The following is excerpted from a presentation I made to Ladysmith Town Council at the May 14th public hearing on a rezoning bylaw allowing for the sale of town-owned land adjacent to Transfer Beach Park. The site (behind the horseshoe pitch) is currently used for overflow parking at events at Transfer Beach Park. It was also at one time the only RV campground in Ladysmith.
Here are some questions and points I would like all of you to consider. If you choose to pass this bylaw, you will open the door to the selling off of an area that many people feel is part of Transfer Beach Park. It is in fact not a part of the park, rather it is a reserve of land that is adjacent to the park. Any building on this site will have a dramatic effect on the park and the public’s use of the park. If Council passes this bylaw, it will change the character and feel of the park. Residential buildings take away from the feeling of green and open space. Building on this site can create a sense of enclosure.
It has been suggested that by selling this property, the Town can use the proceeds from the sale to aid in the development of the Master Waterfront Plan, which many think is a good idea. But is it?
Before we rezone this property, allowing it to be sold, we should get clarification on a few of the critical issues.
- Has the property been assessed as to its market value?
- What will be the Town’s portion of Waterfront Plan? What percentage of this cost will be covered by any net profit from the sale of these lands?
- What assurances can you give us that the Waterfront Plan will proceed as presented to the people of Ladysmith?
- Should the proceeds from any land sale go to the Waterfront Plan or should any money received be better used on other pressing issues? For example, increasing the capacity of our water supply to meet the needs of our residents now and in the future (note: attached to the bylaw was a map showing the town’s expected population growth of an additional 6,700 people).
The Waterfront Plan suggests there will be 750–800 people residing in 325–350 housing units. Assuming 1.25 cars per housing unit, that means an additional 435 cars (1.25*350). I estimate that this would likely mean 1,000 more daily uses of the entrances and exits at the Transfer Beach Park entrance at the Trans Canada Highway and Roberts Street.
Using the Towns own estimates, the population of the town will grow by 85 per cent or 6700 more people in the next 20 to 30 years. What if the population increases in the other areas around Ladysmith? Increases like this will tax that capacity of Transfer Beach Park to the point where its charm may be taken away. Look at the volume of people using it on beautiful sunny days even now.
The Waterfront Plans show Slack Point converted into a park for us to use, but will this ever happen?
Slack Point has significant challenges to address before it ever becomes the park shown in the Waterfront Plan. Its shoreline is eroding away at an alarming rate. The coastline is vulnerable to further erosion because of climate change and rising sea levels, increases to as much as two feet in the Vancouver area by 2050, according to Provincial Government estimates. Without very expensive shoreline protection, much of Slack Point could soon be underwater. Slack Point is not much more than five or six feet above the existing high water line, and it has flooded in that past from storm surges and king tides. What will it be like if the estimates are correct?
Lastly, if this land is ever sold off, it will effectively set the boundaries of Transfer Beach Park forever. How does this Council want to be thought of in the future? Do you want to know as the Council that missed the opportunity to save this site for future expansion of Transfer Beach Park? Remember, the park has no other way to expand, as the southern bounds are set because a past Council elected to sell off that land. Don’t let a similar thing happen with these lands at the north end of the park.
Many of these questions may have arisen and discussed at “in camera” meetings that were held by Council, but I cannot find any public record where these question may have debated.
Hopefully, these comments may prompt more questions for you to consider before you vote on such an important issue.
Remember: Parkland is our gift to future generations. We can’t afford to make a mistake, as once sold, this land is gone forever.
Shortly after the close of the public hearing, Council voted to pass the rezoning bylaw and open the doors to housing development on the site.
It is Council’s prerogative to decide what they believe is the best use of the site, but the meeting did not leave me feeling that they listened to the concerns of many who took the time and effort to make their views heard.
At least that’s as I see it.