Delta South MLA Ian Paton is hoping he’s made some headway with a couple of nagging issues for Ladner Harbour.
During this week’s debate in the legislature on budget estimates, Paton asked Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources, to help quickly solve the water lot lease and dredging issues.
“For instance, in downtown Ladner we have a street called Chisholm Street. It’s basically bare, it’s vacant, it’s on the water and we can’t get any businesses, any restaurants, any gift shops, any developers to come in and take hold of Chisholm Street,” Paton said regarding the lease issue.
“We would like to make it a beautiful reenactment of Steveston where people can come and sit and have coffee out on the water, but no one will come to invest in Chisholm Street in the downtown historic part of Ladner to build anything, to build a Cactus Club, a Milestones, a gift shop or even a fish and chips shop when they know that the uncertainty of leases. They’re not long enough. Right now, I believe, they’re offered one and two-year leases. No bank is going to lend money to a developer to come along to borrow money to make investments on the water with these short-term leases.”
Paton noted in addition to the tenure uncertainty, current lease holders are facing sky-high rent increases.
Noting he’s come to a greater understanding of the situation, Donaldson assured Paton, “We put a priority on it and we’re progressing” and “we’re working hard to get them resolved quickly.”
Donaldson said the goal was to “have things wrapped up by the end of this calendar year.”
The province took over managing the foreshores from the port but hadn’t offered current or prospective leaseholders, including many float home owners and businesses, long-term tenure, which meant the Delta-owned properties at the Seven Seas site, which was put up for sale, wasn’t a particularly attractive place to invest.
Delta used $2.3 million in amenity money it received from the port about a decade earlier to purchase the site with a goal to eventually encourage major redevelopment and revitalization of the area. It’s also a major component of the more recent South Delta Business Sustainability Strategy. Delta had already approved a new waterfront mixed-use zone for its parcels that would permit a wide range of uses.
The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources, however, came up with an agreement, after consultations with the Musqueam Indian Band, that doesn’t allow for long-term leases.
As far as the dredging issue, Paton, also a city councillor, said what Delta is looking for is an agreement whereby $750,000 a year could be targeted to upkeep the dredging, rather than having to try to come up with $10 million or more every decade for a major dredging project.
Donaldson, noting his staff will be taking part in an area tour, said “it’s a complex file” and his ministry is still gathering information. Multiple stakeholders including local governments and First Nations are involved, although navigation through the channels is a federal responsibility.
“We want to make sure we have a really solid file before bringing this to the federal government and we want time to do it properly, so we’ll be starting that by having the site-specific visits next week,” he answered.
Recent channel surveys show significant sediment accumulation at the entrances to many of the local channels around Ladner, according to a Delta city report, which notes staff are in discussion with the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority and the Ladner Sediment Group how to proceed.
Back in 2012, Delta entered into a joint $10-million funding program with the province, the port and the City of Richmond to dredge channels around Ladner and Steveston. Work was completed in February 2015.