Supporters and opponents of the controversial rezoning application in Cowichan Bay gather outside the doors of the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s office in Duncan on Oct. 23 to discuss the implications of the district’s board decision to approve the application at its meeting. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Supporters and opponents of the controversial rezoning application in Cowichan Bay gather outside the doors of the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s office in Duncan on Oct. 23 to discuss the implications of the district’s board decision to approve the application at its meeting. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Controversial Cowichan Bay rezoning approved

Opponents outraged by CVRD decision

A controversial rezoning application for a section of Cowichan Bay was approved by the Cowichan Valley Regional District on Oct. 23

There was a sense of relief from some and frustrated anger from others in the CVRD’s packed boardroom as people from both sides of the issue absorbed the news after a quick discussion and vote on the amendments by the board.

Only two members of the board, the director for Cowichan Station/Sahtlam/Glenora Alison Nicholson and Mill Bay/Malahat director Blaise Salmon, voted against the zoning amendments.

Jennifer Lawson, an outspoken opponent of the rezoning, said she was outraged by the decision and the CVRD may face litigation over what many perceive as a flawed process.

“There were lost reports and information sealed during this process, and the public hearing was not fair because not everyone could get in and many people opposed were harassed by vested workers,” she said.

“All many wanted was an environmental assessment of the area. This decision is not in the best interests of Cowichan Bay and the area.”

RELATED STORY: BOARD DECLINES TO SEE NEW INFORMATION IN CONTROVERSIAL COWICHAN BAY REZONING

Western Stevedoring controls the properties and stated when it first started the rezoning process approximately three years ago and that its main purpose was to amend the zoning to allow its tenant, Pacific Industrial Marine, to continue the operation that the company has had in place for years.

But members of the Cowichan Estuary Restoration & Conservation Association and other environmental groups took issue with the rezoning application, fearing that the doors could soon be wide open to a lot more heavy manufacturing and its related pollution in Cowichan Bay, which could play havoc with its fragile ecosystem.

RELATED STORY: CERCA, WESTERN STEVEDORING AT ODDS OVER ESTUARY REZONING

The public hearing in March that was held in the Heritage Room at the Cowichan Community Centre in Duncan drew hundreds of people from both sides of the issue.

RELATED STORY: BIG CROWD AND MANY OPINIONS AT TENSE COWICHAN BAY REZONING MEETING

Opponents also expressed frustration earlier this month when the board decided to move forward with the process without a second public hearing after new information was received, but sealed, in regards to the applicant’s stormwater management plan.

Nicholson said she can’t support the rezoning because the district’s constituents expect the board’s members to govern as best they can, and she feels that has not been done in this case.

She said staff had given the board more information regarding the stormwater system that may have led its members to better understand the environmental risks, but the majority decided not to allow it to be received.

“Our chairman [Ian Morrison] said in a meeting this morning that having more information in helping the board make decisions makes for good governance,” Nicholson said.

Salmon said he also feels that he can’t make an informed decision without the relevant information that the stormwater and other reports might have provided.

But Brian Ellis, a project manager and construction engineer at PIM, said after the vote that he and dozens of other workers at the site are just glad to keep their jobs.

“The Cowichan estuary is better off with us being there as well,” he said.

“The company has spent a lot of time and effort over the years dealing with derelict vessels, eel grass beds and clearing debris there. People say that we started doing that work when this rezoning application was made, but it has been going on a long time before that.”

RELATED STORY: COWICHAN BAY COMPANY MAKING WAVES OVER DERELICT BOAT PROBLEM

Sharon Horsburgh, a consultant who was assisting Western Stevedoring with the rezoning application, also said approximately 70 workers and their families now have assurances that the jobs are secure.

She also said that nothing will change on the properties and in Cowichan Bay as a result of the rezoning, as many rumours have indicated.

“This is just an administrative amendment,” Horsburgh said.

“PIM has been operating at that site since 1990 without incident and this is just formalizing its use. The properties have been leased by Western Stevedoring since 2002 and there’s nothing to rumours that the leases are about to be transferred to new owners.”



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Cowichan Valley Arts Council is offering courses in drawing May through August 2021. (Submitted)
A&E column: Art is everywhere in the Cowichan Valley

What’s going in the Cowichan Valley arts and entertainment community

The CVRD introduces new app to contact residents during emergencies, a tool that chairman Aaron Stone says will improve communications. (File photo)
CVRD launches new app to spread information during emergencies

Cowichan Alert is a free app that can be downloaded onto smartphones, computers

A B.C. Centre for Disease Control map showing new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 25-May 1. (BCCDC image)
Vancouver Island’s COVID-19 case counts continue to trend down

Fewer than 200 active cases on the Island, down from highs of 500-plus earlier this spring

The Malahat SkyWalk will open to visitors in July 2021. (Malahat SkyWalk photo)
Malahat SkyWalk will open to visitors this July

Highly anticipated attraction will take guests 250m above sea level

FILE PHOTO
Editorial: Time to roll up our sleeves and pitch in

They’re just not quite sure they want to get a vaccine — yet

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

Al Kowalko shows off the province’s first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C.’s first electric school bus making the rounds in Victoria suburbs

No emissions, no fuel costs and less maintenance will offset the $750K upfront expense

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

Victoria police say the photo they circulated of an alleged cat thief was actually a woman taking her own cat to the vet. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Photo of suspected cat thief released by Victoria police actually just woman with her pet

Police learned the she didn’t steal Penelope the cat, and was actually taking her cat to the vet

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent sails past a iceberg in Lancaster Sound, Friday, July 11, 2008. The federal government is expected to end nearly two years of mystery today and reveal its plan to build a new, long overdue heavy icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver, Quebec shipyards to each get new heavy icebreaker, cost remains a mystery

Vancouver’s Seaspan Shipyards and Quebec-based Chantier Davie will each build an icebreaker for the coast guard

Findings indicate a culture of racism, misogyny and bullying has gripped the game with 64 per cent of people involved saying players bully others outside of the rink. (Pixabay)
Misogyny, racism and bullying prevalent across Canadian youth hockey, survey finds

56% of youth hockey players and coaches say disrespect to women is a problem in Canada’s sport

Most Read