Ladysmith grabs strategic waterfront parcel

Year-long adjudicated expropriation of Lot 5 approved, supports waterfront plan

Mike Youds Special to the Chronicle

Another hurdle has been cleared in Ladysmith’s waterfront development plan.

Through an expropriation adjudicated by the province, the town has acquired a 1.2-hectare parcel of harbour foreshore, which will remain public green space according to the long-range plan.

A provincial inquiry officer awarded the landowners $292,000 for the parcel in accordance with its assessed market value, a ceiling applied under the Community Charter and Expropriation Act.

“On behalf of council, we are pleased with the decision arrived at by the provincial inquiry officer as we move forward with Stz’uminus First Nation and our community partners on implementing our waterfront area plan,” said Mayor Aaron Stone. “Public ownership of Lot 5 allows the Town to ensure trails are properly maintained and the Arbutus and other mature trees are preserved for future generations.”

Lot 5 is mostly a steep rocky face covered with mature arbutus and other trees. The lot extends north from Transfer Beach Amphitheatre. The property also includes portions of recreational trails and is surrounded by provincial and town lands.

While the acquisition directly benefits the town and its waterfront redevelopment ambitions, the path to get there was not so direct. The year-long process began last May when council directed staff to make an offer on the property based on assessed market value. Holdings Corporation, the landowner, rejected the offer.

On that basis, the town set in motion an expropriation process, filing notice with the province’s Land Title and Survey Authority. In November, the property owner requested appointment of an inquiry officer to review the case and consider alternatives, such as a reduced parcel. Last week, the appointed officer recommended approval of expropriation.

The parcel is currently zoned as waterfront reserve and designated in the waterfront area plan as park and open spaces.

“We heard from the community during the extensive waterfront area plan consultation that preserving green space was important for the aesthetic of a publicly accessible waterfront,” said CAO Guillermo Ferrero.

Ferrero said people indicated through public consultation that they wanted the land preserved as green space. The steep, rocky nature of the land makes it less suitable for building purposes.

Vicky Stickwood-Hislop, president of Ladysmith Ratepayers Association (LRA), applauded the acquisition as a positive step for the community.

“That will stay green space,” she said. “In all hopes, it will be something more than it is now.”

LRA formed last year after concerns in the community over the waterfront plan triggered a petition with more than 1,000 names on it. Their concerns centred around the extent of residential versus recreational development in the plan and the desire for greater public consultation through a referendum.

Ultimately, the petition didn’t meet conditions that would have enabled its presentation to council.

“It’s a shame that it wasn’t able to be presented fully,” Stickwood-Hislop said, noting that concerns around the waterfront plan remain.

“That’s still something, I think, that concerns everyone as we see how quickly things expand in Ladysmith,” she said. “I think we all have to stay focused and stay aware of what’s going on at the waterfront with residential development.”

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