City of Powell River Council will make a formal request to the provincial government for the partial removal of mill site, or section 21 lands, from the city’s former mill site property in the Townsite.
At the Thursday, June 20, city council meeting, council passed a lengthy motion, requesting that the lands no longer owned nor used by the entity currently known as Paper Excellence Canada be excluded from the mill site area. A significant portion of the lands designated “mill site” under section 21 are no longer under mill ownership. The city has ownership of a sizable area of the former mill lands that it now wants to have full control over.
Councillor Rob Southcott said this is an issue that has come up many times over many years. He said the motion was a request again to the provincial government to remove section 21 from all the lands that used to be mill lands.
“I’m not aware of anyone who doesn’t support this,” said Southcott.
Councillor Jim Palm said when the city previously submitted this request to the provincial government, one of the groups speaking against the removal at the time was Tla’amin Nation, and that is one of the reasons it did not pass. He said this time around, the nation is going to be consulted.
“We’ll see how the province deals with it,” said Palm.
Mayor Dave Formosa said the section 21 lands were created in the original patent of Powell River’s incorporation in 1955.
“The mill owned those lands,” said Formosa. “They would fight against us removing the section 21; they wouldn’t agree to it. Section 21 is solely for the benefit of the mill. It takes away the power of the city to enact our bylaws on those lands.”
Formosa said the lands the city is seeking to have excluded are no longer part of the mill’s holdings.
“When they devolved themselves of the property, section 21 was still there,” said Formosa. “That means we have no authority over that land. I think we’ll be successful.”
According to a staff report from city director of planning services Thomas Knight, the fourth schedule (section 21) of the Powell River Incorporation Act of March 15, 1955, identifies the proposed boundaries of the mill site area. Section 21 indicates that: “no bylaw or other law or regulation of the council shall operate to restrict the construction, maintenance and operation on the mill site area as defined in the fourth schedule of pulp, paper, or other mills utilizing forest products or any other industrial works, whether similar to the foregoing or not, or to limit or otherwise control below what is economically feasible, having regard to the best current engineering knowledge and practice in Canada for mills and works of similar size and nature, the production or emission from any such mills and works on the mill site area of odour, fumes, gas, vapour, smoke, dust, cinders, vibration, electricity, noise or explosion.”
Knight stated that while the restrictions under this section have been interpreted as to affect only the ability of the city to control uses directly related to Catalyst Paper Corporation and its successor’s operations, the existence of section 21 is seen as a deterrent to attract other activities to lands within section 21, particularly those now owned by the city, Tla’amin or others, and no longer part of the present mill operations.
The preference for the city is to have section 21 removed entirely on those lands to allow activities to be in accordance to all city bylaws, regulations and policies.
Knight stated that this is particularly salient given the recent approval by council to transfer ownership of the former Powell River Waterfront Development Corporation lands to the city.
Should the lieutenant governor of BC move to amend the fourth schedule of the Powell River Incorporation Act, the lands then excluded from the section 21 provisions will be subject to the same rules and regulations as all other lands within the city. Knight stated that this should add an additional level of certainty that will assist in promoting these lands for future development.