Port Alberni city council is at odds over a decision made on Monday night to give the Port Alberni Port Authority two more months to get an industrial operation going on Lots A and B of the former plywood site.
The city had leased the two lots to the port authority last year with a clause that industrial or marine commercial enterprise must occur on the site before July 1, 2015. The original, pre-approved proposal was to have Canadian Alberni Engineering begin ship building operations there.
However, at the end of June CAE general manager Steve Dunagan said that no lease had been signed yet and that any negotiations would continue to be handled by CAE’s Ontario-based parent company.
Coun. Chris Alemany asked council on Monday to give PAPA a 90-day notice of the city’s termination of their lease.
“This lease was created with the city and the port authority with the expectation that certain developments would take place,” said Alemany, adding that he thought those were reasonable expectations at the time.
“Unfortunately that didn’t come to fruition and seeing no possibilities for new ways of satisfying those very specific terms of lease, it strikes me as a business matter only, not one that would generate animosity or bad feeling between the parties.”
Coun. Sharie Minions echoed Alemany’s words.
“I think that there’s been a lot of talk about industrial activity on that lot versus an expanded beach and I think at this point it’s really not about that,” said Minions.
“It’s about the contract that was signed last year and it’s not negative towards the port authority. It’s just about following the terms of our contract.”
However, Coun. Jack McLeman, Mayor Mike Ruttan and two other councillors voted to table the motion until September.
McLeman justified his decision to table, saying that he didn’t want to jump the gun.
“In the past two years, council has made a lot of knee-jerk reactions to things and sometimes made public announcements that have affected industry,” said McLeman.
“The industrial corporations—and rightly so—have been annoyed at the city and I don’t want to do anything that’s going to upset what we’re starting to repair.”
However, McLeman said he won’t push the lease past September.
“If nothing’s there, I’ll make the motion.”
Ruttan said that while the city currently has nothing in the works for that lot, it might as well collect the rent PAPA pays for the two lots.
“They’ve asked for a little bit more time to continue to work with us and we want to give them some more time,” said Ruttan.
“The city had that property and didn’t work with the port authority for 25 years and did nothing with it so the port authority’s now had it for a year and is trying to shop it around and do something to help the economy.”
Port authority director of public relations and business development Dave McCormick said that they would take the extension to continue to work towards fulfilling their lease requirements.
“Current plans are to continue to explore what the opportunities are that meet the spirit and intent and the goals of the original terms and conditions of the lease,” said McCormick. He would not elaborate on what those plans could look like.
“What we’re exploring now could ultimately encompass a variety of different things.”
The decision to give notice or extend PAPA’s lease of the former plywood lots will come back to the Sept. 14 city council meeting.