City takes first steps to secure right-of-way

NANAIMO – The city is looking to free 3.8 hectares of water and land previously tied up in a right-of-way agreement.

City officials will negotiate for right-of-way claims to one of the few water lots available in the Nanaimo harbour as Seaspan Ferries prepares to move its operations to Duke Point.

The City of Nanaimo has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Washington Companies’ Seaspan Ferries and Southern Rail of Vancouver Island for 3.8 hectares currently tied up in a statutory right-of-way near the Wellcox property in downtown Nanaimo.

The move could free up property the city previously couldn’t use because of Seaspan’s claim, allowing for redevelopment, a new road connection and control over what happens in its water lot.

Under the MOU, the city would negotiate for 3.8 hectares of Seaspan Ferries’ 6.2-hectare right of way, which would open up land along Front Street to the Gabriola ferry terminal. The rest of the claim would be shifted to Southern Rail as part of a new agreement.

“It’s huge,” said Mayor Bill McKay. “This movement on this property is going a lot faster than we ever thought.

“We didn’t think we’d see Seaspan leave that property in any way, shape or form for 15 to 20 years.”

The city purchased a portion of the value of former Canadian Pacific Railway Company lands on Port Drive in 2013 for $3.4 million, with the remainder of the value contained in the right-of-way.

That same year, Seaspan Ferries entered into talks with Nanaimo about releasing its claim as it considered moving operations. It’s held the right-of-way for close to 20 years, but began to reconsider after buying Van Isle Barge Services in Duke Point.

The MOU summarizes and formalizes discussions of the past two years, according to City of Nanaimo real estate manager Bill Corsan.

It also comes as the city is working toward re-development of its lands, and launching a master-planning process. Purchasing Seaspan’s right-of-way would give the city control over the marine uses of the civic-owned water lot and as part of the planning process, people will get to weigh in on activities they want to see there, Corsan said.

A formalized agreement is expected by the end of 2015. Seaspan is expected to leave in 2017.