Historic Nunavut buildings may get commercial zoning next month
But some residents think permissible uses are too broad for Iqaluit’s HBC buildings
Iqaluit’s historic Hudson Bay Co. buildings could soon be granted limited commercial uses if Iqaluit city councillors vote in favour next month of rezoning the properties.
Planning and development director, Melodie Simard, explained at a council meeting Sept. 27 that a new sub-classification developed for the HBC buildings under the city’s zoning bylaw will permit commercial activities to take place on the lot under strict guidelines.
The rezoning would correct an administrative error—discovered by the city last year—which classified the HBC buildings as “open area zones” despite a local business operating on the lot since 1999.
That company, Red Boat Properties Ltd., whose CEO is Iqaluit resident Kirt Ejesiak, leases the HBC lot from the North West Co. and uses one of the buildings as an office.
A spokesperson for the company told city council last December that Red Boat Properties plans to turn the other HBC building into a craft store or artist studio.
“We had to address that when we found out [the classification], because we run our businesses out of there. We want to continue to be able to use it. If it stays open [zone], we can’t,” Ken Spencer, Red Boat’s property manager, told councillors, Dec. 9, 2015.
City administrators began to look closely at the buildings’ zoning designation after Iqaluit resident and HBC lot neighbor, Susan Cooper, voiced concerns.
Last year, a representative, speaking on behalf of Cooper, argued against plans by city staff to rezone the lot into a “B2” business commercial lot, which permits broad uses such as establishing a gas bar, hotel or shopping plaza.
Under the new amendment, the listed commercial activities for the HBC buildings are more restrictive, allowing only: business services; custom workshop; day care centre; eating or drinking establishment; educational facility; hotel; medical facility; office; place of assembly; retail store, or; research and development centre.
However, no new buildings or additions to the properties are allowed without first obtaining permission from the city, which “requires that the heritage character of the property is respected and preserved.”
During a public hearing, held before regular city council Sept. 27, Cooper lobbied for preservation of the historic buildings and voiced concerns about the list of acceptable commercial activities within the zoning amendment, in a letter read to council by Simard.
“While the list of permitted uses is restricted from what was originally proposed, there is still the potential for a wide range of uses within those permitted. Some of which may not be in keeping with a heritage site designation,” Cooper said.
Cooper called for a larger discussion by residents of Apex and Iqaluit on the future of the HBC lot.
“It is an area widely used by residents, all of whom have an interest in the manner in which the area develops,” she said, calling on the city to exercise control over the “actual uses to which the building is put.”
Having passed its second reading, the rezoning amendment will appear for a third and final reading before ratification by council at the next city meeting, scheduled for Oct. 11. But third reading is usually a rubber stamp since most bylaw debates occur at second reading.
The HBC buildings on Apex Beach date to 1949, when the company moved its Frobisher Bay operations from Ward Inlet to Apex.
In 1955, the federal government built the satellite community of Apex near the HBC buildings.
In 1984, the HBC warehouse on the Apex Beach site was moved across the sea ice to Iqaluit, where it was renovated. It now houses the Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum.