By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: Oct. 6, 2012
District of Squamish is researching the ‘release’ of CN Railway Spur that extends to the SODC land along Loggers Lane in downtown Squamish.
Releasing the spur is one of district’s 2012 major projects, and it’s 10 per cent complete. The district is researching to determine whatcan be done with the closed spur line, said district spokesperson Kate O’ Connell.
“The research for the project has not been conducted. As such, we do not have any information at this time,” Connell added.
Sources say the move presages the plans for a district land swap or a property deal with BCR, and paves the way for a vision etched out by the Oceanfront sub-are plan.
If the ‘release’ means a release of CN Railway lease, it will enable the district to work freely with BC Rail, which owns the land under the tracks.
If, however, the release implies removal, then the consequences are serious.
Historian and wood industry consultant Eric Andersen said the removal of the spur would erase any possibility of any tourist or any other train.
“I’m concerned this is yet another fait accompali,” Andersen said.
The downtown railway spurs were installed in 1910, and have served many purposes.
They connected B.C. Interior freight to barge terminals on the present SODC land, and then interior pulp industries to Squamish chemical suppliers.
CN has lease over the tracks, but BC Rail owns the right of way. According to federal regulations, CN must apply to abandon any spur.
Questions to CN media relations department over the state of downtown spur were not answered.
District negotiations with the BC Rail are also 90 per cent complete, according to the district major project list.
Details, however, can only be heard behind closed district chambers. From North Yards to downtown Squamish, BCR owns 19 different plots of land scattered all over town.
It’s an influential player: It owns 64 acres in North yard alone, an area that has been discussed in the council chamber wistfully as a future manufacturing hub.
Yet, there is not much the district can do except control zoning. BCR also owns prime land in downtown Squamish, some of which it has advertised to be sold or leased.
Yet, both parties haven’t always enjoyed cordial relations.
Relations have been strained since the district rejected a BCR application for a four-storey, 212 unit development along the Mamquam Blind Channel in 2009.
Now, to make its Oceanfront vision a reality, the district has to finalize a land swap for the BCR property downtown Squamish.
One BCR lot, 1.37 acres on Loggers Lane, is a crucial artery for access to Oceanfront. The major details of these discussions are understandably kept under the wrap.
But some questions beg for answers: What is the future of the railway spur? Where are we on BCR negotiations? How do we matter in BCR land sales?