McLean Mill application breaks new ground for ALC

Process just another ‘misstep’ by city, says critic

Two of the heritage buildings from McLean Mill National Historic Site that have been restored at the Port Alberni tourist attraction. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Two of the heritage buildings from McLean Mill National Historic Site that have been restored at the Port Alberni tourist attraction. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

The City of Port Alberni’s application to exclude McLean Mill from the Agricultural Land Reserve is breaking new ground, not circumventing the process, says an ALC policy analyst.

Several residents concerned with the way the city has dealt with the mill property complained to the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) that the city hasn’t followed the rules with its application to remove 11 hectares of land at the mill from the ALR.

READ MORE: McLean Mill better off removed from ALR, city agrees

Lindsay McCoubrey is a policy analyst with the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC), which considers applications for land within the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) in British Columbia. She said the process of applying for exclusion from the ALR is new as of September 2020.

“It’s not surprising that there’s confusion, especially since we’re in a new semi-revised process,” McCoubrey said. The McLean Mill exclusion application is among the first the ALC will be considering under the new process. It is also unique because the city—a municipal government—owns land that is outside of its own jurisdiction, but inside of the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District.

In this case, the city is considered a “public body applicant” and the ACRD is the local government. “It’s confusing because the province changed our regulations with respect to exclusion applications. This is one of the first if not the first application where the local government (is considered a public body applicant),” McCoubrey explained.

Officials from the city and ACRD have kept each other up to date on this file, said Twyla Slonski, city director of corporate services. She and ACRD general manager of planning and development Mike Irg have communicated on the application process.

The city held a public hearing March 23 on whether to apply to remove 11 hectares of land at McLean Mill from the ALR. Susan Roth questioned the legality of the public hearing, given the mill property is technically in the regional district, but the city followed new ALC regulations that came into effect September 2020, McCoubrey said.

“The idea that the City of Port Alberni as applicant has to host the public hearing is new as of September 2020,” McCoubrey confirmed.

Roth was one of two people not living within city boundaries who emailed their opposition to the application. The city’s public notice had said anyone who felt their interest in property would be affected by the application would be afforded “a reasonable opportunity” to be heard.

The public notice for the hearing ran in the March 10 and March 17 print editions of the Alberni Valley News.

Roland Smith of Port Alberni has spent more than a decade diving deep into the details of how the city has operated McLean Mill since it first opened July 1, 2000. He said the fact that the city has to apply to remove the land from the ALR in the first place is just another in a series of costly missteps.

The city was denied an application in 2020 for non-farm use of the property after complaints were made to the ALC. The city has had to clean up a toxic spill from the log pond into Kitsuksis Creek and most recently, has spent more than $1 million cleaning up bunker oil that spilled from a rail tank car stored beside the train tracks at the mill.

“We’re talking about public policy and public money on this McLean Mill file,” Smith said.

“If the land comes out of the ALR, the land comes out of the ALR. That doesn’t matter to me. Process matters to me.”

Steven Laing, who is with the ALC’s compliance and enforcement branch, said the city has met its deadlines and kept him up to date with their progress on the ALR application as he requested.

“We’ve done our due diligence,” city CAO Tim Pley said.

Pley said the city has updated Laing every couple of weeks with their progress, which Laing confirmed. The city’s submission was sent to the ALC’s electronic portal on March 31, a day before Laing’s April 1 deadline. The application was automatically sent to the regional district through this system, McCoubrey said.

“I am more than satisfied with their efforts,” Laing said. “A delay in the final submission is not a concern. It’s a delay based on a technicality, definitely not on purpose.”

He said it is not unusual for the ALC to work with a local government or a farmer to guide them through the process.

The application was with the ACRD as of Friday, April 9. McCoubrey said the regional district will have to review the application and forward it to the ALC, but that it won’t require the ACRD board to pass a resolution. Irg said he was waiting for final instructions from the ALC on how it wishes the regional district to proceed.

Members of the public are able to comment on the application to the ACRD and, once it is back with the ALC, to that governing body.

Alberni-Clayoquot Regional DistrictMcLean MillPort Alberni

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

Just Posted

In 1903, if you were looking north down First Avenue with Alberni in the distance, this is what you would have seen. Scattered houses along River Road are visible, as is the corner of Watson Block building in the lower lefthand corner of the photograph. This photo is part of the 24,000 online collection of the Alberni Valley Museum. View this one and more at (PHOTO PN02975 COURTESY ALBERNI VALLEY MUSEUM)
LOOK BACK: Historic street scenes of Port Alberni

Take a peek back in time with the Alberni Valley Museum’s digital archives

This photo shows Franklin River Camp "B" circa 1940. Logging was started in the Franklin River area by Bloedel, Stewart & Welch in 1934. This is one of 42 photos of the Franklin River area, donated together in an album put together by the donor's husband, Stanley Young. Young worked as a highrigger in the Franklin River area from 1939-46. This is one of 24,000 photos contained in the Alberni Valley Museum’s digital archives, available for public viewing at (PHOTO PN10830 COURTESY ALBERNI VALLEY MUSEUM)
LOOK BACK: Logging along Franklin River

Take a peek at Alberni Valley history with the Alberni Valley Museum

Getting enough Vitamin D can be challenging for Canadians, especially during winter months. (CONTRIBUTED)
ACTIVE LIVING: The ‘sunshine vitamin’ plays a vital role in our health

Port Alberni registered dietitian Sandra Gentleman writes about health issues

Courtenay-Alberni NDP MP Gord Johns gives a thumbs up to active transportation during a presentation of the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce's Bike SEAT program at McLean Mill National Historic site in Port Alberni on April 16, 2021. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
QUINN’S QUIPS: MP Gord Johns takes victory ride for cycling strategy

Johns gained a reputation as the bicycle-riding MP during his first year

A B.C. Centre for Disease Control map showing new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 25-May 1. (BCCDC image)
Vancouver Island’s COVID-19 case counts continue to trend down

Fewer than 200 active cases on the Island, down from highs of 500-plus earlier this spring

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

Pieces of nephrite jade are shown at a mine site in northwestern B.C. in July 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Tahltan Central Government MANDATORY CREDIT
Indigenous nation opposes jade mining in northwestern B.C.

B.C.’s Mines Act requires operators to prepare a plan to protect cultural heritage resources

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

People pass the red hearts on the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, opposite the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment in London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth
For a view of a COVID-19 future, Canadians should look across the pond

Britain, like Canada, is one of the only countries in the world to delay second doses for several months

Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point this season with Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton superstar McDavid hits 100-point mark as Oilers edge Canucks 4-3

NHL scoring leader needs just 53 games to reach century mark

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

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

Most Read