Densifying new hospital area a bad idea
The area along Bell McKinnon Road is truly a tranquil paradise on par with other unique Canadian hamlets. It is little wonder that anyone would want to sell their land for anything less than $1 million per acre. Where else would one want to live?
It is perplexing then, that the planning staff at North Cowichan have been pushing for a densified city centre in the BMLAP. If we transform the current pastoral rural character of the area into a cookie cutter mini city with apartments, traffic, and chain outlets, then the market premium for residences in BMLAP will vanish.
Further, the BMLAP lacks an implementation plan to ensure that it will be built to the high standards that are promised in the plan. It appears that this glossy smart growth image was simply a ruse to get buy-in from the local residents who help create the plan. The boilerplate promises that developers will fund the infrastructure needed to bring the plan to reality, through community amenity contributions, are already proving to be a mirage. And it is understandable that developers would be pinched: how can they commit to funding these costs when existing residents are loathe to sell for anything less than $1 million per acre? The land values that are currently in play make any resulting residential development simply uneconomic for most of the target market.
So it is good news that our council is having a second look at BMLAP, as there is real risk to the municipality if the plan ends up being unworkable. Does the taxpayer really want to be on the hook for subsidizing development in BMLAP, just so we can transform a piece of paradise into another generic expanse of urban sprawl?
I suggest we reimagine the BMLAP to incorporate regenerative agricutlure and targeted rezonings for high tech health care related tech, services, and long term care. We can free up density for residential development in other portions of North Cowichan, and work to have BMLAP retain its current character while also providing high value economic development for generations to come.