Comox residents came out in droves Wednesday night to view the latest architectural drawings and ask questions to the project manager during a public open house for the proposed Lorne Hotel project.
More than 200 people attended the presentation, which had to be divided into two sessions due to attendance at the d’Esterre House.
The presentation saw project manager Shawn Vincent and architect Harry Whitfield present the most recent drawing and schematics of the proposed five-storey mixed use building. They also fielded questions.
In October, rezoning and development permit applications were given first and second reading by council, but they unanimously approved a motion to host an open house to introduce the project to the entire community.
The first designs were created last August, and based on feedback from Town staff and planners, Vincent along with Whitfield and designer Richard Jasper, presented their latest design in July for an invite-only open house (meeting legal requirements), along with direct consultation with the Comox Town Residents Association.
Vincent told council the condos work with the town’s new revitalization program allowing densification and offering a variety of condo sizes from 700 square feet to penthouse size units of 1,500 square feet.
He told the standing-room only crowd Wednesday there will be no limitations on rentals, and no age restrictions. There will also be a car co-op program for residents and extra class-one and -two bike storage.
Additionally, there will be covered scooter and bike parking on Comox Avenue with plug-ins, 50 per cent of the units will be adaptable, and an hourly wage incentive program for employees of the liquor store and the pub who use transit or take their bike to work.
Questions were raised by attendees who were concerned with parking, particularly for the pub, which would have a maximum capacity of 150 patrons, and a street-side bistro capable of seating 60.
“There will be street parking,” replied Vincent, who added they are following the Town of Comox regulations that no parking is required for a restaurant/pub.
While Vincent attempted to follow questions written in advance by the public, members in attendance peppered him with their concerns, particularly the overall design, height and vision of the project.
“It was designed to reflect the atmosphere of the old Lorne Hotel Pub,” he explained, while people fired back: “it’s a mini-Berwick,” “it’s pretty boring,” “any maritime theme?”
A handful of people spoke in favour of the project, thanking the development team for putting up with the crowd.
“I for one, think it’s a wonderful idea,” said one resident. “I fear meetings like this are only here for people who want to say no.”
During the second session, Town planner Marvin Kamenz explained many issues surrounding design bylaws and the Town’s recently-created downtown vitalization program, which includes tax incentives.
“The only tax exemption is for the municipal tax portion and only for the residential section,” noted Kamenz. “The land is taxed and the commercial space is taxed. The budget council has taken into account that there is no reduction in tax from what was there when the Lorne existed.”
Questions were asked how the building fits into the ‘village by the sea’ aesthetic and why the building has to be five stories high.
“The height issue is a non-starter,” said Comox resident Roger Thomas. “I think it’s a great opportunity for the Town to move ahead and to move into the 21st century. Let’s stop procrastinating and let’s start construction.”
Vincent explained he and owner George Kacavenda looked at three variations of buildings, one which included a 10-storey building, but decided five stories would be most viable.
One resident argued if the proposal gets built, the sudden creation of a “massive structure” will break up the continuity of the downtown core.
“Pretty soon we won’t have Comox By the Sea, but we’ll have Courtenay by the sea,” she said.
Town staff will compile the comments received by the open house and present them to the developer and council.
Mayor Paul Ives told The Record council will review the summery and make a decision whether to proceed with a public hearing or send the project back to second reading if significant changes are required based upon feedback.