Terrace city council has voted to approve official community plan amendments necessary for a controversial inland port development to proceed.
The inland port project is a proposed development that would see a train container loading facility built on the northern portion of the former Skeena Cellulose mill site in Terrace (just west of the Sande Overpass) and allow for a row of commercial or light industrial properties along Keith Ave. at the southern edge of the former mill site.
The proposed project has generated significant public interest. Opponents are concerned about the development’s proximity to Terrace’s downtown core and the site of a planned new hospital, while proponents say the project would be an essential economic boost for the city and an appropriate use of the brownfield former mill site.
Council’s vote came during a special council meeting the morning of Jan. 15, following virtual public hearing on Jan. 14 that lasted nearly four hours and saw over 50 members of the community providing their feedback about the project. City Planner Tara Irwin also provided a summary of all feedback the city received prior to the public hearing, including nearly 200 letters and emails from proponents and opponents.
The proposed inland port development required amendments to Keith Estates Neighbourhood Concept Plan (KENCP), which is a subsection of the City’s official community plan that deals specifically with the former mill site. The KENCP, originally drafted in 2014, envisioned the former mill site as a mixed-use residential and commercial area, based on predictions of significant population growth that failed to materialize in the following years, according to David Block, director of development services for the city.
Council voted Jan. 15 to amend the KENCP to remove residential land use objectives and allow for limited heavy industrial use (for rail purposes) on the northern portion of the former mill site. Coun. Jessica McCallum-Miller opposed that motion.
The proposed development still requires an amendment to the city’s zoning bylaw, which council would need to approve in order for the project to go forward. The project’s developer, Progressive Ventures, would also need to obtain a number of provincial and municipal permits (including a municipal development permit and environmental remediation of the site) to proceed with the development.
Several councillors said they expect to see Progressive Ventures take steps to mitigate community concerns as the development process continues.