What to do with the city’s prestigious 3.5 acre waterfront property?
It’s a question that has been bounced around City Hall for decades and on Monday, city council voted to hire a consultant to help find the answer.
Council endorsed Cohlmeyer Architecture to act as facilitator for the Waterfront Task Force which was created by council to examine options and establish community-endorsed principles to follow when developing the city-owned waterfront site at the corner of Highway 19A and Roberts Reach.
Mayor Andy Adams said he recognizes the $100,000 price tag that comes with hiring Cohlmeyer is substantial but noted the price was negotiated down from $134,000 to meet council’s budget and it comes in at a cheaper price than the consultant hired to guide future planning for Spirit Square, which set a successful template. He added that Cohlmeyer has the experience the city needs.
“I think we need that guidance from a reputable firm on what has really been a divisive piece of land for 30-plus years,” Adams said.
Cohlmeyer has worked internationally and throughout Canada, including in Port McNeill on a waterfront project, the Cowichan Visitor Centre and a waterfront project currently underway at the Comox marina.
Cohlmeyer’s role will be to support, guide and take direction from the Waterfront Task Force in developing the waterfront site which is one of three parcels that, when combined with two neighbouring parcels that belong to the Campbell River Indian Band, make up 9.5 acres.
Coun. Larry Samson, the lone councillor opposed to spending $100,000, said he couldn’t support hiring a consultant for such a high price, particularly when the city has already previously hired consultants to host public engagement sessions. That process revealed majority support for converting the property into a public space.
“I find spending $100,000 on a consultant to tell us what to do for the waterfront (too much),” Samson said. “I find another study, to spend $100,000, I just can’t support it.”
Council previously approved $125,000 for the project this year, of which $100,000 is available for consulting services.
Coun. Ron Kerr said he believes the expense will be worth it in the long run.
“I think it’s very important to have a tried and true consultant to take us through this very difficult process,” Kerr said. “I think the consultant is going to be money well-paid going ahead.”
Coun. Michele Babchuk agreed.
“I will be supporting this,” she said. “I’m looking forward to taking this jewel of a piece of property and putting something valuable on there.”
Ron Neufeld, the city’s general manager of operations, said that with a facilitator in place, work can begin on the planning process.