A proposed seniors housing project at 611 Vernon St. in Nelson, first announced two years ago, will start construction in the spring.
At its Oct. 13 meeting, council approved two variance requests — one for a building height increase of 2.5 metres and the other for a four per cent increase in lot coverage — from Kelowna-based Vendure Retirement Communities.
The company intends to build a 125-unit complex on the large empty lot across the street from the Adventure Hotel, currently used for private parking.
The project would offer rental units to seniors, as well as assisted living services provided by nurses and other staff for a fee.
“We are forecasting our lease rates for one and two bedroom units to fall in the range of $2,000 to $3,500 per month,” Vendure’s co-owner Joseph Schlacter wrote in a 2018 email to the Nelson Star, “varying on size, location and number of residents within the suite. Our assisted living fees are based on the residents’ specific needs, therefore will vary and be determined accordingly.”
The six-storey building would rise four floors above Vernon Street with two storeys below the street, the lowest being a parking level. The alley side of the building will also include some public parking. Commercial space is planned for the Vernon Street level, probably medically related businesses such as doctors or therapists.
Concerns about energy use
In the discussion of the variance, Councillor Rik Logtenberg suggested the company be required to use electric heat to create a low greenhouse gas footprint and that it be required to join the EcoSave energy retrofit program. City planner Natalie Andrijancic said that such a requirement can not be imposed at this stage but that the planning department would discuss this with the owner who might agree to it.
City building inspector Sam Ellison pointed out that the company will be required to build to Step 2 of the B.C. Energy Step Code in any event.
The Step Code is a series of five steps, each with increasingly advanced energy saving standards. Step 1 is the status quo, Step 2 means increasing efficiency above the status quo by 10 per cent, Step 3 by 20 per cent, and Step 4 by 40 per cent. The fifth step is a net-zero building that produces as much energy as it uses.
Ellison recently reported to council that most new buildings in Nelson are already voluntarily building to a Step 3 level.
Logtenberg also suggested the building be required to hook into the proposed district energy system, which would provide heat to a number of downtown buildings either from biomass fuel from nearby forests or from a water-source heat pump in Kootenay Lake.
Mayor John Dooley said the district energy system would have to be beyond the concept stage before the city could require this of the developer, and Councillor Keith Page suggested it could be built so that it could be easily converted to a district energy system later.
Dooley and city manager Kevin Cormack said that any such requirements of the developer would need to have been raised in an earlier stage of the development proposal.