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City of Port Alberni buys Somass Sawmill lands for $5.3 million

City, Western Forest Products come to agreement following expropriation notice
The areas noted in yellow are the five properties included in the sale of the Somass Sawmill to the City of Port Alberni. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

The City of Port Alberni has purchased the Somass Sawmill lands for $5.3 million from Western Forest Products.

The two sides came to an agreement through negotiations; as a result of the sale, the city will be formally withdrawing the expropriation process on the Somass lands.

The land purchase includes:

• The property on which Somass Division Sawmill is situated.

• A property currently used as a parking lot for Somass Division Sawmill.

• Two properties that include Harbour Road and the rail right of way extending from Argyle Street to the northern gate of Alberni Pacific Division Sawmill.

• A linear portion of land to be subdivided from a larger parcel on which HemVal Kilns is situated. The portion of land will extend from Dunbar Street and include the bed and upland on both banks of Dry Creek.

The city intends to pay for the properties using funds from the city’s reserves, including the Community Forest Dividend Reserve.

City council served Western with a notice of expropriation in late June. Mayor Sharie Minions said at the time the city had had enough of seeing 43 acres of prime waterfront property sit idle for five years, after Western indefinitely curtailed forestry operations at the mill. At the time she called it the “most important property within the City of Port Alberni.”

READ: Port Alberni to expropriate Somass Sawmill from Western Forest Products

“Each of these properties represents significant strategic value both today, and as we move forward in this changing community,” Minions said after the sale was announced.

“With the purchase of the smaller parcels, the city gains full ownership of Harbour Road and the rail corridor that provide access to waterfront properties. This will enable a strategic and well-planned redevelopment of these key areas.”

READ: Dry Creek path falls into disrepair in Port Alberni

One of the properties includes a pathway that was built as part of the Dry Creek flood abatement project from a few years ago. Former city employee Randy Fraser brought up the fact the pathway has not been maintained, and it was discovered the city allowed access contracts with Western and Island Timberlands to lapse.

Minions said that particular piece will provide the community “with an attractive loop option for the Quay to Quay Path.”

Acquiring the Somass lands and adjacent parking lot has been a primary focus of this city council since shortly after the 2018 municipal election. “Remediating and repurposing these lands in a way that recognizes the shifting nature of our vibrant community represents a fundamental shift for the City of Port Alberni, she said.

“City Council is thrilled to be moving forward on the purchase of these properties which is key in actioning the city’s Corporate Strategic Plan.”

No details on how much remediation will cost were released.

READ: City of Port Alberni looks at options for Somass Sawmill property

More to come…

The Somass Sawmill sits idle in early May 2021. While the kilns have been in use occasionally, and the lot has been used to store woodchips this spring, the mill has been curtailed since July 27, 2017. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Susie Quinn

About the Author: Susie Quinn

A journalist since 1987, I proudly serve as the Alberni Valley News editor.
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