Old ideas die hard in the dark – the Plywood Site

Updated with my initial statement added first. And some grammar and other errors cleaned up.

Here are my thoughts on this issue… It’s not the direction I would have preferred simply because of past experience. Other communities have gone in different directions and have being growing while we stagnate. I can’t help but believe this direction will not help with our growth and evolution as a community and I hope it does not stunt the already raging successes that have come from the very modest investments at canal beach.

Addition:  For clarity and completeness I should add that the majority of Council voted to move ahead with this sale in order to give another chance for a maritime business to take hold or expand on that property as was the original intent of the covenant that restricted the property’s use to Industrial. My misgivings about process, direction and vision that I outline in detail below notwithstanding, I do see the merit of trying to attract more maritime business to the area.

As you will now know from the Mayor’s release from in-camera last night (Agenda – Video of announcement), the City has a tentative agreement to sell Lots A and B of the former “Plywood Site” to Canadian Alberni Engineering for $250,000.  A public notice of the sale will now be posted.  Council authorized the sale in-camera and without public consultation.  There will be no further votes on the sale as far as I know.  Personally, I have been against this direction from the start.

If this all sounds familiar it is because we have gone through all of this before.  You can read my previous thoughts on the issue at length here (“So the Beach” April 2014), here (“Letter to Council” May 2014), here (“Potential” June 2014), here (“Working and Living” June 2014), and last but certainly not least, here (“Fear” July 2015).

20140425-071845
A concept for full park use of A and C from 2014.

For background: Lot A is the beach land beside Canal Beach on the other side of the fence where the log salvage operation is and random junk and debris is stored.

Lot B is above Lot A with the parking lot that is currently used, for free, by WFP as a place to store empty trucks and piles of lumber and other things as well as overflow parking during the packed events at Canal Beach.

The conditions in the new deal are similar to those set out for the Lease a couple years ago through the Port Authority also to CAE.  The big differences are that the timelines were shorter before, and there wasn’t the actual sale of the land (it was to be leased), nor was there the passing of the liability of the contamination to CAE.  There is no requirement to clean the contamination.

Here are the current conditions put on the sale

The property is being sold for $250,000 to a numbered company headed up by Canadian Maritime Engineering, parent company to Canadian Alberni Engineering.

  • The purchaser assumes responsibility for the contamination on the lands and save the City harmless from any liability, including remediation costs for contamination.
  •   The purchaser has 90 days to be satisfied in respect to due diligence investigations regarding the land and its suitability for development.
  • A development covenant between the City and the purchaser will require the owner to commence industrial use activities on the land within 36 months including construction of site improvements with a construction value of not less than $500,000.

    The sale does not include Lot C, known at Canal Beach, and does not alter the current use of that property as a public beach.

I’m going to borrow some quotes from my previous posts since it all has been said before… and that is worth emphasizing.

First, on the prospects for jobs from this development.  Below is a quote from the 2010 PAPA report which envisioned redeveloping the entire site including what is now Canal Beach.

 If this goal is met, total direct employment would rise to 30 jobs and total direct plus indirect employment would rise to 45 jobs.”

Considering we are now only talking about Lots A and B, I can only assume the potential number of jobs created will be less than 30.

Another quote, this time of my own words:

 Port Alberni is the only major City on southern Vancouver Island that has had declining or stagnant population over the past 40 years. All other cities have grown. We need new ideas.  A once thriving, job-rich patch of land churning out money and products that has since sat fallow and contaminated for 20 years without a plan or direction as it was hoped industry would come back again. It hasn’t.

I am willing to predict that in the next 36 months (3 years for the mathematically challenged… I need a calculator sometimes :)), if this deal is approved, the land will again sit as is without the ‘required’ $500,000 investment.  This also means the tax revenue from the land assessment only will be negligible.  I hope I am wrong.

In 2007, the City had planned alternatives if “plan A” didn’t work out.

“If, after a suitable period e.g. 5-10 years, prospects for appropriate heavy industrial development are not acceptable, the City and Port may consider a ‘backup’ plan that includes:

And they go on to list redevelopment into a residential, commercial and recreational space assuming they can get the restrictive covenant from WFP lifted.

Here is the image from that 2007 report of a proposed redevelopment.
Screen-Shot-2014-06-03-at-1.55.52-PM-900x670

It has now been 9 years since that report was published.  More than that since the public consultation.  Here is what that area looks like now. Apologies to Canal Beach for not doing it justice but Google Earth has not updated its imagery since the new work.
Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 9.59.08 AM

 

 

Here is more what it actually looks like now:

Lot C: (Canal Beach)

IMG_2209

 

Lot B: (Upper Portion) It is unknown whether this lot will remain open to accommodate events in future)

IMG_2205

Given the incredibly hot real estate market now would be the perfect time to poke some developers into finding creative and exciting, and frankly major tax revenue generating ideas for redevelopment of this site.

My picture in my head of just one possibility. (I know some people don’t like condos, but I am just putting this out there as an ‘alternative’.  Wouldn’t it be nice to hear about all the possibilities people might dream up?).

CanalBeach

 

Which one would generate more public enjoyment and benefit to the community and more tax revenue to the City?

I will likely say something along these lines at the next council meeting… at which point all that can be done is to wait and hope for the best.

7 thoughts on “Old ideas die hard in the dark – the Plywood Site”

  1. Ever the outlier, it would seem. The herd, it seems, doesn’t like operating in the public sphere. Reminds me a little of the Clark/Coleman axis.

  2. Chris.
    One line in your commentary really rang true for me. “I can’t help but believe this direction will not help with our growth and evolution as a community.”
    A community is not the town but the people in it, and if those people are not given the opportunity to be a part of deciding what is best for the town, there is no sense of community.
    I don’t think this decision by council will do much to help us lose the stigma of worst place to live in Canada either. After all, who wants to live where they’re not even acknowledged let alone appreciated.

  3. I am deeply inclined to agree with Ron Receiver, for the most part. It would seem that the people of Port Alberni have been disenfranchised, and rendered voiceless in a due process. The terms of sale should have be been revised at the very least to include a co-operative of responsibility regarding the environmental clean-up. I tend to think that monies were paid to the city in the initial sale from the previous tenant to cover the foreseeable costs. Regardless, there are pro’s and cons to this sale. Should a maritime company build on the two sites indicated, it seems that they should have to disclose a book of business to illustrate viability for the near term. God forbid they don’t have the contracts in place, and a solid marketing plan to be credible. All the valley needs, and indeed the waterfront, is another unused, monstrosity derelict of employment futures. Moreover, an agreement to establish environmental stewardship should have been inlaid to the sale. Too much damage has been done over the decades, and is only now being repaired and restored. Perhaps the previous ugliness is one contributing factor to the worst place to live moniker. The waterfront is now gaining traction from a industrial/tourism vantage point. That should not be allowed to fail. There should be a strong and public vision point for said Canadian Alberni Engineering’s future plans. I am not a taxpayer, but am a very interested individual in the future of Port Alberni. Too many poor decisions have led to record lows in employment, and a corresponding decline in culture and spirit regarding the town’s viability. Yet, there is so much going for it on the other side of the coin; but the city must listen to its residents regarding the utility of its natural resources, and the disposition of its feature properties.

    1. I can tell you that I have never seen any such prospect for actual work expected on the site from CAE. That doesn’t mean it does not exist, but I have never seen anything.

      Further, when the City was granted the land from M&B for $1 in 1993, it was with the full knowledge that the site was contaminated. No monies were provided for potential cleanup and the site was left with a covenant, as I mentioned, that restricts it to industrial use only and specifically nothing that would develop ‘overnight accommodation’.

  4. Definitely some waterfront residential development is a much needed improvement to our fine city. And having the tax revenues would be a bonus for us as well. I really don’t think that even if this company were to develop it as some type of industrial site, it is the best use of the waterfront property.

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