Plans not written in stone
Dear North Cowichan mayor and council:
I appreciate the concerns of some Bell-McKinnon Road residents regarding potential changes to the Local Area Plan (LAP), containing community input concerning our new $887-million hospital.
However, as a taxpayer funding this project, I respectfully remind folks LAPs are not written in stone.
Such plans are living documents. They are blueprints for complex projects loaded with with zoning, infrastructure, mistakes, planning procedure changes, development permits, traffic issues, and especially environmental concerns.
Council is correct to question how our new hospital — with exact bed numbers sadly still in limbo — and nearby residential areas could spawn sprawl, water fouling, traffic snarls, tree loss, air and noise pollution and much more.
Councillors are elected and paid to have open minds that are subject to change when and if new information surfaces about all sizes and prices of public projects and plans.
Councillors Christoper Justice, Kate Marsh and others on council rightly appear to be exercising that elastic thinking regarding our new CDH as it moves toward reality.
“Tweaking” is what Coun. Marsh correctly called it as reported in the March 18 Citizen.
For residents such as the Jacksons to call our LAP “bait-and-switch”, or a “trick”, by council is misdirected unless they and other residents were given legal guarantees that the LAP would not change in any way.
Those guarantees would have to be written, not simply verbal, assurances during public input meetings and staff consultations.
If that’s the case, please produce those written guarantees.
To be clear, our new — let’s call it a $1-billion — hospital is a massive undertaking that will change the face of Cowichan and its outlaying areas forever.
As such, changes, even small ones, are an inevitable reality as our new hospital — and its surrounding developments — progress.
Our LAP is different in lots of ways compared to our new official community plan (OCP) still under discussion. And even our OCP can be interpreted (witness the turgid Donnay Drive project) rightly or wrongly by council.
Such is also the case with CDH’s LAP.
Folks standing to potentially profit from property-value increases as our new hospital progresses can’t realistically count their chickens before they hatch.
The endgame here must be a new hospital, with some overdue infrastructure upgrades and affordable housing.
Viewing our new medical facility merely as an economic sparkplug, job- and tax-generator is fatuous, film-flam at least.
For nearly $1 billion of our money, I fairly expect our new hospital to be completed to the smartest, thriftiest abilities of our council, provincial ministries and residents for the sake of everyone.
That includes patients, for whom this project is really be built in the first place.
Peter W. Rusland