Battle lines drawn over moving North Cowichan urban boundary

"Brace yourself. The howls of protest are likely to start again," said North Cowichan Coun. Al Siebring on his blog in a post entitled "Drawing a line in the swamp."

He was referring to a battle brewing over the municipality moving its urban containment boundary from its current location along Beverly Street to a more northerly line along the dike around Somenos Marsh.

North Cowichan council, meeting as committee of the whole, decided on the move July 2, passing motions directing staff to amend the plan to reflect recent consultation with School District #79 and designate the Highway 1 site (adjacent to Vancouver Island University) as the only potential location for a new high school.

Staff will also illustrate a revised UCB that follows the alignment of the dike between the Highway 1 and Lakes Road; and develop a revised land use concept for lands between Beverly Street and the dike which is

reflective of the revised UCB for further discussion with council at an upcoming committee of the whole meeting.

Following up on that, North Cowichan officials offered more information for further discussion at a special council meeting July 10.

Two similar concepts were offered, with the only significant difference being whether or not to identify a portion of municipally-owned lands adjacent to Beverly Street – the west triangle – for development purposes, or to identify it entirely as part of a proposed linear parks, open space and wetland system that is envisioned to encompass approximately 30 acres of land running on the south side of and adjacent to the dike from Highway 1 to Lakes Road.

That might have been the thrust from North Cowichan’s staff but the proposed introduction of additional urban land uses on the north side of Beverly Street is still a contentious subject among many residents.

Dealing with stormwater and development has long been a subject for discussion in that low-lying area and even a recommendation that the entire west triangle be designated as park and open space is not enough to cool the jets at the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society.

They fired off a letter to council reminding everyone that the idea of moving the UCB to the dike from Beverly Street was raised several times at both meetings of the Stakeholder Advisory Group and public open houses and was soundly rejected.

The society wondered if the change, "would remove one more step to further development between Beverly Street and the dike."

Society board member David Polster posted his frustration on the group’s Facebook page, saying, "A year of work invested by the SMWS in the University Village Plan and they slip this in at the last moment and it passes!" Facing off against them will be councillors like Siebring who said on his blog, "First of all, let’s be clear. This is not about the Fun Pacific property. The mini-golf site and former go-kart track has existing zoning of C-4…To me, it’s about what else could be done with the balance of the land.

"The environmental crowd would have you believe that the dike is an artificial barrier; that actually, the

marsh continues right to the edge of Beverly Street, and that we should take a ‘BANANAA’ approach to development there. (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone Anytime.) And, with the exception of the Fun Pacific site, that’s essentially what keeping the UCB at its present location would have accomplished," he said.

Councillors were looking Thursday

afternoon at a recommendation to revise the plan; to hold an additional public open house to present the final draft plan, with a summary of feedback to be provided to council on Aug. 20; draft a bylaw to amend the official community plan to adopt the University Village local area plan, as updated, and present it for first reading at that same council session.

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