The Cowichan Bay fire hall was built in 1977 and no longer complies with building codes. (Cowichan Bay Improvement District photo)

The Cowichan Bay fire hall was built in 1977 and no longer complies with building codes. (Cowichan Bay Improvement District photo)

New $16 million fire hall for Cowichan Bay as AAP passes

Received 401 votes in opposition, just 47 votes shy of what was required to stop the project

Cowichan Bay will borrow up to $16 million for a new fire hall as it squeaked through the Alternative Approval Process.

The Cowichan Bay Improvement District announced the results on July 17.

“The decision to pursue a new hall was made after extensive study and we are pleased to be moving forward with this essential community project,” said Marsha Stanley, Improvement District chair. “While the AAP passed, we heard loud and clear that residents are concerned about increasing costs; we take these concerns seriously and will work hard to keep the cost of the new fire hall as reasonable as possible.”

The Improvement District received 401 votes in opposition, just 47 votes shy of what was required to stop the project from moving ahead on its current timeline. Had 448 votes in opposition been submitted — 10 per cent of the eligible property owners — it would have failed.

The existing Cowichan Bay fire hall was built back in 1977 and has had no structural improvements since then. It no longer complies with WorkSafe BC, the BC Building Code or, somewhat ironically, the Fire Code requirements. That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the hall’s issues.

With no seismic stability, it’s been documented in multiple seismic studies that the building itself is at risk of collapse in an earthquake. What’s more the vehicle bays are too small for modern trucks, there isn’t proper space for decontamination after a fire or for cleaning and storing firefighters’ gear, and there is a lack of training space, showers, and washrooms.

The loan will be repaid over 20 years and if the full $16 million is used, it will cost the average property owner $354 a year.

“According to BC Assessment, as of March 31, 2022, the average residential property in the Improvement District is valued at $820,477. Property owners with a home assessed at $820,477 would pay approximately $43.10 x 8.2 or $354. Owners of properties valued at less would pay less; owners of properties valued at more would pay more,” said a press release.

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