The City of Port Alberni will set aside the $250,000 it earned from the sale of plywood lots A and B for the possible buyback of those lands. The city will also draft a development plan for Canal Beach.
The decisions, made at last week’s council meeting, were a compromise for Coun. Sharie Minions, who had wanted the $250,000 earned from the sale of the plywood lots to Canadian Alberni Engineering to be set aside for Canal Beach improvements, pending the marine engineering company hitting the necessary three-year development milestones.
“I see this as a way to improve our waterfront without increasing taxes to do it,” said Minions.
“It’s my opinion that we should start developing properties we have and improving them instead of buying more,” Minions added.
Coun. Chris Alemany agreed.
“I think it’s worthwhile to have those funds go towards that same area,” he said.
“Just as an example, we’ve committed $300,000 for that path down to the Harbour Quay for the port authority really at the drop of a hat so I think it’s pretty reasonable to set this aside and put some planning behind it and some consultation.”
That motion was defeated with a 4-3 recorded vote. Couns. Denis Sauve, Ron Paulson, Dan Washington and Mayor Mike Ruttan voted against Minions’ original motion.
“I’m wondering if it’s wise to keep the entire amount for Canal Beach or if we should give part of it to that and part of it to other parks in the area,” said Coun. Jack McLeman.
Sauve questioned spending money on park improvements when the city has aging infrastructure that needs fixing.
“Our city engineer always puts it on us about our aging infrastructure and when it comes to the sewers, water and the upgrades that we need so desperately for the taxpayers so again… do we put this money back towards the parks or do we set it at a more priority and what we’re in desperate need of is to address our aging infrastructure?”
Paulson said he didn’t want to commit the funds to one section of waterfront.
“I have a hard time earmarking this full amount for one project where we might be able to spread it apart and make sure that all our waterfront properties are maintained,” he said.
Ruttan agreed, citing structural issues at Harbour Quay, such as the clocktower, that will need expensive and mandatory repairs.
“There are significant challenges there that will cost us as a city more than $245,000, probably more, to address that,” he said.
Alemany suggested city staff start drafting a Canal Beach plan for public input.
“It’s putting forward a public consultation process so we can get an idea of what we would like to do with that beach,” he said.
“Personally, I believe that to invest some staff time in this would be time well spent and money well spent to come up with a process that lets people that are particularly interested in that area of the waterfront to have some input into what it could look like in the future.”
While council resolved to keep the $250,000 in proceeds from the sale of the lands for a possible buyback, Sauve said he didn’t see a point in doing so.
“My question is… to buy back what? To buy back the land that is already known to be toxic and would cost us [millions] more to get it fixed? We’re lucky enough that we got someone to purchase that property.”