Ascending the Summit: approval given for new venture in Land Titles Office building
City Hall is getting a new neighbour.
A bylaw amendment has been approved for the former Land Title Office on Vernon Street to house the Summit Psychology Group, a company poised to provide expanded health services for the city.
Fourth reading and adoption of the amendment were passed by City council on Jan. 9 during its regular meeting in council chambers at City Hall, with “No negative impacts have been identified,” in the proposal, said City planner Valerie Berthier in her report on the matter.
The former Land Titles Office site will be re-zoned to a C1-core commercial zone, which would allow “health services” as a permitted use on the premises. The designation will allow two of the new owners — Dr. Helen Peel and Robin Swift — to move their psychology practice (Summit Psychology Group) into the building and allow for an expansion of the business.
There will be a “minimal renovation” of the main floor (1,900 square feet) which will add four extra offices to the existing three, as well as an accessible bathroom for clients with disabilities. The building will remain one unit, with parts of the building used for groups, a staff lounge — three full-time and 13 part time staff — and storage.
With the building considered a heritage site, some considerations had to be given to retain certain aspects of the building.
A condition of the rezoning was that a statement of significance for the building be updated and that a heritage covenant “in favour of the City was registered on title.”
The building has been vacant for several years but it was previously used as government offices, including the Land Title Office and the B.C. Emergency Program. It was purchased in spring 2023 by Summit Psychology Group with the intent of moving its existing psychology practice into the building to expand business and services for the community.
“The new zoning is consistent with adjacent parcels and incorporates the subject property into the ‘core commercial’ zone,” said Berthier. “It also allows for greater flexibility in permitted commercial use, potentially preventing vacancies in the long run.”
She added that the proposal was in alignment with City policies and the OCP (Official Community Plan) guidelines, which promote the concentration of commercial activities and services within the downtown core area, rather than dispersing them in peripheral neighbourhoods.
“By keeping their practice in the downtown area, Summit Psychology Group will be able to maintain the accessibility and level of health care services for residents and adjacent regional areas,” said Berthier.
Cresting the Summit
Summit Psychology Group has been providing local jobs and excellent mental health care in Nelson for 21 years.
“We currently have a three-year wait list for therapy services and an eight-month wait list for assessments because we do not have enough office space for much needed expansion. Re-zoning “Verna” would allow us to employ six extra staff, expanding the local jobs provided by our business to 13,” a proposal to City council from Summit read.
The proposed re-zoning would allow Summit to complete 40 private autism assessments per year for children locally (at present families have to travel to Kelowna or Vancouver for this service). Summit would also be able to provide the first local, multi-disciplinary trauma treatment clinic (funded by WorkSafeBC and Veterans Affairs).
“At the moment, local injured workers (including police, RCMP, first responders and veterans) who require this service have to travel to Guelph, Ont. or to Victoria. We anticipate treating 10 patients per week in this clinic,” read a proposal from Summit on the move.
Access to health care has been identified as a need for Nelson since the 2008 OCP. Summit serves local frontline health care workers (physicians, surgeons, midwives, nurse practitioners, paramedics, etc.) for whom burn out rates are known to be disproportionately high.
“Although we prioritize service to these groups, unfortunately they can still face a wait of up to 12 months for treatment. Re-zoning would allow us to treat our local health care practitioners promptly so that they are psychologically healthy and able to continue to serve the community. In this way we anticipate that re-zoning would have a direct positive impact on the current primary health care crisis facing the Kootenays,” a Summit proposal read.
“We have provided quality treatment services to adults for many years but have been unable to support children, youth and families due to lack of space. Re-zoning would also allow us to take on a child psychologist and a registered clinical counsellor, specifically, to provide treatment to this demographic.
The proposed re-zoning would also allow Summit to provide group treatment and psycho-educational groups for all age groups — something it has not had space for until now.
Source: Summit Psychology Group proposal