Eventually making the right decision is always better than not making it.

On May 13 Council voted down, 2-4 (Councillor Paulson was away) a motion — made by the Mayor and seconded by Councillor Corbeil — to retain ownership of the treed portion of the Harbour View land. On May 27, the Mayor asked Council to reconsider that motion and they did, passing the motion unanimously (6-0).

The City had already committed to leave the trees.

Not long after the first Council meeting, Keith Hunter, a community member in Tseshaht posted a very informative youtube commentary on the issue and how it relates to the City’s recently signed protocol agreement with Tseshaht and the City’s acceptance of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

He pointed out (at 12:32) that by coincidence the regular May issue of the Tseshaht community bulletin was published on May 13, the same day as the first Council meeting. It contained, as it always does, updates from Tseshaht Council, including this (emphasis added):

Harbour View Lands
The City of Port Alberni recently announced that City Council will be putting a Request for Proposals to develop the Harbourview Lands near the Harbour Quay. Our council immediately engaged the City on this topic as the site is of great significance to Tseshaht First Nation. We wanted to ensure that we are adequately engaged in these discussions to protect our interests as a Nation. The City has ensured us that the treed area will be removed from the proposed development and that Tseshaht First Nation will have a chance to review any proposals before City Council goes through the selection process. We also provided some recommendations in the RFP to have our history, interests and values are considered in the proposals.

From the May 2019 issue of Tseshaht Community Bulletin

We can see from this statement direct from Tseshaht Council to their community members that they were under the impression that the City of Port Alberni had already removed the treed area from the RFP.

However, the City Staff report on May 13 had not removed that area from the proposal, and so it was on Council to make that amendement and keep that commitment. They didn’t.

Had the Council followed through on the May 13 direction it would have put the City in direct contradiction with what the City had committed to its partner and neighbour Tseshaht.

It is very good news indeed that the City has lived up to its verbal commitments with Tseshaht First Nation. This is a relationship that is still growing and building so this contradiction could have seriously jeopardized that relationship. Well done to the Mayor and Council for making the right decision.

Now make it a park.

So what happens now to fulfill Council’s direction? Well, if we want to avoid this issue rearing it’s ugly head again (like it did in 2004, 2006, and 2013), the Harbour View Trees area, known locally as Sea Cadet Park, should be designated a Park in the Official Community Plan and the land zoned as such.

Subdivide, Reshape, and Consolidate the Properties.

What do developers like? Simplicity! This will actually make the developers job much easier. I laid this out in a previous post. But here it is again quickly.

BEFORE: Current property situation. City owned in Green, privately owned in Yellow. No colour indicates a statutory right-of-way also controlled by the City.

#1: The City will need to sub-divide 5350 Kingsway, into two properties, 5350 and 5150 (I am guessing on the address of the subdivided piece).

#2: Rezone the new 5350 (Zoning Map here) from CMX2: Southport Downtown Core to a combination of P2 – Parks and Recreational and CMX2 – Southport Downtown Core.

Current zoning.

#3: And update the Official Community Plan to reflect the same direction changing the new 5350 from “General Commercial” to “Parks and Open Space”. Either of the rezoning or OCP changes would trigger a Public Hearing. They would be heard together.

The area in the OCP currently.

Western Forest Products

While all this is happening, it would not be a bad idea for the City to be in discussion with Western Forest Products, or possibly the Island Corridor Foundation, or both, to see about the status of the lands right next to both 5350 and 5150 (in purple above). This is the E&N railway right of way and includes both the road and the railway so it is a complicated situation passed down from CPR to M&B and finally to Western Forest Products.

It is unlikely that WFP has an interest in keeping this land. A donation to the ICF would allow WFP to get some value in the form of a tax receipt and would preserve the “transportation” aspect of the corridor. Or they could sell it to the City or even to the developer. Regardless what happens, I would be surprised if that parcel looked the same in 5 years if the development goes ahead.