City of Port Alberni Redevelopment Plans - Somass Lands

City of Port Alberni Redevelopment Plans - Somass Lands

Port Alberni, BC – The City of Port Alberni has completed the purchase of five parcels of former industrial lands, the most significant of which is the 43 acre site of the former Somass Division Sawmill.

The City’s Corporate Strategic Plan identifies public access to waterfront and a thriving waterfront economy as key goals. The City intends that the Somass Lands will be redeveloped in a manner consistent with this Plan.  Future use of the site will not include primary processing of logs or sawmilling on the site.

To date, the following due diligence steps have been completed:

  • Retained a professional third party firm to appraise the value of the Lands
  • Retained legal professional to guide the expropriation, negotiation and purchase processes
  • Retained a professional third party firm to review Environmental site Assessment reports and provide confidential advice

The Somass Lands are purchased on an “as is” basis. To recognize the needs of both parties, the City and Western Forest Products (Western) agreed to a transitional period, enabling Western to complete removal of certain Sawmill assets while facilitating the City’s immediate redevelopment efforts, including further site investigations and preparation of redevelopment plans and studies.  Repurposing of the lands from industrial use to align with the City’s redevelopment plans will require some remediation.  On completion of the transitional period, the City intends to demolish any remaining structures and remediate any contamination that may be required to acquire a Certificate of Compliance.  The anticipated timeline to obtain a certificate of compliance is 24 months.

“Acquiring the Somass Lands and adjacent parking lot has been a primary focus of City Council since shortly after being elected in 2018. Remediating and redeveloping these lands in a way that recognizes the shifting nature of our vibrant community represents a fundamental shift for the City of Port Alberni and Council is thrilled to be embarking on this project,” said Mayor Sharie Minions.  “Although remediation is not required for the site to continue to be used for industrial purposes, Council’s intent is to repurpose these lands which triggers the requirement to remediate”.

“A primary goal of this purchase is to create permanent public access to the waterfront and park-space for the people of the Alberni Valley to enjoy. Once a Certificate of Compliance is received,  Council intends to make the remainder of the site available for sale either as a whole or in smaller parcels to enable redevelopment of the site at its highest and best use,” continued Mayor Minions.

“City staff have already begun discussions with Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) for the purposes of accessing available grant funding that will assist in further testing and remediation work,” concluded Mayor Minions.

The City retained SLR Consulting (Canada) Ltd. to advise on remediation that may be required to repurpose the lands.  SLR noted that “the BC Contaminated Sites Regulation (CSR) standards to protect Drinking Water (DW) do not apply for the site as the area is former infilled marine foreshore. This is important because DW standards are usually the most stringent and require more remediation cost and effort to meet them. As such, less stringent standards can be applied and will result in lower remediation costs and fewer concerns than would arise from repurposing of other comparable industrial sites.”

Redevelopment of the Somass Lands will be a complex process and the City intends to utilize professionals along the way to enable the timely execution of this process.

The work plan will include:

  • Retaining a professional firm to lead the remediation process
  • Accessing grant funds for a portion of the investigation and remediation work
  • Retaining a professional firm to demolish structures.  Key components of current structures may be retained for incorporation into new buildings and/or community art amenities
  • Undertaking a planning process that includes public engagement to determine future use of site
  • Considering rezoning and subdivision
  • Considering developer engagement and site sale options

The City has prepared preliminary design drawings (attached) demonstrating a high-level vision and potential end results of redevelopment of the Somass Lands consistent with the City’s Corporate Strategic Plan.

For more information

Tim Pley, Chief Administrative Officer
City of Port Alberni