A proposal for a five storey mixed-use building on the site of the former Lorne Hotel in downtown Comox has taken a step forward, with a request from council to hold an open house about the project for the public.
A rezoning and development permit applications were given first and second reading at Wednesday’s council meeting, but council unanimously approved a motion to host an open house to introduce the project to the entire community.
With Mayor Paul Ives stepping away from the council chambers due to a conflict of interest, council took the first step for the construction of a five-storey mixed use building with a pub, liquor store and bistro on the ground floor, and 21 residential units on the remaining four floors.
Developer Shawn Vincent of Simba Investments Ltd. told council when the iconic Lorne burnt to the ground in February 2011, “there was a lot of emotions,” he explained of what was reportedly the community’s first hotel and the oldest licensed drinking establishments in B.C.
“Many people have very fond memories of the Lorne.”
He added two years ago he met with Lorne Hotel owner George Kacavenda to talk about redevelopment and considered a variety of factors including insurance, economics and the condo market.
The first designs were created last August, and based on feedback from Town staff and planners, Vincent, along with architect Harry 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.
“There will be no limitations on rentals, there will be no age restrictions. We have committed to initiatives found in other communities such as price reductions fro people who don’t have vehicles, cars taken on trade for a deposit, offering a car co-op program for residents, and extra class one and two bike storage,” he said.
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.
“There was a lot of work put into the design of the building to recreate a feeling that the grand old Lorne Hotel had. It will offer a bit of vitalization to the downtown and provide a place for people to congregate,” Vincent added.
Whitfield explained the pub would have a maximum capacity of 150 patrons, with the bistro capable of seating 60. The parking will be at the rear of the building and will be covered and there will be separate entrances for residential and commercial users.
Coun. Patti Fletcher asked because of the emotion attached to the former building and the sense of community ownership of the space, if it would be possible to host an open house for the entire community prior to the public hearing.
Coun. Hugh MacKinnon said he supports the idea of opening the design for public feedback.
“I think the history and legacy of the site deserves a broader public meeting to generate excitement about downtown revitalization and promote and share excitement of the the site,” he noted.
“We don’t want the perception to become reality that the community wasn’t involved. I anticipate it being a positive thing.”
Noting the project is far enough down the road, Coun. Ken Grant said he doesn’t believe anyone in the community “doesn’t know what’s going on.”
“If the public makes changes (to the design), it’s getting pretty late for that … we have to be careful to ask for feedback because the Town (staff) has already vetted (the application). The cost will go up; you have to be careful inviting change. You’re getting into a big can of worms.”
He asked Richard Kanigan, the Town’s chief administrative officer, what the delay and procedure might be for a second open house.
Kanigan explained it might be a bit confusing to the public to hold an open house following first and second reading, if significant changes are needed based upon feedback, the bylaws may have to be brought back or amendments made prior to going to public hearing.
“The application has met the requirement for public process,” he added.
He noted there would be of a delay with an open house, but the Town would do what they can to schedule a meeting as soon as possible.