North Cowichan council decided last week to take a second look at its rejection of two options for land uses along Beverly Street.
The urban containment boundary in the so-called University Village area has been moved so that it’s right up against the dike along Somenos Marsh but councillors were not ready to move forward recently.
However, Coun. Jen Woike decided to try again at last week’s council meeting.
"I think there was some surprise that Option 2 was defeated," she said. "I know I was surprised.
"After the meeting I asked some questions about what happens now if we do nothing and the status quo is maintained. What they basically came out with is that it would lead to a whole lot of uncertainty for everybody because nothing would be decided.
"I don’t like to work that way. So, I brought forward a reconsideration motion last week. That can only happen at the meeting following the meeting it was defeated at; there’s policy and protocol behind that. I brought forward a reconsideration motion for Option 2, feeling that was the more generous option."
Woike managed to get them to look at it, but there was still resistance from some councillors, notably Coun. Ruth Hartmann, that by moving ahead without a page-by-page look at the whole plan for the University Village area, that North Cowichan would be ignoring a lot of public opinion.
"We haven’t discussed in detail what was in that plan," Hartmann said. "I would like to test each one of us on how well we know the plan and what the community wants," she said, adding, "and we all need to be in agreement, too."
Hartmann,Coun. Kate Marsh and Mayor Jon Lefebure were uncomfortable having the discussion come up as a late addition to the agenda so that the public were unlikely to know it was even taking place till it was over.
However, Woike was able to get CAO Dave Devana to explain that council would still have many chances to talk it all over because "you’d still have to move an Official Community Plan amendment to [get the changes in land use] to actually happen."
Devana said that council not acting could mean that property owners don’t know all their options when trying to sell land, either.
With council acting more quickly "it gives greater certainty about what uses council will support," he said.
After a quite a bit of debate, a majority of council decided to go ahead with the recommended land use choices.
Woike said this week that it was a worthwhile exercise.
"It leaves that triangle, which was determined for the RCMP station, up for possible park use or something of a greener choice but it also isn’t written in stone. The urban containment boundary has been moved to the dike but it still gives us a lot of flexibility in the future to look at some of the other land uses," Woike said.
There was some question about another triangle of land by Alexander School; it still is zoned agricultural.
The idea was to include the possibility for some multi-family housing there and Woike wants to learn more about how that could be handled in a flood plain.
"Personally, I would like to see the school district look at using it for some agricultural uses," she said. "The Port Alberni school district has an agricultural sustainable food program in Grade 12 where they actually teach the kids about all types of farming. That piece of land could be looked at for that type of use in future, to tie in with the University Village and the new high school and all the things that are going to happen in this area."