Submitted to the Alberni Valley News this morning:
There is a simple solution to the Harbourview Lands question. The treed “park” area which has stood the same for most of the past 100 years (if not much longer) and has an active eagle’s nest right now, is only one portion of the area under consideration.
As far as following current use, I’d argue the proposed area can be seen as the following three pieces: The mostly dirt “parking lot” property alongside Kingsway; the grassy treed “park” area on the bluff bounded by the wood logs, the WFP owned railway, and Argyle; and the “upper parking” dirt area which presumably is where the sea cadet building once sat.
As a compromise, Council can create two new properties with one making the existing “park” official, and the other combining the two dirt parking areas into one property for easier development. We then end up with two very similar sized properties, one permanently public and one for development so the community’s legitimate competing desires to preserve what has always been while advancing opportunity for very valuable land would be met.
Creating those properties and confirming those uses in zoning would trigger a public hearing process which I think Council would find the community very supportive of thanks to the compromise but still visionary solution it would propose.
Given the Mayor’s comments on Facebook last Wednesday (which I reproduced in full at the bottom), I think this solution would create a situation where the entire public could much more easily accept a way forward. My biggest concern is the loss of control for what has been effectively public park space for the entire history of the City of the Port Alberni and still having the ability to promote smart development that will take advantage of what Port Alberni has to offer.
This solution, which I map out in the images below, would protect the park space permanently while still keeping very valuable waterfront/view land open for development. Here are the lands:
Here are the actual properties in the area using the official BC Government Land ParcelMap available for Google Earth through BC Open Data. Green are the City owned properties in question. 5350 is the larger “park” property and 5050 is the parking lot next to Kingsway. Yellow is private property. WFP owns the property along Harbour Rd.
Below is the compromise solution I would propose. You end up with two roughly equally sized properties (about 1 acre each). Pink would be the official “park” including a small parking area to ensure people have some level access. Blue would be the development area.
Google Earth measures the resulting park parcel at 1 acre (43,800sqft) and the development parcel at 1.1 acre (48,500sqft). (Google Earth File)
The development would be a little simpler in the sense that it would be one property. The new development property would be larger and with better prospects than if Council only offered the parking lot along Kingsway.
The development property still has unimpeded views to the water and all points south plus a permanent park for future residents to enjoy plus potential to expand further to the south if they bought some of the ample unused property from WFP or the Port Authority.
The resulting park would preserve everything that is being used as park now and ensure it was set aside permanently, none of the large fir trees would be impacted.
I hope the City could consider this kind of compromise.
Note: there are also a couple of laneways or city rights of way involved here that I would propose be removed and made part of the appropriate properties including the lane that goes up beside the Carmoor block which is not needed if there is still access to the park from Kingsway.
P.S. This solution is similar to one proposed by the City Planner in 2013 (during the Mayorship of John Douglas). News article from the time here.
For reference, here are the Mayor’s statements.
👋 Update 👋
For clarity on the Harbourview Lands.
At Monday’s Council meeting, we directed staff to begin writing a request for proposals to bring back to council for review on the Harbourview lands.
Some key considerations:
🗣️ We would like to hear input from First Nations before committing to release RFP
💢The RFP would be open for all or a portion of the lands leaving developers to tell us how much they think is necessary for their potential project
🌲 Clear wording around tree retention will be written into RFP
⛱ RFP will state value given to proposals that enhance the park space around development
💰 The development proposed in 2007 would likely be bringing in over $500k/year currently had it been allowed to go through. That’s $500k every year we could be using to improve our community, enhance our waterfront, pay for a pool, etc.
Currently the bulk of that land is gravel parking lot, not greenspace. And the greenspace that is there could definitely be improved with a boardwalk, art piece, additional shrubs, a First Nations feature etc.
It may sound simple to suggest there are run down buildings in this town or vacant lots and people should develop those first, but those buildings have been available for decades and most have not been touched.
Currently, we have very reputable developers expressing interest in *this* property. We badly need to increase our tax base (and therefore decrease the tax burden on our residents) with quality developments. And with recent news around mill shut downs, crime, LNG, budget, trains, etc we also need to change the narrative about our community to opportunities rather than challenges in the outside world.
I believe if done correctly, a quality development with ample public space on this property could be a catalyst for some very positive improvements in our community.
Please feel free to ask questions or provide input as this process is at very early stages and we’d like to continue to hear community feedback as we progress.