ROBERT BARRON CITIZEN
The controversial proposal for a neighbourhood commercial centre at Berkey’s Corner has been given the green light to proceed.
The project received its third reading in a tight 4-3 vote after a public hearing, which saw dozens of people in attendance, held by the Municipality of North Cowichan Thursday.
Councillors Al Siebring, Joyce Behnsen, Tom Walker and mayor John Lefebure voted for the project to proceed, while councillors Rob Douglas, Kate Marsh and Maeve Maguire voted against it after a meeting that lasted almost five hours.
The project will be given the go-ahead to proceed once the developer, Hall Pacific, provides council with a letter of undertaking that will prohibit a gas station from being built at the site.
The development site lies southwest of the Berkey’s Corner roundabout, which is the intersection of Sherman, Somenos and Cowichan Lake roads.
The Vancouver-based development company intends to build a development that will be anchored by a number of national chain stores, including a grocery and drug store, as well as a number of smaller, more local tenants.
Hall Pacific plans to begin construction in July, and to have it completed by December, 2017.
But the residents of the surrounding neighbourhood expressed many concerns with the development since it was first proposed.
The concerns include adding more retail stores in an area where many think it’s not needed, the impacts of the commercial development on the mostly residential area and an increase in car traffic.
But a slim majority of council members decided to support it anyway.
The argument that there’s already enough retail stores in the area was dismissed by Siebring.
He said council is “not in the business” of picking winners and losers in the retail industry.
“That’s not our problem,” he said.
“If the developer is prepared to take that risk, then we should let him.”
Marsh said she didn’t think the project was consistent with the Official Community Plan for that area.
“I also have concerns around the noise and light pollution that this project would cause,” she said. “I don’t think this is the right project for that neighbourhood.”
Walker said the community has waited many years for an acceptable development plan for Berkey’s Corner.
“That area needs a boost and this plan may be the catalyst that does that,” he said.
“Most of the concerns that have been raised can still be dealt with at the development stage.”