A marina developer confirmed it is proposing a commuter ferry service at Royal Bay in Colwood, with stops at CFB Esquimalt and Victoria harbour.
“We’ve talked to the Black Ball Ferry Line about (our service) letting passengers off there, near the parliament buildings,” said Anthony Utley of Crown Marine Management, stressing that nothing has been confirmed.
“It’s just an idea at this point, we’ll have to do feasibility studies and see what shakes out.”
Considering the $950 million price tag suggested for light rail transit, Utley thinks commuter ferries could be much more cost effective.
The 385-seat Burrard Pacific Breeze SeaBus that TransLink bought to run across the Burrard Inlet in time for the Vancouver Olympics was built in Victoria for $25 million in 2009.
Crown Marine is looking for larger boats than what TransLink runs, according to Utley who said ideally the boats would be linked into the existing transit system but could also be offered as a private amenity.
“We’ll go to Transit with our proposal when we’re further along to gauge their interest,” he said.
The ferry is just one element of Crown Marine’s plan for Royal Bay, which was leaked to media from an in-camera Colwood council meeting this month.
The proposal includes a 150 slip marina, with two-thirds of the spots intended for small and medium local boats, 50 slips for transient boats up to 45 metres (150 feet) in length, and four sports that would accommodate pocket cruise ships or commuter ferries of up to 120 m (400 feet). Compounds for sailors and kayakers, and an amphitheater, a hotel and condominiums are proposed for the waterfront.
Crown Marine also has a memorandum of understanding with the Beecher Bay, Esquimalt and Songhees First Nation to work together to establish a new yacht and boat service centre at the Beecher Bay reserve.
Colwood Mayor Dave Saunders said he helped attract the developers to Colwood. When he heard a proposed 52-slip marina in Victoria harbour was downsized to 29 slips by Victoria city council last September, he called a proponent of that project — Robert Evans of Community Marine Concepts — and asked him to consider the Royal Bay site as an alternative.
Robert Evans is now one of the board members with Crown Marine, though the company behind the Victoria proposal — WAM Development — is not involved with the Royal Bay marina.
Saunders said the marine company isn’t alone in its interest in developing the 424-acre Royal Bay property, which is zoned for 2,800 residential units and commercial space.
“Developers call me nearly every week asking me about this property,” said Saunders, who chairs the City’s planning and land use committee. “Everything is very conceptual and shouldn’t have been made public. There’s been no formal applications to council, which would initiate public consultation.”
Still, the mayor said he’s encouraging various interested developers to form a conglomerate to make a joint proposal to develop the property.
“I think a marina would be great at the site,” Saunders said, noting he believed the size proposed seemed appropriate at first glance, but an environmental reviews will be evaluated by council if the project moves forward.
Utley said he’s encouraged by the positive response the proposal has seen so far and that Crown Marine intends to continue moving forward, though the company has not yet made an offer on the land.
The Royal Bay lands owned by Lehigh Northwest Materials have been idle since 2007 when the owner closed its gravel pit operations. Its sale price is rumored to be between $30 and $50 million.