Representatives from Lake Cowichan First Nation told a large crowd at the Lake Cowichan town meeting Monday, Nov. 20 a little about their plans for the future development of their reserve land on North Shore Road.
It’s not common for First Nations to do this at such an early stage but the plans are so exciting and the opportunity so good that they wanted to take advantage of it, band administrator Aaron Hamilton said.
Consultant Dave Khazaki then explained that the first two projects will be the Tzubaasatz Cafe, which will have a glass front facing the water and lots of wood, and a Health and Wellness Centre right across the street: a full-featured clinic that could well attract the doctors the Lake area so badly needs.
The First Nation is also looking at a residential/commercial building, with retail “at grade” and market residential above it.
Another building could be constructed for independent living for seniors, with the possibility of assisted living spaces being added one day, Khazaki said.
The preliminary design for the cafe has been done and construction is set for 2019/2020, he said.
Hamilton said, “We haven’t decided which comes first: the health and wellness centre or the cafe, but there is already lots of interest in a health and wellness centre. We’re hoping to have the drawings for the health and wellness centre ready for next summer.”
With the Lake Cowichan First Nation now working under the new Land Code and able to make its own decisions about its land, the band stands at the start of a “whole new era,” he said.
He then went on to talk about plans for a walkway along North Shore Road and a marina.
“We’re doing a feasibility study on a marina. We’re trying to find solutions that work for everybody,” he said. “Every week is a new dynamic. It’s exciting. We want to create something for our kids to come home to so we don’t have to send them to Alberta.”
Questions from the crowd included: have they done a geotech survey about the steep slope on North Shore Road, would the buildings be constructed to support a possible snow load, and would sight lines be taken into consideration before any housing was built on the reserve?
Hamilton assured the crowd that they would be seeing a high level of care taken in construction, and practicality will also play a role.
“We’re not going to put a six-storey anything up if we can’t sell it, and we will take sight lines into consideration,” he said, adding, “just because we are exempt [from some regulations as a First Nation] doesn’t mean we will put a 15-story building up. We’re doing a study right now on what residential is needed or wanted by the area.”
At the conclusion of the talk, Mayor Ross Forrest thanked the First Nation, saying it was great for the Town of Lake Cowichan to have such a good working relationship with them.
“We’re really happy to see ideas for supplying health services and doctors,” he concluded.