The public meeting that took place on May 28, did not diverge much from conversations that were had at the Cowichan Lake Chamber of Commerce meeting on May 23.
Residents and local business owners, there were approximately 34 in attendance, again voiced concerns over derelict buildings and properties—both commercial and residential—the town’s revitalization plans, and the need for a beach access in Lake Cowichan.
Both Mayor Ross Forrest and Councillor Bob Day say that the conversation about derelict buildings shifted somewhat from the chamber meeting in that it focussed more on residential properties.
“It seemed that everybody that spoke up, it was all about their neighbours lawn, their neighbours house and that message was coming out really strong,” says Day.
There is a fine line with bylaw enforcements though. Day feels that there needs to be room, to a certain degree, to live and let live within the community. However, because this is an issue that so many feel so strongly about he does say that “maybe it’s time to tighten the screws and step back and take another look.”
Both Day and Forrest said they suggested that those frustrated with neighbours who are not keeping up with house or property maintenance take into consideration that some of these people may not be able to keep up for a variety of reasons. These include age, disability, finances etc. They also stated, yet again, that there is a need for residents and business owners to talk with those property owners they feel are not keeping up with the maintenance of their properties or buildings.
As a result, those gathered at the meeting brainstormed in terms of solutions. There was talk of forming a committee of volunteers that would approach property owners and ask them if they need help with cleaning up their yard, home, or property. This included the idea of engaging local youth from local church groups and from the general population. This group would be solely driven by local residents
Corrie Helliwell, of Copper Lane, says she is all for that idea. “There are lots of youth around here that could find something better to do than wander the streets and get into trouble,” she says. “Maybe this would give them more incentive to do something constructive.” She also thinks it might be a good idea to engage local youth through a meeting between them and the town.
The only thing she says she felt disappointed about was the small numbers of people that showed up. She plans on attending more meetings, especially these public ones, and she will be bringing as many friends and business owners along as she is able to gather.
There were those that were not so impressed with the meeting and council though.
Symon Whalvin says he thinks that the town’s plans to put a roundabout at the intersection of South and North Shore Roads as part of the town’s revitalization plans, is ridiculous.
Though Whalvin is only the second person to voice concerns over the roundabout—which is scheduled to begin this year, but because the town is awaiting federal funds to start the project may not start until next year—he feels that North American’s are bad at building and navigating roundabouts. Being a native of the United Kingdom, Whalvin has navigated many a roundabout in his time.
He feels that the proposed roundabout is too big and could be dangerous for logging trucks when they try to navigate it. He also feels that the placement of the roundabout, with it bumping out towards North Shore Road, will not do much in terms of slowing logging trucks down. He feels that other measures could be taken to slow down traffic, and suggests painting crosswalks on a regular basis and installing crosswalk lights. He feels that an engineer whose expertise is on roundabouts should have been consulted and says he is not clear on the thinking behind this project.
Coun. Day says that highly paid engineers were contracted to design this roundabout, and that they are paid to design features like this that will work. “I know for a fact, by looking at the diagram, that it’s not a straight through deal for logging trucks. Yes it’s a bit of a straighter shot, because it has to be designed that way in order for them to get through it without driving over top of it.” Day says it will be a slight arc, and that the roundabout is designed to slow traffic down.
In response to Whalvin’s additional concern that the revitalization project will not do anything to bring visitors, and thus revenue, into the town, Day says that it would be interesting to look at the town now compared to seven years ago. “If you build a nice place for people to go, they will go there.” He feels that the revitalization projects will make the town more attractive and modern.
Helliwell agrees with this, saying that especially if a beach access is put in down at Saywell Park (she also likes the idea of putting the water park down there), there would be more reasons for visitors to stop and get out of their cars and explore the town.
Whalvin agrees with the beach access and even putting swings and a slide in the park. He feels that doing things like this would help to give visitors something to do in town, rather than just driving straight through.
The other issue that was addressed at the meeting was the idea of backyard chickens. Currently the town has bylaws in place that do not allow for the keeping chickens in one’s backyard and Day says that he worries that if the bylaw is changed to allow for hens that it would become an issue of enforcing sections of the bylaw and that it would become a contentious issue between neighbours. “What may be good for six residents, may not be good for the rest of the population.”