The site of the former Candy Land project which never came to fruition is about to be repurposed as the city's public works yard

The site of the former Candy Land project which never came to fruition is about to be repurposed as the city's public works yard

Changes coming for old Candy Land site in Chilliwack

City moving ahead on plan for a new works yard to replace the aging facility on Kiernan Drive

Big changes are coming to the city-owned site on Luckakuck Way in Chilliwack.

The property will be the new Operation Centre, housing utilities, purchasing and public works for City of Chilliwack. That move will enable the over-capacity local RCMP detachment to expand into the old public works facility on Kiernan Drive.

It’s a plan that’s been in the works for several years, said Mayor Sharon Gaetz.

“We’re thankful the dominoes stood up for this one,” she said.

The concrete structure between Lickman and Evans Road on the Luckakuck site went up in 2005. It was phase one of the doomed Candy Land theme park project. The shell has sat unused for years, spurring many to ask what the ultimate use of the property would be, she said.

Now a plan to re-purpose it for the new public works yard is moving ahead, with permission obtained from the Agricultural Land Commission for city use of the agricultural property.

A request for expressions of interest (RFEI) to make the site changes and building additions was issued last week and closes Feb. 8.

That means they’re finally ready to make an estimated $5.2 million in site improvements and the money has already been budgeted for in the long-term capital plan.

The original vision by Candy Land Entertainment Corp. for a candy-based theme park was unveiled by Bill Coombes of Chilliwack with much fanfare at city hall in 2003, with MLAs and economic development officials nearby.

But the theme park never materialized when the plan failed to attract major investors. Phase two never went ahead after the concrete shell and other site improvements were completed.

Parties inked a deal in 2008 that saw the city retain ownership of the nine-acre site at 44390 Luckakuck Way. They negotiated the termination of the long-term lease with the Candy Land proponents, and paid for site improvements that had been made, including the concrete building for $3.1 million.

At the time, then mayor Clint Hames told The Progress it was a great deal for Chilliwack because the cost of a feasible works yard site elsewhere would been in excess of $5 million — for the land alone.

This allowed them to solve the problem of where to put public works and the RCMP expansion.

“To be able to redeem the situation turned it into a positive for Chilliwack,” said Gaetz.

City staff had actively been looking for a new yard location to replace the aging public works facility on Kiernan Drive, and this one fit the bill. In order to appease the ALC for the non-farm use allowance, a city-owned parcel of property at Island 22 was put into the Agricultural Land Reserve through an inclusion. It was accepted since it provided a net benefit for agriculture. They were then given permission by the ALC to use the Luckakuck Way site for a works yard, considered a non-farm use.

At the same time the local RCMP detachment was beyond capacity, and desperately needed a place into which they could expand. They had long ago outgrown the existing space in the Airport Road building and have been bursting at the seams ever since. As a consequence of the public works’ imminent move to the Luckakuck site, it allows the RCMP to move into, and take over the facility on Kiernan Drive.

There is no fixed timeline for the move into the new Luckakuck site, but most of the site prep work is expected to be completed by the end of 2013, with public works, utilities and more will be moving in during the summer of 2014. The RCMP will expand into the Kiernan Drive building in 2015 after the building is renovated.

In the meantime, city staff will be working to identify three qualified respondents in the RFEI, which can later submit proposals in the request for proposals (RFP) stage to complete the design-build project.

Work includes finishing the interior of the concrete shell for offices, outside site work, and constructing an addition with a bay for vehicle maintenance and tool storage.