Port McNeill council passes harbour rates bylaw

Port McNeill council voted in favour of passing their revised harbour rates bylaw, making it law. Changes at the harbour will be immediate.

Port McNeill’s harbour rates bylaw has passed its fourth reading, making it law.

At their regular council meeting Monday, Jan. 9, council voted in favour of the harbour rates bylaw, and the town will start seeing changes at the harbour “Immediately,” said Harbour Manager Pete Nelson-Smith in an interview over the phone, confirming two specific fees will go into effect this January all the way through to December.

“Those fees would be for the concrete float use, and non-residents will be seeing a change in their monthly moorage,” Nelson-Smith said.

Nelson-Smith was originally tasked by council with the challenge of revamping the Port McNeill harbour rates back in May, and he has been working steadily on the project ever since. “I would love to be able to narrow it down (to a certain amount of hours), but realistically, I just spent a lot of time researching other harbours, and I put a lot of effort into it.”

The process of revising the harbour rates included many hurdles.

An hour long public consultation was held in December, in which Nelson-Smith realized that the community “wants this as a service, like a swimming pool or a baseball field, more than an income generator.”

He also clearly heard the residents’ requests to keep rates affordable for the locals – “so from there I did a little bit more research on the launch rates and made it more comparable to Telegraph Cove and Alder Bay.”

Since Jan. 9 when the bylaw passed fourth reading, Nelson-Smith confirmed there’s been “a couple questions from residents about commercial use for the dock, and some other general questions, but no real concerns.”

He credits this to the fact that council went out of their way to engage the community and hear their thoughts. “Council would either phone me or come in and meet with me to see what point I was at, and any concerns that were brought fourth, they were sent directly to me.”

Regarding the longterm parking issues that have plagued the harbour over the years, Nelson-Smith has come up with what he feels will be a solution to the longstanding issue.

“From May 1 to the end of September, it will be day parking only. I’ve engaged some of the local businesses that offer longterm parking, and we will be directing anybody needing longterm parking to use those businesses.”

All told, the process of retooling Port McNeill’s harbour rates was “really positive,” said Nelson-Smith. “The meetings were thorough, the community was very respectful, and they put forward a lot of good information regarding their needs.”

With the new rates in place and an organized plan to fix the parking issues, Nelson-Smith expects this season to be their busiest one yet.

“We’ve shown an increase in usage every year, and I’m expecting the harbour to be just as busy this summer.”

Port McNeill Mayor Shirley Ackland is thrilled with how the harbour rates bylaw evolved since Nelson-Smith’s first draft attempt, pointing out she felt the public consultation was “a wonderful opportunity to hear the thoughts and concerns of the residents of Port McNeill. We used a lot of their feedback, which helped Pete modify and amend the bylaw so that it gave us the ability to look after all aspects of the community. He did a lot more research thanks to the comments from the town hall.”

Ackland continued, stating she feels that “as a part of council, it makes you recognize how important it is to have discussion – we need to give the public the opportunity to have their say,” before explaining that the harbour rates “hadn’t changed in a very long time. We had never actually set apart the harbour rates from the town budget before, and Pete was tasked with making sure the rates were appropriate.”

“Now that we’ve done that, we can build a maintenance plan, make a budget, and build it as a business. People will be able to come and look at the harbour information and see what it’s made, what the costs are, and see what the schedule will be. For the people that use the harbour, that is a huge piece of information for them. They have the opportunity to understand what happens at the harbour, and see where exactly the money is being spent.”