Dear Editor, (not published)

Two facts: First, pretty much everyone reading this will have “Port Alberni” at the end of their mailing address, and second, the most difficult issues communities face are often about how and where to use land.

We saw a few weeks back at the Alberni Clayoquot Regional District (ACRD) board, a new cannabis production facility proposed in the Sproat Lake area. District directors struggled to hear from residents and stakeholders and quickly make changes to bylaws.

Directors of the City of Port Alberni sat aside because it was a decision only for the Electoral Areas plus the representative from Tofino. That’s the directors for Bamfield (Area A), Beaufort (Area B), Long Beach (Area C) , Sproat Lake (Area D), Beaver Creek (Area E), Cherry Creek (Area F), and the representative from Tofino (Mayor Josie Osborne).

With all due respect to the folks outside the Valley, what skin do they have in this decision?

Six months ago, the reverse seemed to occur, with the two City director positions crucial to a financial decision on Thunder in the Valley that Valley ACRD area directors perhaps thought differently on.

And finally just last week, there was a public hearing at Cherry Creek hall on the Cannabis facilities, where the ACRD took input from members of the public from all corners of the valley and City on facilities that impacted Beaver Creek and Sproat Lake.

The meeting was chaired not by the Mayor of the City of Port Alberni, but rather by the Chair of the Regional District, who is an excellent person and public servant but, again, is a representative from another community, who will not vote as he is not part of the decision making process, and whose constituents are unlikely to put much if any weight on this at the next election.

One of the things that makes public hearings so crucial is they can shape the electoral prospects of those making the decision. While the four area directors for Cherry Creek, Beaver Creek, Sproat Lake and Beaufort are no doubt feeling the heat, I doubt very much that other directors around the ACRD table feel quite the same way.

This decision should be front and centre with the Mayor and City Council of Port Alberni as it tackles the balancing act between economic development, environment and land planning, but instead they sit impotently on the sidelines in a decision on land within sight of City limits that would have major implications (including water service, secondary businesses, residential development, etc.) for the City and its residents.

We all see this place as our home. We all want a voice at the microphone and to feel that that voice matters to the people hearing it.

I believe our greatest opportunities to come together and have our community prosper, just like it was 52 years ago when Alberni and Port Alberni amalgamated, will present themselves more easily when we are truly one community in both name and function.

It is time Cherry Creek, Beaver Creek, Beaufort, and Sproat Lake amalgamated with the City of Port Alberni.

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