The new Cowichan District Hospital will replace the existing one on Gibbins Road. (Submitted photo)

The new Cowichan District Hospital will replace the existing one on Gibbins Road. (Submitted photo)

Editorial: Can’t turn back the clock on hospital decision

New hospital will result in area development; get ahead of it

That ship has sailed.

We fully support Cowichan Valley’s local governments in their efforts to create sustainable, walkable communities, rather than urban sprawl.

We fully support their efforts to preserve our farmland, especially in an era where we’re starting to see the effects of what can happen if we don’t have at least a certain amount of food security in our own communities, and that means having land on which to grow and raise our own food and other staples. Far too much land has already been lost in that respect, and more would have fallen victim to development pressures if we did not have the Agricultural Land Reserve here in B.C.

But that doesn’t mean zero development. That would be completely unrealistic. We need more homes for people to live in, and we can’t just wall off our community and forbid people from moving here. And move here they will — there is a reason we have all done the same, after all. The Cowichan Valley is a wonderful place to be.

So what we need to do is get out in front of development so that we decide what it will look like, rather than have it decided piecemeal, application by application, project by project that don’t necessarily fit together into a cohesive whole. Which is where the local area plan for the Bell McKinnon Road area came in, put together after it was decided that the new Cowichan District Hospital would be located there.

Now, some North Cowichan councillors seem to want to turn back the clock and forbid the properties around the new hospital site from becoming housing and commercial developments. It’s too late.

If the municipality was dead set on maintaining that area as rural, they should not have approved the hospital site, period.

History has shown that it is inevitable that the area around a hospital will develop. All the wheels are turning, and the new hospital will be located at the Bell McKinnon property. The choice now is to plan what that development will look like. North Cowichan did an excellent job in getting out in front of the issue with their area plan document that brought together numerous stakeholders to envision a neighbourhood of mixed housing (which hospital workers will certainly need) and some commercial amenities. It can become a community where people don’t have to get in their cars for everything.

Trying to basically wipe out the plan at this stage is counterproductive, and will simply result in haphazard development of the area down the road. Adjustments are one thing, but some seem to want to turn back time.