The Municipality of North Cowichan’s council voted against a motion to have its planning staff conduct a study of the possible effects that the planned development in the Bell McKinnon area, where the new Cowichan District Hospital is to be built, would have on other centres in the municipality. (File photo)

The Municipality of North Cowichan’s council voted against a motion to have its planning staff conduct a study of the possible effects that the planned development in the Bell McKinnon area, where the new Cowichan District Hospital is to be built, would have on other centres in the municipality. (File photo)

North Cowichan votes against staff report on Bell McKinnon plan

Report rejected in tight 4-3 council vote

There will be no study by staff in North Cowichan on the potential impacts of the proposed development in the Bell McKinnon area on other centres in the municipality. This is where the new Cowichan District Hospital is to be built.

Coun. Christopher Justice made the motion for staff to write the report at the council meeting on Dec. 15 after the Chemainus Business Improvement Association wrote council in September on the issue.

The letter from the CBIA expressed concerns over the scope of the proposed Bell McKinnon development, and the effects that it might have on the future well-being of Chemainus and other small, established communities in and around the municipality, including Duncan and Crofton.

RELATED STORY: BELL-MCKINNON RESIDENTS ACCUSE NORTH COWICHAN COUNCIL OF BAIT-AND-SWITCH OVER AREA PLAN

Justice said the development in the Bell McKinnon area currently planned could be potentially six times the size of Chemainus and four times the size of Duncan.

He said the municipality is making a huge planning decision without getting the opinions of North Cowichan’s professional planners.

“This is not about the new hospital, which we all welcome and is a certainty,” Justice said.

“This is about the scope of the development around the hospital and what is in the best interests of the whole community in North Cowichan. A major decision such as this must be made with the best information available.”

North Cowichan appears to be leaning toward keeping much of the original Bell McKinnon local area plan in place, which calls for high-density development, as the construction of the new $887-million hospital in the area is scheduled to begin in the new year.

RELATED STORY: NORTH COWICHAN LEANS TOWARD HIGH-DENSITY PLAN FOR BELL MCKINNON SOUTH, BUT EXCLUDES NORTH

A recommendation from the committee of the whole in September calls for a full build-out along the southern servicing corridor as far as the hospital site, providing for a mix of uses and densities as outlined in the LAP.

This option could see up to 6,000 housing units constructed in the area that will have as many as 12,000 people living in them.

At the beginning of the council meeting on Dec. 15, Krystal Adams, the executive director of the CBIA, spoke in favour of Justice’s motion, stating that she sees great value in council gaining a clearer insight into what the economic and other impacts the development of the Bell McKinnon area would have on other areas of the municipality.

But Coun. Tek Manhas said the Bell McKinnon local area plan is well thought out and accepted by the majority of people in the development area.

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He added that the LAP is an award-winning plan, and was worked on by planners in the municipality.

“I don’t know why you want a second opinion on this,” Manhas said to Justice.

“Maybe it’s because [the LAP] doesn’t agree with your point of view of what you want to see there. But the community has already spoken, our planning department accepted it and thought it was a good plan, and Island Health also said it was a good plan and they have already raised concerns around having enough housing for their staff and the construction staff in the area.”

Coun. Debra Toporowski put an abrupt end to the discussion at council when she called for a vote on the motion, stating council had already been talking about the issue for some time.

Although some council members said they wanted to address the issue, the majority of council agreed to call the question without further discussion, and Mayor Al Siebring, Coun. Rosalie Sawrie, Toporowski and Manhas voted against having staff do the study, defeating Justice’s motion.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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