Is mayor ready to write-off Louis Creek industrial park?

As the Mayor sees it: by District of Barriere Mayor Bill Humphreys

The world economy is in turmoil. The economy in B.C. is holding steady and making improvements. Well, unless you base your predictions on the high end real estate market, and then it appears there is some volatility to be taken into account. I read that homes and properties in the $10 million range have virtually stopped selling and that commercial and industrial land values have taken a downward dip. The value of undeveloped industrial land is even more suspect as the cost of supplying services continues to rise.

Why do I mention this? Last year Barriere council took on an ambitious project based on acquiring the old Tolko site which is for all intents and purposes undeveloped industrial land. Promises had been made for the transfer of this land from the Provincial Ministry that now owned the land to the District for the princely sum of $1.

An economic development strategy for the District was formulated. Though not officially stated and written down, the strategy was to hire a person to work on the development of the new industrial park and to bring investors to Barriere. Promises had been made and the process needed to start as quickly as possible.

Based on this transfer of ownership many plans were made, money was spent on studies and infrastructure improvements to the proposed industrial park. The economic development strategy was pushed ahead based on the sale of the proposed lots to be serviced and sold as industrial land. At the time this seemed to be a viable project and indeed there was at least one business that came forward to offer to purchase a lot and set up a business in the new industrial park.

All was good, well sort of. As it turns out the transfer of ownership to the District did not happen. It has not happened to this day. It may indeed not happen for a long time. In truth the District Council does not know when it will happen as they are not privy to the process that is currently being worked on. I was told this is the normal course of events when land is transferred or sold by the Provincial government.

Not really believing this to be the case I asked questions and was directed to the process handbook that is to be followed when there is to be transfer of title such as this. An actual ‘you can read it yourself’ process had been developed and was made available to anyone that needed the information.

What is to be done now? I suppose as the new mayor I could look backwards, point out what went wrong, make comments on how people should know better and that the spending of public money on a project that turns out to be at present unworkable and possibly beyond the scope of the District was at best not well thought out. But would this fix any of the problems we now face? Would it get back any of the money spent or hasten the ownership transfer process? It is only my opinion but to do these things would be a waste of time and resources.

In my opinion it is far better to go forward, learn from the apparent mistakes of others and properly plan for the future. There is already an industrial park here in the District and there are serviced lots available for sale there. Should an investor want to bring their business plans to Barriere we can accommodate them to some degree.

It is also my opinion that it is time to build an economic development strategy that follows tried and true process and services the needs of our residents as best we can.

Currently the District has for this year a part time contracted person working on bringing investors to Barriere.  The plan I propose need not interfere with that current process. The creation of a long term Local Economic Development (LED) plan can occur either in concert with or in addition to the work presently being carried out.

Since there are no funds for any additional initiatives or for staff time I, as the mayor will do the work of organizing the LED plan and get input and assistance from council members and the community going forward.

Good plans make for good results.