City council voted unanimously last night to sink approximately $69,000 into the continued environmental rehabilitation of the former Terrace Co-op lands on Greig Ave.
The large vacant lot used to contain a shopping centre and gas bar, both of which were closed in the late 1990s following a decline in the area’s forest industry.
The city then purchased the land for $1 million in 2005 from a second owner and had the old buildings demolished.
Then in 2013 the city signed a sale agreement with a Calgary-based real estate company called Superior Lodging for $877,500 so it could build a 100-room hotel.
However, as part of the agreement, Superior stipulated that an environmental certificate had to be granted by the provincial government prior to a final sale being made.
This certificate of compliance has been hard to attain because Federated Co-op is still cleaning up the site of the old gas bar using a slow-working system to neutralize any spilled oil or gas in the ground, saying it could take more than five years.
Now the provincial environment ministry has said it will allow the city to subdivide the property and exclude the area of the gas bar from the land to be sold.
However the city still needs to prove that the area of contamination is not leaking into the adjacent land.
“We need to delineate the hydrocarbon plume to prove it is not on the proposed Superior site,” stated the written request to council from corporate lands manager Herb Dusdal.
A grant from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Green Municipal Fund would pay for half of the $138,000 cost of the drilling and testing work to support the subdivision application.
Assuming that the plume of spilled oil and gas doesn’t extend next door then the city would most likely be granted the environmental certificate it so desperately needs to close the land sale.
Council was not thrilled at having to spend more on the site.
“I am going to try to contain myself a little bit about the prospects of spending another $70,000 on a piece of property on which we have spent an incredible amount of money to date,” said councillor Bruce Bidgood, adding that he wants staff to prepare a document that will show how much the city has spent on the property to date.
Councillor Brian Downie asked about the timeline for applying for and receiving the grant. Councillor Stacey Tyers, who is familiar with the federation, said it makes decisions in the fall and the spring.
“It’s completely confusing to me why we are seemingly still on the hook for a contaminated site that was bought and sold and resold,” said mayor Dave Pernarowski, though he acknowledged that “I don’t really see any other option.”
Councillor James Cordeiro said that when environment minister Mary Polak was in Terrace in 2013 that he, councillor Lynne Christiansen, and former councillor Marilyn Davies picked her brain about the troublesome brownfield site, and learned that “brownfield rules might work better in the lower mainland where property is infinitely more valuable.”
“It’s a bitter pill to swallow,” added Cordeiro.
City chief administrative officer Heather Avison said that proceeding with the spending plan is the “only way to expedite and move it forward ourselves.”