Conversation key to south downtown waterfront planning

NANAIMO – Recommendation work by South Downtown Waterfront Committee on hold until key players meet.

The work of Nanaimo’s South Downtown Waterfront Committee has ground to a halt, with the need for three key players to discuss opportunities and interests for the water’s edge.

The City of Nanaimo, Snuneymuxw First Nation and Nanaimo Port Authority haven’t yet met to talk about plans for the 59-hectare industrial waterfront. In fact, the Tripartite Liaison Committee made up of the three parties hasn’t met at all in at least two years, according to the city’s legislative services.

It’s a move the South Downtown Waterfront Committee believes needs to happen before it does any more work on recommending a charter or a model for a management body. It has called for the SFN, port authority and city to agree on the mutual benefit of an integrated approach to planning, development and implementation of the south waterfront and for council to suspend committee operations until there’s clarity on directions.

The waterfront is complex, and three different parties have shared and different interests and need to come together, said Dave Witty, committee chairman, who adds they haven’t had the occasion to do that.

At a city council meeting this month, Coun. Bill Yoachim said none of the three parties have met to discuss the waterfront “politician to politician” and he hopes for a common, shared approach.

Coun. Bill Bestwick said he could not agree more about the need for a frank, blunt conversation without observers.

But Mayor Bill McKay doesn’t believe the city should pull the stakeholders together quite yet and Bernie Dumas, president and CEO of the Nanaimo Port Authority, told the News Bulletin the three organizations have not met in the same room “for quite some time” and he is frustrated.

“We are not putting our ideas together, and that’s why the tripartite meeting was created – was that we each, face to face, explain what’s important to each of us and try to blend it into a business plan or into a vision together,” Dumas said. “I don’t think there’s any reason we can’t get it done, but it’s just the schedules don’t seem to work or there’s an election or there’s something else that’s in the way.”

McKay said the city’s relationships with the SFN and port authority are fine and timing more than anything is the reason the trio haven’t met about the waterfront.

The city’s 10.8-hectare share of the south downtown waterfront is being freed of impediments sooner than originally thought, according to McKay, who says everyone needs to lay their cards on the table and figure out the interests in the property, what future development looks like and the impediments.

“Both council and the new city manager have a tremendous amount of work on their plate so I would prefer to see us prioritize her work plan, our collective work plan, for the next six months before we determine when we are going to engage in conversation with SFN, the port authority and other stakeholders,” he said.

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