The McLean Mill National Historic Site is located in Beaver Creek in the Alberni Valley. (NEWS FILE PHOTO)

The McLean Mill National Historic Site is located in Beaver Creek in the Alberni Valley. (NEWS FILE PHOTO)

UPDATED: ALC denies City of Port Alberni’s application for McLean Mill

National Historic Site is located within the Agricultural Land Reserve

Port Alberni city council is considering applying to have McLean Mill removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), after a non-farm use application to the Agricultural Land Commision (ALC) was denied.

The city was served a non-compliance notice from the ALC back in March after a public complaint pointed out that the McLean Mill National Historic Site—which is located within the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR)—is being used for commercial ventures outside of the scope of a National Historic Site. This includes food and gift services, campgrounds and public events.

As a result, the city sent an application for non-farm use to the ALC back in June 2020.

On Nov. 2, the Agricultural Land Commission’s Island Panel determined that the city’s current operations are not “an appropriate use of ALR land” so long as McLean Mill remains in the ALR.

READ MORE: Agricultural Land Commission letter could halt operations at McLean Mill

READ MORE: City of Port Alberni asks for non-farm use for McLean Mill

The panel’s decision found that McLean Mill’s “agricultural capability is significantly limited due to its historical use as a mill site.” Most of the site is made up of heritage buildings and equipment, as well as a fish hatchery.

Based on a contamination assessment that was prepared by Envirochem Special Projects Inc. in 1994, the panel also determined that the land has been exposed to “many years of soil contamination” as a result of the mill’s operation.

“The Panel finds that years of soil contamination from the Property’s industrial and commercial uses have disturbed the soil’s nutrients and composition thereby limiting the Property’s current and future potential for soil-bound agriculture,” read the Nov. 2 report.

The panel has refused the city’s proposal to continue operating commercial and tourism uses on the site.

City CAO Tim Pley recommended making an application to the ALC to have the site removed from the ALR, but councillors were concerned about the cost and time that would have to be spent on this application.

“This is frankly far too much of our focus and has been for way too many years,” said Mayor Sharie Minions. “This is a national historic site, and if the federal government cares about this site then I feel like they have a role to play in this.”

Pley explained that the city has not pursued this matter with the federal government based on legal advice. Because this legal advice is confidential, Pley couldn’t share any specifics.

Councillors eventually agreed to ask city staff to bring back a report about the proposed cost of the ALC application, but did not commit to writing the application yet.

After the ALC’s final decision was released, Beaver Creek resident and former McLean Mill Society bookkeeper Susan Roth sent a letter to city and ACRD staff, saying that she supports the ALC’s decision. She described McLean Mill as “a toxic mess” due to soil and water contamination.

“The way I see it, McLean Mill is a brownfield site and should be treated as such,” she said. “I hope that you decide to make our environment a priority and move forward with a plan to clean up the place.”

Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce executive director Bill Collette, meanwhile, encouraged council during Monday’s meeting to “stay the course” and apply for removal from the ALR.

In the meantime, Pley has reached out to the ALC’s compliance branch to confirm that no enforcement will take place until after the city has had an opportunity to submit a new application.

“The [Alberni Valley] Chamber of Commerce will continue to run the gift shop out there,” he said. “We have requested that they not make any changes to their operations in the meantime.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

McLean MillPort Alberni

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Rori Denness throws a javelin during BC Summer Games in 2016. (Black Press Media file photo)
Port Alberni ponders bidding for 2026 B.C. Summer Games

Port Alberni last hosted the BC Winter Games in 2004

Victoria artisan Tina Neurauter, right, used to shop at Pot Luck Ceramics with her daughter from Port Alberni. Now Neurauter is selling her handmade soaps and bath products at Bibi J’s, a new enterprise in the former Pot Luck Ceramics building on Gertrude Street in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Former Pot Luck Ceramics location reimagined as Bibi J’s

Owner Helma Swinkels revives social enterprise with new name, vision

The Rollin Art Centre’s Mistletoe Market begins on Dec. 1. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
ARTS AROUND: Rollin Art Centre prepares for Mistletoe Market

Artisans and crafters are still needed for annual Christmas craft fair

‘Homelessness’ means many things to people with no permanent place to sleep. For some, the challenge to find safe shelter is greater than for others. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni mother battles to find housing for her son

Mary Elles fears her son will die on the street before he will find safe housing

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19 walks in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest day of pandemic with 13 deaths, 738 new COVID-19 cases

Number of people in hospital is nearing 300, while total cases near 30,000

FILE - This May 4, 2020, file photo provided by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, shows the first patient enrolled in Pfizer's COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine clinical trial at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.  Pfizer announced Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020, more results in its ongoing coronavirus vaccine study that suggest the shots are 95% effective a month after the first dose. (Courtesy of University of Maryland School of Medicine via AP, File)
VIDEO: B.C. planning for the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in the first weeks of 2021

The question of who will get the vaccine first relies on Canada’s ethical framework

This undated photo issued by the University of Oxford shows of vial of coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, in Oxford, England. (University of Oxford/John Cairns via AP)
Canada can make vaccines, just not the ones leading the COVID-19 race

Canada has spent more than $1 billion to pre-order seven different developing COVID-19 vaccines

British Columbia Premier John Horgan speaks during an announcement about a new regional cancer centre in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020. Horgan is set to introduce his NDP government’s new cabinet Thursday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP cabinet built to tackle pandemic, economic recovery, says former premier

Seven former NDP cabinet ministers didn’t seek re-election, creating vacancies in several high-profile portfolios

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The COVID-19 test centre at Peace Arch Hospital is located on the building’s south side. (Tracy Holmes photo)
B.C. woman calls for consistency in COVID-19 post-test messaging

‘Could we just get one thing straight?’ asks Surrey’s Deb Antifaev

(File photo)
Alberta woman charged after allegedly hitting boy with watermelon at Okanagan campsite

Police say a disagreement among friends at an Adams Lake campsite turned ugly

Most Read