Council forwards $225k to DNBIA to fund environmental assessment

Discovering how polluted soil beneath Terminal Trench is will help determine future redevelopment opportunities.

The City of Nanaimo has agreed to forward more than $217,000 to the Downtown Nanaimo Business Improvement Association to assist it with completing an environmental study in the Terminal Trench.

In May, council endorsed the DNBIA’s application through the provincial brownfield revitalization program to conduct an environmental assessment of the properties located along Terminal Avenue between Comox Road and Nicol Street.

Though the DNBIA was successful in securing its total requested amount from the program in July, the province notified the DNBIA that the release of the money would not happen until the project is complete.

The DNBIA is waiting for the final signature from the province but said it has received preliminary approval and once the final approval is received it will begin with the project.

“Basically what the province has said is complete the work and we’ll release the funds,” said Ian Howat, the city’s director of strategic relationships. “But due to the size of the DNBIA’s operation they do not have the cash reserves available to carry the project for the length of time it will take to receive the grant funds.”

Council will advance an additional $8,000 to round off annual funding commitments for 2013 to the DNBIA.

“This means we’ve committed to funding DNBIA through 2013 which we believe council would intend to do anyway,” said Al Kenning, city manager.

With a required deadline of March 2013 to complete the work, Kenning said there is some urgency in forwarding the funds to allow the work to begin.

Coun. Jim Kipp said he felt “it was a bit much” to have the request put upon council at the last minute.

“I haven’t seen this before tonight (Monday),” said Kipp. “I’ve had some concerns with the DNBIA in the last little while through some of my correspondence. This coming at me with this urgency is a bit much.”

Kenning added that the Terminal Trench corridor is one of council’s priorities for brownfield site revitalization and that the grant is a good opportunity to have the first phase of work completed and paid for.

“From staff’s perspective we believe this is an important priority and an important thing to do and because the DNBIA is on such a tight cash flow they couldn’t do it without assistance,” he said.

Howat said the the environmental assessment on the properties along the corridor will allow the city to request relaxations on the clean up levels of the sites which will make it easier for the properties to be redeveloped in the future.

The DNBIA is expecting to have the assessment phase of the project completed by January.

The Terminal Trench was once a ravine running from the Pearson Bridge to Port Place Shopping Centre. It became a dumping ground in 1891 for not only debris from coal mines, but for garbage from the community, and was eventually filled in by the early 1920s. The likelihood of contaminated soil beneath the nearly 100 properties lining the street has been an impediment to redevelopment for several years.

Darren Moss, DNBIA planning, development and design committee chairman and project manager, told the Bulletin in July that discovering what is underneath the roads and buildings and how to deal with the contaminants that are likely there would be a daunting task for individual property owners which is why the DNBIA has agreed to take the project on.