The public area formerly known as Sea Cadet Park on lower Argyle Street is open for development.
But how many trees will be left standing on the city-owned property will be up to a developer and the city to determine.
City council on Monday (Sept. 9) voted to proceed with a request for proposals to develop the area now called Harbour View.
City planner Scott Smith proposes that the area, which is presently one lot, be sub-divided into three lots: a 5,700-square-metre area behind the Carmoor Block along Kingsway Avenue; a 1,500-square-metre lot bordering Argyle Street; and a 1,800-square-metre stand of trees in the middle of the two lots.
The adjacent stand of trees along Harbour Road are on property belonging to Catalyst Paper and aren’t part of the development, Smith noted in a report.
A sub-division is one idea that would maximize the development of the area while still maintaining the stand of trees. The idea would encourage business retention and aid in promoting Port Alberni as a place to visit and live.
Mayor John Douglas asked Smith if framing the development as two land parcels with a stand of trees in between would dissuade someone from purchasing the entire package.
“It’s framed that way because that’s what council requested,” Smith said. Council passed a motion requesting an RFP for development of the area at a meeting last June.
In 2005, council tried to sell the site but citizens beat back the initiative saying that the stand of trees should remain on the property. The experience left Port Alberni with a bad reputation among developers, a report from economic development manager Pat Deakin previously noted.
Privately, businesses were in favour of the city selling the property for development, Coun Cindy Solda said. But council was beat up at a public meeting about the matter. “Businesses never said anything because they were afraid of being boycotted,” Solda said.
The area was also in the news again in 2007 when the city’s waterfront redevelopment plan was introduced, suggesting development of 200 residential units in a four-storey building in the area.
Although that plan recommended retention of “the majority of existing trees”, people were again upset that the area might be developed.
One parcel of property might bring something to the area, Coun. Wendy Kerr said. “But I”m a tree hugger. Leave as many trees standing as possible,” she said.
Councillors Chopra, Cole and Washington spoke in favour of creating one parcel of land and allowing development of the whole thing.
“It looks like a piece of pie,” Chopra said of the patchwork of three parcels. “Leave it as one site and ask the developer to save some trees,” he said.
The city has tools such as a restrictive covenant that would enable a stand of trees saved, city manager Ken Watson said.
Developers will speak their minds about what they envision for the property, Watson added. “They’re not shy. If they want it they’ll say,” he said.