Port McNeill in Focus is a bi-weekly opinion piece, written by Port McNeill locals Derek Koel and Matt Martin, that focuses primarily on various issues going on in and around the town. Have some thoughts about Port McNeill in Focus? Email editor@northislandgazette.com and we will publish them online and in print.

Port McNeill in Focus: Do we want a community with no growth? Is that what we elected this current mayor and council for?

“The 2014 economic development plan continues to be window dressing.”

Economic development. It should be at the forefront for any town council wrestling with a stagnant or declining population.

First off, I applaud the Town of Port McNeill for keeping the water and the lights on, but I think they have dropped the ball on this one.

For Port McNeill politicians, supporting local business and economic development doesn’t seem to be a priority. It seems they are waiting for our ship to come in, not jumping on every available opportunity to grow our local economy, one dollar and job at a time.

The town used to work closely with the Port McNeill and District Chamber of Commerce, but somewhere along the line the relationship soured. I respect our town’s decision to change a funding model, even one that provides zero funding for our chamber, but geez… they should at least attend a chamber event or meeting once in a while. Sadly, that is not the case.

Our small businesses are the life blood of our community, they need a voice at the table.

News flash! We have the lowest residential property tax rate on Vancouver Island, and I suspect we also have one of the lowest, if not the lowest, commercial/industrial property tax rates, too. So why not promote that fact? It could result in more investment and some modest growth.

The town owns real estate. The sign advertising for residential development proposals for the alder patch on Pioneer Hill has either been taken down or taken back by the bush. If we are serious about seeing that land sold off and developed, there are professionals who could help with that.

New businesses, investors and developers are effectively locked out of the town’s commercial core. We have vacant property but it appears nothing is for sale and there is very little to rent. Where are the town’s plans, policies, and incentives to develop these lands? Or dare I say, where is the pressure to develop?

Our industrial area (on Mine Road, not to be confused with our downtown), seems to have nothing for sale either and limited vacant land available. Where is that plan for future light industry expansion? If the town has land available they should get on it or develop policies and procedures to encourage the private sector to do it.

We currently don’t have great real estate options for someone who wants to set up a shop in Port McNeill, and we are definitely not thinking “outside of the box”.

And yes I say this just because I want to fill a growler at a local micro brewery.

We’ve got illegal cannabis growers in the midst, where are they to go? The federal government has micro-cultivation licences for recreational cannabis growers, they could go legit, if we had room to grow.

Morality issues aside, the sale of legal recreational cannabis would create a few jobs and economic activity, but the town’s prohibition bylaw leaves that in doubt.

With the exception of paying lip service to the deferred harbour plan, economic development is not listed as one of council’s official 2018 goals and objectives. The 2014 economic development plan continues to be window dressing.

This begs the question; do we want a community with no growth? Is that what we elected this current mayor and council for?

Derek Koel is a local businessman, residing in Port McNeill since 2000. Over the years he has served on many local boards, committees, and organizations. He is a father of two, and is interested in healthy living, outdoor recreation, and local issues in the community.

* The views and opinions expressed in this opinion-editorial are those of the author and do not reflect the views of Black Press or the North Island Gazette. If you have a different opinion, we request you write to us to contribute to the conversation.

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