The city will move forward with developing a vision for its 3.5 acre waterfront property after some councillors urged council to quit dragging its heels on Tuesday night.
The property, which is currently a sand pit located between Discovery Harbour Shopping Centre and the ferry terminal, is one of three parcels that make up 9.5 acres – the other two belong to the Campbell River Indian Band.
The property has been a topic of discussion for more than 20 years, but previous councils have failed to do anything with the property.
That trend, however, could soon change after council took a step towards developing the property this week following a report from Coriolis Consulting which outlined possible options for the property. The consultants recommended the site be turned into a mixture of multi-residential homes and retail services.
Though council is a long way off from deciding what will actually go on the property, it did direct city staff to prepare draft development permit guidelines that will guide council in how downtown waterfront lands should be developed with respect to form and character. Those guidelines, once approved, would go into the city’s sustainable official community plan.
Coun. Ryan Mennie urged council to move forward with what he saw as progress, but without locking council in to anything for the time being.
“It’s something that’s important as a guiding document and not what needs to be done,” Mennie said. “Many studies have been done in the past, unfortunately a lot of those documents have not been anything official besides the fact they took place.
“There’s been a lot of good work here and I think we need to approve this motion for it to move forward.”
Coun. Ron Kerr agreed and said it was incumbent upon council to keep the city progressing.
“What we’re doing is trying to develop the feeling down there,” Kerr said. “If we’re afraid to start to visualize it, we’re moving backwards. We’re here as a council to move things ahead, not backwards.”
Kerr stressed that council was only approving 18 guiding principles, which were recommended by the consultants, not directing construction. The 18 principles include: connecting the property to the rest of the downtown core; emphasizing pedestrian priority over vehicles; considering public amenity space; consideration of residential and mixed use development, with significant public park space; ensuring a First Nations identity; having public views to the water, and others.
Mayor Walter Jakeway was hesitant, though, to approve drafting principles without the public getting a chance to vet them first.
“I think the public needs to see this large document we have (the consultant’s report),” Jakeway said. “I think we need to give them a chance to see what we’re talking about. Our chunk of land has been a hot topic for decades. I think it needs more publicity.”
Coun. Claire Moglove noted that the principles would be in draft form only and then brought back to council before being approved.
“These guidelines would be available for council, for the public, and for the Campbell River Indian Band to look at,” Moglove said. “I do agree with Your Worship (Jakeway), but there has to be something concrete to bring to the public.”
Coun. Andy Adams wanted council to wait until a council-to-council meeting with the Campbell River Indian Band, the owner of the connecting properties, before making any decisions. Coun. Mennie, however, said the Campbell River Indian Band was part of charrette discussions which were held in November as part of Coriolis’ study and subsequent report and its input was received.
In the end, council voted in favour of having city staff draft the principle guidelines. Jakeway and Adams were opposed.