Letter: Leave the Bell McKinnon local area plan alone

This motion is far too nebulous

Leave the Bell McKinnon local area plan alone

Dear mayor and council:

Unless council can find a way to move the hospital to another location, I urge you to reject Councillor Justice’s motion in Item 8.1:

” THAT Council direct our professional planning staff to provide Council with an opinion on the potential and likely impacts of the proposed development in the Bell McKinnon area on existing commercial/residential growth centers — including Chemainus, Crofton, Berkey’s, University Village, and the neighboring city of Duncan — with attention to economic impacts, impacts on future growth, and impacts on revitalization efforts.”

This motion is far too nebulous and is obviously intended to provide Councillor Justice another opportunity to “spin” the Bell McKinnon LAP. How is staff to define “potential” and “likely” impacts with any meaningful accuracy? Also, why would this study look outside the municipality to neighbouring Duncan? Why not look at Lake Cowichan, Mill Bay or even North Oyster? They are equally relevant in this obvious fishing expedition. The relevance and practicality of such a report would be totally meaningless and worthless to all — except for Councillor Justice who is myopically and dogmatically looking for any opportunities to kill the BMC LAP.

The manner in which this motion is drafted implies that staff are expected to report only negative effects of the LAP. Wouldn’t council want to see a more balanced motion that details the many benefits the LAP will bring to the hospital and the community in terms of space for health-related services and a range of housing options as well as much needed infrastructure?

This motion places staff in a very unfair and uncomfortable position — again. The recent staff-to-council dialogue on this matter demonstrates that Councillor Justice only accepts information that supports his perspective. The first time Rob Conway provided council with an overview of the Bell McKinnon LAP, Councillor Douglas called the presentation a “sales job”, an unjust, demeaning and unprofessional comment which was quickly echoed by Councillor Justice. More recently, when CAO Ted Swabey was asked for his opinion on the BM LAP he provided an objective opinion and he was immediately and aggressively challenged before council hastily broke into an emergency 45 minute in-camera session during which we can presume the CAO was continually attacked. Staff simply cannot be expected to develop a report which is, by design, strictly intended to support Councillor Justice’s political objectives.

This motion ignores the consistently supportive input from VIHA, the residents of the Bell McKinnon corridor, the Cowichan tribes and all of the professionals and valley residents who supported and endorsed the BMC LAP when it was adopted. Even the Cowichan Communities Coalition President stated their support for the BMC LAP in 2019: “…I’ve been asked by the Planning Department to write a letter in support of an award from the PIBC, for their work on the Bell McKinnon LAP. We have been opposed to poorly planned development along the Maple Bay corridor for a host of environmental reasons. These are concerns that don’t apply to BM so there should be no cause for concern by your folks.”

This motion ignores more recent and specific input from VIHA, the North Cowichan engineering staff and planners that the BMC LAP is necessary for the objectives of the hospital project to be achieved.

The Bell McKinnon Local Area Plan was created to define the vision of this neighbourhood around the new hospital. Councillor Justice and his supporters are constantly reinventing ways to kill the LAP but, preserve the hospital — thus forcing Bell McKinnon residents to live beside the billion-dollar-siren. My wife and I and most of our neighbours would be happy if you just moved the hospital and left us here in peace. If the LAP is not accepted into the new OCP, there are many here who will support a court injunction to stop the hospital project. Residents are already passing the hat to raise the funds for a legal challenge if they are forced to. Does North Cowichan council really need another big legal show down — this time with longtime retired residents?

Enough is enough. I urge council to soundly reject this motion and send a strong signal to Councillor Justice to accept and implement the BMC LAP once and for all.

Dave Jackson

North Cowichan