Former Alberni plywood land ‘open for business’

City council voted to issue an RFP for the sale or lease of Lot A, and to solicit letters of interest for Lots B and C at the plywood site.

A sudden interest in the former Alberni Plywood site has prompted city officials to consider selling at least a portion of it.

Located on the waterfront near Alberni Pacific Division mill, the lot is divided into three portions.

The city currently leases Lots A and B to Chalwood Forest Products for log storage, and Lot C to Canal Beach (formerly Wild West Watersports), a windsurfing and kite boarding company.

City councillors voted to issue a request for proposals for the sale or lease of Lot A, and to solicit letters of interest for Lots B and C.

“We’ve been sitting on this for so long now. It’s time to dispose of,” Coun. Hira Chopra said. “This piece of property is open for business.”

Several inquiries from interested parties have prompted the city to entertain offers to buy the land on the former plywood site.

According to Economic Development Manager Pat Deakin, two businesses have recently expressed interest in buying property at the site. An alternate energy company inquired about Lot A for a biomass project it is developing. And a marine business wants to buy or retain property at the site for marine commercial/industrial purposes.

Coun. Jack McLeman later said he asked for the letters of interest to be included in the process. “I asked for letters of interest in Lots B and C and let’s see what comes in,” he said. “If we like what we see then we can ask for a more detailed proposal.”

A letter of interest is less formal than a request for proposal.

Selling the lots isn’t straightforward; a series of complex considerations must be navigated through first, Deakin noted.

Chief among the considerations is the fact that Lot A is heavily contaminated, and the Ministry of Environment wants it cleaned up.

As well, terminating the log salvage lease on Lot A would impact local mills and result in job losses.

Also, the nearshore is owned by the province, who will only sell the property at its uncontaminated value.

And lastly, the site — particularly Lot C — may become the subject of a claim by the Tseshaht First Nation, who have expressed interest in it over the years. The Tseshaht First Nation has reserve lands at Polly’s Point adjacent to the site.

“We need to disclose these issues to potential proponents,” City Manager Ken Watson said.

Mayor John Douglas agreed, saying that it is important for people to be aware of what’s going on.

The move caught Canal Beach co-owner Sandra Gentleman by surprise. “No one from the city has talked to us,” she said. “I’ll be in touch with them.”

The 2007 Uptown and Waterfront Redevelopment Study recommended that the site be developed into a marine commercial or marine industrial park.

In 2010, the Ministry of Agriculture and Land announced a $63,700 grant to the city for work on the former plywood site. The city received an initial $151,190 in 2009 for site risk assessment and remediation plan purposes.

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