City steps back from Hart North

The city has walked away from a bid to purchase heavy industrial land outside of the municipal boundary, according to the provincial ministry responsible for land sales.

A rep for the provincial ministry of forests, lands and natural resource operations said the city declined the offer and associated terms and conditions presented to them by the province for the Hart North lands.

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The offer, made in mid-December, came about seven months after the city first made the application for the 585-hectare site, about 30 kilometres north of Prince George.

A spokesperson for the city said they couldn't comment on an ongoing application.

The Hart North spot was identified by the city's economic development branch and the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George in 2010 as the preferred spot to get heavy industry operations such as pulp, steel and sawmills, oil refineries and wood pellet plants outside of Prince George's airshed.

Its proximity to transportation corridors, hydro and natural gas infrastructure and potentially booming resource sectors were all highlighted as reasons to push the spot as a place in which developers should invest.

"Since developing targeted marketing materials in 2011 to promote the competitive advantages of Hart North, IPG has fielded requests from a considerable number of proponents requiring large parcels of intermediate and heavy industrial land, and is currently engaging in regular communication with four of these prospects," said a March 2013 letter to planning director Ian Wells from Initiatives Prince George CEO Heather Oland.

However, IPG said, the length of time it takes for a developer to work with the province to purchase a parcel of land was lengthy and the process complex, which discouraged potential buyers.

"We believe that if the city of Prince George were to complete an arrangement with the Crown to acquire land at Hart North, subsequent to which the city would by directly involved in the final transfer of land to a private industrial developer, the competitive position of Prince George and area for attracting new investment would be improved," Oland wrote.

After completing consultation with various stakeholders, including the RDFFG and the Lheidli T'enneh and West Moberly First Nations, the province offered the city the land at market value.

As of the middle of February, the city had declined the offer, said ministry senior development officer Mark Yawney.

The province would entertain another application from the city, Yawney said. "The north has a need for Crown land, especially for this use."

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