The Snuneymuxw First Nation is disappointed Nanaimo city council has let a large development proceed to the next step.
At a meeting on Monday, council passed the third reading for rezoning the former Howard Johnson hotel site on Terminal Avenue.
While it’s becoming more of an eyesore as time passes, there are big plans to transform the 7.2-acre property — yet the region’s First Nation says they haven’t been meaningfully consulted, which needs to change.
“Snuneymuxw isn’t anti-development or anti-projects. We just want to do it the right way and a fair way for this site,” Bill Yoachim, Snuneymuxw’s Acting Chief, said in an interview with CHEK News.
“More work is going to be needed because it’s a historical village site and there are fisheries and there’s much more to it, so there’s a conversation to be had. Unfortunately, it hasn’t got to that spot at this point.”
The development is slated to have 760 residential units, a 120-room hotel, more than 1,000 square meters of commercial space, and a small park.
At the meeting Monday, city council unanimously passed the third reading of a rezoning for the property — but not before Nanaimo’s mayor clarified council’s position.
“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, and I appreciate that if Snuneymuxw has claims that they believe are legitimate, there are appropriate avenues for them to pursue them,” said Mayor Leonard Krog.
“It is not either appropriate nor our obligation nor responsibility of us to make decisions based on the concerns that are raised.”
Bill Yoachim says while the first nation has had rocky relations with the city, it’s been better since the Snuneymuxw flag started flying again at Nanaimo’s city hall in 2020.
“We thought we had a process to discuss this with the city and that never took place. It’s somewhat disappointing considering everyone is championing reconciliation,” said Yoachim.
The First Nation lodged its concerns with the process and the development in a letter submitted for the city’s recent public hearing.
Neighbour Wendy Payne spoke against the rezoning at a public hearing because of views being blocked from her apartment along with noise and dust concerns during construction. She says the First Nation should be properly consulted.
“We’re trying to do reconciliation,n so how is that reconciliation when their concerns aren’t given any credence at all? I think they have to revisit and do it again,” said Payne.
The First Nation says it hopes there’s a fair resolution before city council gives the project’s rezoning a final approval.