Nanaimo Council denies permit for tiny cabin on Protection Island

By Dominic Abassi
April 2, 2019 - 6:27pm

A view of the lot where a property owner was asking to build a small cabin.Alfredo Tura/City of Nanaimo

NANAIMO — A Protection Island property owner will not be allowed to build a dream vacation cabin.

On Monday night, Nanaimo councillors denied a development permit for a tiny, 50-square-metre cabin at 25 Spyglass Lookout. The cabin would have been perched on piles within a grassy meadow on a narrow piece of land protruding out from the island, facing into Nanaimo's inner harbour.

The permit asked for significant variances, including placing the cabin only half as far away from the sea as required.

Several Protection Island residents spoke against the proposal, citing current community use and enjoyment of the private land, as well as concerns about environmental and ecological impacts. A City staff report said the lot was home to a grassy meadow and a rare Garry oak ecosystem with many endangered plants and animals. But, the report noted the cabin was proposed to be built outside the Garry oak trees.

A similar permit application for the lot was denied in 2004, the staff report said.

Coun. Erin Hemmens questioned why staff even recommended approval of the permit.

"This is a variance that is right on the ocean, in a sensitive environmental area, going against our own policies. I can't support it. I understand why you want to live there, I want to live there because it's glorious. But I just can't reconcile this in my mind," Hemmens said.

Property owner Alfredo Tura told Council he fell in love with the property and fully understood the challenges with building on the lot. He said he consulted with the Protection Island Neighbourhood Association and wanted to maintain park-style access to the land while protecting the Garry oak area. Tura also noted a need to mitigate some negative impacts from public use, like litter and small fires.

"We have development regulations in place to protect the ecological integrity of areas and there is no way to build on this property without infringing on those regulations," coun. Ben Geselbracht said, pointing to the years of community enjoyment of the property.

Mayor Leonard Krog spoke strongly in support of the proposal, saying the lot was approved by a previous council which gives the implication the owner is allowed to live on it and enjoy it.

"You are asking the owner to essentially leave this as a park for the use and enjoyment of others," Krog said. "I am not prepared to say to a single citizen...we want it preserved as a park but we're not prepared to pay for it and haven't paid for it. This has been a private lot for well over 50 years and I'm not prepared to turn to a public owner and say 'Sorry, you get to provide a public park at your expense for the enjoyment of the rest of us.'"

Coun. Ian Thorpe rebutted the mayor, saying they are not telling the owner he can't build on his property.

"What we're being asked to do tonight is approve variances and to me those are significant...I sympathize with the owner, but I am simply not prepared to grant those variances in this situation," Thorpe said.

The permit was denied by a 5-3 vote. Councillors Sheryl Armstrong and Jim Turley joined Krog in support, while coun. Zeni Maartman was absent.


[email protected]

On Twitter: @domabassi

Unidentified remains map sees great success in first week