The city's Planning Advisory Committee voted in favour of continuing with a report to rezone a portion of land for Nipissing University to build a new student centre on Wednesday night.
Wheels are in motion for Nipissing University to build a brand new stand-alone Student Union Building in the near future.
On Wednesday night, North Bay’s Planning Advisory Committee held a public meeting at City Hall regarding the rezoning of 1.2 hectares of property across from the existing Nipissing University entrance.
The committee voted in favour of moving forward with the proposal and will now be referred to planning staff for a report, merely the next step in seeing the student centre come to fruition.
“They were going to build their new student centre as part of the University building and through several changes and conflicts, that didn’t happen,” said Rick Miller of Miller and Urso Surveying Inc.
“Both the university and the student union feel this is a better proposal to have a stand-alone facility,” he continued.
According to Miller, the university has owned the land for quite some time and is proposing that only a portion of that property be rezoned for the purposes of the facility.
The property is currently zoned as “residential holding,” which permits the use of agriculture, forestry, cemeteries and conservation areas, among others. In order to see the project progress and begin development, the property needs to be rezoned as “institutional.”
While no specific building plans have been formalized, Miller estimated that the facility would be upwards of 10,000 square feet in size and would house numerous new features.
Miller said the primary feature of the new facility would be a new student bar. The old pub, The Wall, has been the subject of a long-standing dispute between the Nipissing University Student Union, Canadore Student Representative Council and the schools.
Last September, a legal dispute between both schools and their respective student unions resulted in upwards of $6 million in student fees being held in trust for the construction of the new student centre facility.
The website for The Wall currently states, “the venue is currently being restructured to serve you better in a more accountable and transparent way.“
“They couldn’t come to an agreement, I guess, in respect to having it within the current configuration of Nipissing University and Canadore College, so the best compromise was to have a second building,” said Ed Valenti, chair of the committee.
Miller also said the university has expressed interest in establishing new student study areas, an outdoor park area and perhaps even a fast-food feature like a Tim Hortons drive through.
“I think it’s great to see that the university is expanding, which is always a positive thing,” Valenti added.
The potential new facility will remain in the university’s ownership, essentially giving the NUSU a long-term lease of the centre.
As committee member Coun. Dave Mendicino pointed out during the meeting, this project will be the first construction of any kind on the east side of College Drive.
The university apparently does not have any other plans for the remaining land on that side, which is why the entire lot isn’t being requested for rezoning at this time.
“The university is looking at what, potentially, they want to do with the balance of it,” Miller said of the university’s land. “We discussed bringing the whole property forward for rezoning, but it was felt that because their plans are incomplete for the rest of it, we would only deal with this one specific portion at this time.”
The Planning Advisory Committee meeting is the first step an application must go through before the committee can advise council on land use issues related to specific development proposals. The committee consists of both elected councillors and people appointed by council.
The planning report will now go back to the committee in order to formulate a recommendation report to City Council, who will ultimately make the final decision for the rezoning.