Nanaimo city officials want to ensure there is enough time for council and the public to consider a proposal for a foot passenger-only ferry service between downtown Nanaimo and Vancouver.
Details of the plan were revealed at Monday's committee of the whole meeting by Island Ferry Services Ltd., a Vancouverbased consortium of investors behind the business venture.
David Marshall, one of three principals in the company's core management team, told Mayor John Ruttan and council that IFSL aims to establish the service by spring of 2014. The group has already secured two Damen DFF 4212 catamaran vessels capable of seating 376 passengers each. Operations would be based in Nanaimo and run short-term out of a terminal building on city-owned land at 1 Port Dr., currently leased to GADD Marine. The group is seeking a 20-year lease for the land with renewable terms of 20 years each, plus a partnering agreement with the city. IFSL is offering the city revenue streams from the project, including a $0.25-per-passenger head tax, lease revenue and half of parking revenues on city land.
IFSL also wants the city to forgive up to $125,000 per quarter ($500,000 per year) from that revenue for the first five years of operation. IFSL also wants to 'bank' any amount of the revenue below the $125,000 and set it against future years.
Marshall said Monday that IFSL is seeking to establish 370 parking spaces in the area, although much of those spaces would be on Canadian Pacificowned land south of Port Drive. Coun. Fred Pattje sits on the South Downtown Waterfront committee, which was formed to develop a long-term vision for a large waterfront area, including Nanaimo Port Authority lands, CP lands and half of CP's Wellcox rail yard, purchased by the city late December. The IFSL terminal would fall within the area, as does the Seaspan ferry terminal, where IFSL aims to relocate their operations at some point in the future.
Pattje said he does not expect the foot ferry proposal to impact the downtown waterfront process, although he said he is not convinced that parking would be a good use for land in the area.
Nor is the waterfront committee necessarily the best platform for the public to voice their questions about the project, he added. "For council to be updated as we were yesterday was appropriate and probably a bit overdue, but that's the nature of the beast sometimes," he said.
The city has identified a new transportation hub as a primary use for the Wellcox lands.
Council and the community needs "ample opportunity" to consider the proposal and its consequences, said Ian Howat, Nanaimo's acting general manager of corporate services. "We're basically starting from scratch, in many ways, with the public (on this)," he said.
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