Proponents behind a proposed new hotel next to CN Centre hope to open their doors before the 2015 Canada Winter Games.
On Tuesday afternoon, council approved the first two readings of a zoning and official community plan amendment application for a city-owned Ospika Boulevard property.
The application is being made to facilitate the sale of a one hectare lot, directly south of the CN Centre main entrance.
The proposal was placed on a special agenda to meet the timelines of the developer, said planning director Ian Wells.
"The developer's hoping to be starting in the ground after fourth reading in November and trying to get foundations in and complete the project by the Canada Winter Games," he said.
A four-storey hotel is proposed for a one-hectare plot in Exhibition Park, which would require the redesignation of the area from a mix of parks and open space and neighbourhood corridor under the OCP to only neighbourhood corridor.
A new corresponding policy would be added to the OCP stating the city "should consider allowing other commercial uses within the neighbourhood corridor designation at Exhibition Park that support and complement the park's special purpose use and the Ospika Boulevard corridor..."
Coun. Brian Skakun said he had some issues with the proposed addition, particularly with the addition of a new hotel outside of the downtown core.
"I think that if we really want to keep the momentum going with the downtown development that a facility like that should be built downtown," he said, noting he's heard the same sentiment echoed by other residents.
Skakun also expressed some discontent over the proposed OCP change.
"We went through a lengthy process in 2005 with what we wanted to see happen [at Exhibition Park]. Now we're trying to fit something in there that doesn't belong," he said, but added his mind isn't made up.
The Exhibition Park master plan, adopted in late 2005, highlights the proposed property as a potential park area. According to the document, if the area is to have a park-like character, "it cannot receive any new facilities that would occupy the precious little green space that is included in the Master Plan."
Council's approval opens the door for the application to go to public consultation. An open house on the OCP amendment will be held Oct. 22 at the Kin Centre Lounge from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., with an overview presentation beginning at 6 p.m. A public hearing will be held at a council meeting prior to third reading next month.
According to the staff report, impact on local roads or surrounding neighbourhoods will be mitigated by the hotel sharing the same access used for major events at CN Centre. There is also a proposed secondary right-in/right-out access from the hotel site onto Ospika Boulevard.
The staff report also said the "biggest opportunity" with the proposal is the "off-site improvements that are proposed for the entrance to the CN Centre." These inlclude retrofitting the main entrance with tree-lined boulevards, a 1.8-metre sidewalk and pedestrian lighting.
"In addition, the hotel development would include upgrade to the Ospika Boulevard sidewalks, and the installation of a new bus stop along Ospika Boulevard," the report said.
"I think it's a good news story that yet another hotel is looking to come to our community," said Coun. Cameron Stolz, who also inquired whether any additional land would be cleared at Exhibition Park to make up for what would be lost by the new building.
According to Wells, that's not in the works right now.
"As we go through the civic facilities review for next year, we'll take a look at Exhibition Park as one of those areas," said Wells.