted 20 per cent exemption, but at the time of third reading Coun. Duck Paterson made an amendment that the 20 per cent be raised to 70 per cent. He stated that the town does 100 per cent for the two housing units run by the Lions Club and more could be done for the new building on Buller Street as its intent is to provide affordable housing. Stone agreed but felt that 100 per cent would be more appropriate and the amended motion, for 100 per cent permissive tax exemption, was granted for one year.

Stone then excused himself from the meeting as the next item was a request for a 10-year permissive tax exemption for the Island Corridor Foundation on lands it owns within the town. The exemption was passed.

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