Alberni presses ahead with Sterling Field plan

City council voted to advance the development of Sterling Field despite opposition from the Tseshaht First Nation and port authority.

The city is advancing the development of Sterling Field despite opposition to the plan.

A rezoning bylaw and official community plan amendment dealing with the property passed two readings at council’s Feb. 27 meeting.

Announced earlier this month, a deal is in the works that would see Van Isle Ford buy the 2.6 acre property and move its dealership from Johnston Road to the Sterling Field property on Beaver Creek Road.

During discussion at council’s Monday meeting, Coun. Dan Washington cited two letters which expressed displeasure with the potential development of the property.

In its letter, the Tseshaht First Nation spoke against the plan, saying that it defeated the purpose of a river front study it is participating in with the city, Port Alberni Port Authority and the Hupacasath First Nation, which encompasses the Sterling Field area.

“Tseshaht’s position is that the city should not consider development applications in this area until the above study is complete,” tribal researcher Darrell Ross said.

City planner Scott Smith told council that the city is participating in a waterfront north study that would be similar to the Waterfront and Uptown Redevelopment one. The north study is set to examine key properties, development potential and street scape.  The study would include the remainder of Sterling Field. Staff are working on the terms of reference.

The port authority meanwhile says it is “extremely disappointed” with the city’s decision to consider the application. The port authority isn’t against development per se, manager Brad Madelung noted in his letter to city council.

Instead, they are “not supportive of any action by any of the parties to this study that may prejudice or preempt its outcome,” Madelung noted. The development will impact the site, surrounding area and limit potential outcomes, he added.

The city should not consider development in the area until the study is completed, Madelung noted. If it does, the port authority will be forced to “reconsider its participation at all,” in the study.

Coun. Jack McLeman questioned how long it’s taking to hammer out the terms of reference. “If someone really wanted a study they would have terms of reference in two months,” he said.

Mayor John Douglas said that no firm decision about the matter was being been made. “We’re just setting the process in place and that’s all,” he said.

A public hearing to further hear input about the Sterling Field rezoning is scheduled for March 26.

reporter@albernivalleynews.com