Port Alberni city council is ensuring that Harbour Quay’s green space will be protected from any future development.
The city has issued a request for proposals (RFP) for development of the Harbourview lands near Harbour Quay, but council agreed to retain ownership of the treed portion of the lands facing the waterfront.
City CAO Tim Pley presented a draft RFP on Monday, May 13, which applied to the entire parcel of land. Mayor Sharie Minions, however, said that the community values the frontstand of trees facing the waterfront, and asked council to retain ownership of the treed portion and put the rest out for RFP.
“I think it would give a higher level of comfort if we excluded the front treed portion and looked to keep that as a park,” said Minions, pointing out that the city doesn’t have any bylaws for protecting trees. “If we sell this entire parcel to a developer, they can come in and cut down any tree they want because we have literally no protection.”
Pley pointed out that the importance of retaining the trees is already incorporated in the RFP. “The city will weigh the proposal based on how many trees the developer preserves,” he said.
Councillor Debbie Haggard agreed with this. “We have to trust the developers will do the right thing and when we evaluate their proposals, they’ll have a plan in there for these trees,” she said.
Councillor Helen Poon added that putting too many restrictions in the RFP might “end up scaring people away.”
Minions, however, said that she hoped to see a piece of public parkland surrounding whatever development goes up on the Harbourview lands, so that the public and community can still enjoy the property.
“I think people are very worried about losing what they see as the only green space in the Harbour Quay waterfront area,” she said.
Her motion was defeated in a 4-2 vote. However, just two weeks later on Monday, May 27, Minions asked council to reconsider the motion that had been defeated.
“I heard overwhelmingly that people wanted the city to protect the trees,” she explained. “I really do believe that we can find the right development that will balance both the value of the trees and the desire that we have to build our tax base.”
Poon admitted that she had changed her viewpoint after looking through social media posts. “It’s true that the community is very protective of those trees,” she said. “I would support this motion.”
Haggard said that she had “faith and trust” in the developer to do the right thing. “However, I’ve been told by other people that maybe I’m a little too trustworthy,” she admitted. “I think this is probably a good opportunity for council to do the right thing and keep those trees.”
Council voted unanimously to move forward with the issuance of an RFP for development of the Harbourview lands, while retaining ownership of the treed portion.