Yacht-marina builders aim to remove the 'ugly'

Construction fencing along Cooperage Place, where the Victoria International Marina is to open this summer, has come down. Not because the controversial plan to moor 30 large yachts beside Westsong Walkway has been abandoned, but to remove “ugly” aspects out of consideration for condo dwellers living nearby, Craig Norris, a spokesman for the marina, said Monday.

The floating building that will house a restaurant and coffee shop is being built on the mainland and will be barged to Victoria to eliminate construction noise and disruption for residents. The nearest condo will now be 22 metres from the marina building, up from 13 metres, and the entire development will be water-based, said Norris, director of strategic planning for Victoria International Marina.

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Norris said he is not worried by allegations made in an ad published in the Times Colonist by the Friends of Victoria Harbour under the heading “The Marina Nobody Wants.” The Friends, including former Victoria mayor Peter Pollen, addressed their complaints to Steve Thomson, B.C. minister of lands and forests, saying the Inner Harbour’s quiet public space will be “despoiled by the travesty of an unneeded commercial development,” proceeding through “improper lobbying, conflict of interest, lack of transparency and accountability and disregard for property rights, all contrary to land policies, and all under investigation by the Provincial Ombudsperson.”

Norris called the allegations “unfortunate,” “false” and “misleading,” saying they come from the same small group of opponents vocal on the issue since 2008.

Ombudsperson spokesman Brad Densmore confirmed the office is looking into the matter, but said the Ombudsperson Act allows anyone to submit complaints about provincial public authorities that they feel have acted unfairly.

The marina’s floating building, 8,230 square feet with a wavy roof, will also house marina services for yacht slips that range in length from 65 to 140 feet, with a smaller float attached to serve as a landing spot for kayakers.

About 23,000 cubic metres of material have been dredged from the harbour floor, but pilings expected to be installed by now have been delayed by setback negotiations with the City of Victoria, Norris said.

Developing a canal for kayakers, rather than a route under the building, has increased the total cost to $25 million from $24 million, he said.

Since 2011, the province has leased a 4.4-acre waterlot at Cooperage Place to the project for $24,000 annually, an interim lease expiring in August 2016. “I’m expecting it to go up,” Norris said. “By how much exactly is unclear as market rates for moorage are part of the formula.”

The provincial waterlot is alongside two smaller waterlots owned by the marina’s developer, Community Marine Concepts of Vancouver, which lists its directors as Weiwei Li, Yulu Zhang and Dongxia Zhang.

Mark Lindholm, owner of nearby Westbay Marina, said the current lease price seems low. “I wish I was getting that rate.” That said, Lindholm is “totally supportive” of the new marina, saying the Inner Harbour is meant for such uses.

Cost comparisons for waterlot lease prices for marinas in the capital region are difficult to make due to variables, said Lands and Forests Ministry spokeswoman Sharon Dean.

Lands Ministry spokesman Greig Bethel said the allegations made by Friends of Victoria Harbour were “dealt with in detail” before the ministry issued an interim licence in 2011.

kdedyna@timescolonist.com

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