A town hall meeting is being organized to try to influence decision-making in a dispute about the future of the Ladysmith Community Marina.
The Ladysmith Maritime Society, a non-profit that operates the Ladysmith Community Marina, has received an eviction notice from the Town of Ladysmith, giving it until the end of 2023 to vacate the marina.
According a town news release, in 2022, the provincial government and the Stz’uminus First Nation’s Coast Salish Development Corporation approached the town with an option to transfer the lease from the town to the corporation in 2026, three years before the 2029 contract end date, after Stz’uminus and the province signed a reconciliation agreement which committed to land transfers valued at up to $28.5 million. The agreement also provides $10 million for the environmental clean-up of provincial Crown lands.
“[The province] thought if we got it ahead of time, it would put us in a position to do a lot of planning and stuff we could do today so that we would pick up five or six years on that whole development [at the] harbour,” said Ray Gauthier, CEO of Coast Salish Development Corporation.
The corporation offered an agreement to the maritime society to “continue operating the community marina until 2026 under the same terms as the contract with the town,” according to the release from the town.
“An agreement between the two sides has not been reached, in part, due to a misunderstanding on the part of LMS that the operating agreement through to 2026 was open to negotiation,” the town noted.
Friends of Ladysmith Community Marina, a Facebook group dedicated to supporting the maritime society, surfaced after the town’s statement about the dispute. The group says it doesn’t speak for LMS, but disputes some of the claims in the town’s news release.
“We have learned that ‘under the same terms’ is simply not true. The draft sent from the [CSDC] to LMS included terms which a society legally incorporated in B.C. cannot sign…” noted a release signed by David Grimstead, Rob Pinkerton and Tim Richards. “Cancelling the lease and sending a letter to LMS to remove their assets shows the need for further transparent negotiations including all stakeholders.”
In a press release from the maritime society, president Kelly Daniels stated that the society wishes to work with the Stz’uminus First Nation to transition from one waterfront stewardship body – the Town of Ladysmith – to another.
“With this, we want to be the catalyst and partner in modern economic reconciliation while maintaining management of the community marina for the benefit of the people,” Daniels said.
The maritime society has managed the marina for 37 years, providing moorage for local boaters, visitors and live-aboards and holding community events and educational activities. The society has also “amassed an impressive set of assets on Ladysmith’s waterfront” including a welcome centre and a café.
According to Friends of Ladysmith Community Marina, the maritime society has been directed to remove all its assets and cease operations in the licence area by the end of the year.
“We’re going to clean the place up, we’re going to do this really nice development. It’ll take five to seven years to do it, but it’s going to happen. And then we’ve got this small non-profit organization, who has no skin in the game, creating all of this noise,” said Gauthier. “What’s in it for them? Why are they hanging on so dearly? Because most of those people who are making all this noise are getting cheap moorage.”
The Town of Ladysmith’s release claims the province notified the municipality that some of the marina operations were not permitted in accordance with the Crown lease terms during early discussions; however, the maritime society says it was not notified of the infractions.
LMS is holding a town hall meeting at Eagles Hall at 6 p.m. on May 3 “to inform Ladysmith and regional communities, stakeholders, user groups, and promote information-sharing between all parties.”Follow @nanaimobulletin