What’s on the agenda for Lake Cowichan’s newly-installed mayor?
Rod Peters is a long-time businessman and it is perhaps not surprising that his first answer to that question was: “We’ve got to promote business in this town.”
The Gazette talked to him Saturday morning, Nov. 3, at his office at the Lake Cowichan Home Centre.
There are quite a few changes coming to the town, he said. The main street of town is losing The Shaker Mill Restaurant, but it’s not going to mean an empty storefront.
“He’s not renewing his lease for the restaurant but Home Hardware is taking over that space. Then, the gas bar here [in the Home Centre mall] — Gas n Go — they’ll be starting construction on Nov. 28 so that’s a good thing. And he’s converting the old Curves spot to a laundromat, so we’ll have a laundromat in town. That will be awesome. And Roy Sandsmark [of South Shore Cabinets] is now finishing up his new showroom.”
Traffic through town was a big part of Peters’s campaign.
“I’m getting it lined up to have the entrance to town looked at. Near here. Coming into town, where they’ve got the trees in the middle of the road, the trees are not a problem, but they’ve got pampas grass and another plant that’s sort of a red colour that grows very fast and it’s blocking the vision of the cars coming in. I’m trying to find out what it would entail to take those bushes out and put in some smaller ground cover. I noticed in Langford when I was there yesterday that they have the same thing but they just have trees and then underneath it there’s just lawn, and it looks fine. That pampas grass completely blocks the view in some places. You’d want something that maybe grew to about a foot high. Not five feet high and fluffy.
Peters said there’s a spot by the new cabinet shop that needs a no-parking zone.
“Also, for example, we’ve got a garden out here with two lamp standards which totally cuts off access to Greendale Road, which I think is very dangerous. If a car stops to turn into Greendale Road, it’s blocking the whole highway coming into town. You don’t have to take the whole thing out: use the front half for a left hand turn lane.
“And there’s a bottleneck, too, right down by the Co-op gas bar. For some reason they have no left hand turn lane there and they have two things, they’re called ‘bubbles’. It’s causing a problem, because there’s no reason to have them there. They have two bubbles at the crosswalk higher up, I have no problem with that. But this other is kind of redundant and kind of frustrating for anybody.
“Another thing is there are several places where we have cement medians in the middle where there’s a bus stop, right? There’s one right here. Traffic has to back up because there’s no place for them to go. If they moved that median over, then people could get by when the bus stops.”
Asked about the other end of town, Peters said, “Right up by the high school through to the old laundromat there’s a problem there. David Work has been lobbying on that. I agree with him. That spot there was and is a turnaround spot: somebody comes through town and burn a U-ey right there. They’ve put that traffic board too close to the high school. They’ve also got a 30 km/h sign and it’s got to be closer to Stone Avenue or past Stone up towards the arena.
“Kids go to their classes at the arena and they just cross wherever. We need to designate it a little better so they will use the crosswalk. I don’t know what the answer is on that one but it is a dangerous intersection. There needs to be something to forewarn people that there’s a school ahead.”
There are also plans in motion to allow council and town staff to check out the former Jehovah’s Witnesses Kingdom Hall on Neva Road, with a view to assessing its suitability for a municipal office.
“I think on Nov. 26. [realtor] Sandy Stinson is going to take us on a tour through the building and see if it fits our needs. Sometimes these things go back and back to committees. We should get everybody involved, and say: it’s not going to work or we can work with it.
“The current office leaks, there’s no insulation. But it’s the dollar amount. They’re talking about at least two million dollars at the [existing hall]. On this one you could spend $10,000 and have offices and a council chamber. It might not be quite the right size at this time, but put an addition on the back to accommodate a council meeting room and make the rest into offices, it would be good.”
Even the zoning of the building is P1, he said.
Peters is also looking forward to what might happen at the new “employment lands” on the south side of the Cowichan River east of the town.
“There’s 380 acres there, off Hudgrove Road, on the right hand side, across from where all the residences are. It is zoned employment lands because if someone wants to come in and put up a chicken processing plant, it would have to be zoned agricultural industrial. If somebody wanted to put in a bike manufacturing plant, which would be a good idea with so many people using the trails, it would be zoned industrial. But if somebody wanted a warehouse where they’re selling stuff, that would be zoned commercial. It’s sort of a blanket of industrial/commercial lands. And there’s an area of about 40 acres right close to the river that’s environmental land. You could put a park in there. They are talking about putting trails around the outside of it so the workers on their lunch could walk around that. It’s just in its infancy right now but we’re talking to the CVRD’s Economic Development people and to Community Futures. Tim McGonigle and I had a meeting with them last week. Once we’re sworn in, we can get working on stuff.”
Another idea that’s won Peters’s interest is offering residential space above businesses in town. It’s been talked about at council before.
“That way [business people] can either live in the basement or upstairs at their business or have a two-storey commercial building with apartments above it, kind of like where the pharmacy is. If you have a business, you have to have a place where the people who work there can live. We need some more affordable rentals.”
The new mayor is also looking forward to working with the Lake Cowichan First Nation.
“They want to put condos all down that slope and they want to put in a wellness centre, an emergency room thing. That’s going to be their first priority before they even start building condos. Aaron Hamilton and I sat down for about an hour one day. He’s got some big ideas.”
At the recent all-candidates meeting, there were calls for the return of “coffee with a councillor” days and Peters had good news on that front.
“We’re doing that! We probably won’t start until the new year but it’ll be something like what Jack Peake used to do: put a sandwich board out saying: The Mayor is in or A councillor is in. I’d like to try something similar to what Matt Kercher did at the hotel [just before the election]. Come and have coffee with the council. We can sit around and jaw about things, show the town that we’re here for the people.”