LAND MASS in yellow immediately adjacent to the Northwest Regional Airport and bordering Hwy37 South is one of the parcels which could be transferred to the Kitselas First Nation based on a liquefied natural gas benefits agreement signed with the provincial government.

LAND MASS in yellow immediately adjacent to the Northwest Regional Airport and bordering Hwy37 South is one of the parcels which could be transferred to the Kitselas First Nation based on a liquefied natural gas benefits agreement signed with the provincial government.

Kitselas First Nation takes cautious lands deal approach

Northwest B.C. First Nation to benefit from liquefied natural gas agreement

  • Apr. 12, 2017 11:00 a.m.

THE KITSELAS First Nation won’t be taking possession of 25 hectares of provincial Crown land adjacent to the Northwest Regional Airport until it has a solid business plan in place for its development, says its chief councillor.

The parcel became available immediately following a deal signed two weeks ago by the province and the Kitselas as one of a number of cash and land benefits tied to potential liquefied natural gas developments in the region.

One of the conditions to acquire the land, which is within the City of Terrace boundaries, is that it not be regarded as reserve lands and so would make it subject to taxation, said Joe Bevan.

“And we don’t want to do that until we have a plan in place. We’d be looking for development partners,” he said.

Bevan did acknowledge early suggestions the Kitselas would be interested in having a gas station or even a casino at the location.

“There were general ideas and we were thinking maybe, maybe, maybe but it really depends upon what this area will look like in 10 to 15 years,” he said. “This is really for development in the future. We would really want to have a business plan in place in order for it to pay for itself. We would have taxes and what have you.”

The parcel is bounded by Hwy37 South, the access road from the highway to the airport and the airport lands boundary and lies on the left hand side of the access road when turning onto the access road from Terrace.

Terrace mayor Carol Leclerc said the city agreed to the transfer. “The Kitselas are good neighbours and this is a way for them to develop economically and that will benefit us as well,” she said.

Bevan said the potential development of the parcel follows the general Kitselas philosophy that any development it undertakes benefits the area. “It’s a regional approach. Not just for First Nations but for everyone,” he said.

The philosophy would be extended to other provincial Crown lands available to the Kitselas arising from the liquefied natural gas benefits agreement signed with the province, said Bevan.

Acquiring those lands, however, would only come if construction of liquefied natural gas plants in either Kitimat or Prince Rupert actually starts.

One of those parcels, 62 hectares, is located in lower Thornhill and would make the Kitselas a significant landholder there.

It’s a mostly forested section bounded by Paquette to the south, Century St. to the west, the Pacific Northern Gas pipeline to the east and north to behind the old Lomak depot location.

Bevan said its acquisition for commercial or residential development would be based on continuing good relations with the community and the Kitimat-Stikine regional district.

“It’s a great relationship,” said Bevan. “We’re not going anywhere and neither are they. It’s what we want to do – work together for the region.”

Kitimat-Stikine regional district Thornhill director Ted Ramsey welcomed the possibility of the Kitselas becoming landowners. “If Kitselas prospers, so will Thornhill,” said Ramsey.

The agreement would convert the property to fee simple title and it would not become part of the Kitselas reserve lands inventory.

“The land would be subject to any zoning bylaw regulations, any development conditions that would apply to any other property,” said Ramsey.

Ramsey, who wants Thornhill to become its own municipality, said the property’s development by the Kitselas would fit well with the future.

“This would be creating wealth, local wealth that would stay here,” he said.

“Whether for now with the regional district or for the future town of Thornhill, this is a good opportunity.”

The possibility of the Crown land going to a private owner arose just three years ago in the midst of LNG development speculation when two local companies expressed an interest in purchasing all or sections of the property.

Bear Creek Contracting and M&M Ventures both submitted applications with concepts for large-scale residential development.

Bear Creek’s application also called for commercial development.

The company’s application was accompanied by a letter of support from the Kitselas First Nation. The province later decided to hold off on entertaining sales options.

The Kitselas also have the opportunity to acquire more land, 1,140 hectares, should construction start on either the Pacific NorthWest LNG plant near Prince Rupert or LNG Canada at Kitimat.

This land, in two sections, is located in the Dubose Flats area to the right of Hwy37 South and just south of Lakelse Lake.

The Dubose area has figured over the decades in a variety of development proposals ranging from an aluminum smelter by Rio Tinto Alcan to a pulp mill.