Western Forest Products (WFP) has been served with a notice of expropriation by the City of Port Alberni for their Somass Sawmill lands. The Somass Sawmill lands comprise 43 acres of prime waterfront industrial property in the center of the city’s waterfront — both the mill site and parking lot. It is the same area where the city envisions creating a “quay to quay” walkway from Victoria Quay at Johnston Road to Harbour Quay at Argyle Street.
In a statement released about the expropriation process, Mayor Sharie Minions said, “It’s a big step; very significant. It’s probably the most important property within the City of Port Alberni: 43 acres of waterfront land right in the heart of our community. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen any action on redevelopment of this site, or alternatively, re-opening the site as a sawmill. So, council felt compelled to take this action.”
A municipality may serve notice of expropriation under Section 31 of the Community Charter for the purposes of public use, economic development or redevelopment. It is a rare use of the charter, but not unprecedented, Minions said. WFP indefinitely curtailed production at the Somass mill in July 2017, when the company cited a lack of fiber and uncertainty over the Canada-U.S. softwood lumber agreement as reasons for the shutdown.
In a statement emailed to media Tuesday afternoon WFP said, “We have reached out to the City of Port Alberni to understand why they have taken this step. Western has a long track record of working cooperatively with our municipal partners to identify ways we could help achieve their strategic plans.”
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Port Alberni to expropriate Somass Sawmill from Western Forest Products