A controversial rezoning application in Cowichan Bay won’t have to go through another public hearing.
The board at the Cowichan Valley Regional District voted 7-2 in a meeting on Oct. 9 that the zoning amendment for a number of Crown leases on properties where the Westcan Terminal is situated in the bay be referred to the board for consideration of third reading and adoption without receiving new information.
A staff report indicated that at the public hearing for the application, held last March after the application received its first two readings a month earlier, staff acknowledged that it was working with the applicant to address outstanding details of the applicant’s stormwater management plan.
Those details include water sampling data for stormwater runoff, efficacy of the existing stormwater infrastructure, and details of proposed stormwater infrastructure design.
The review has generated new information, that has yet to be released, and the introduction of new information would normally trigger a new public hearing, but a section of the Local Government Act permits adoption of the amendment bylaw without further notice or hearing in some circumstances, and the board chose not to receive the new information.
Due to the statutory nature of the process, the contents of the review can’t be released at this time.
Western Stevedoring controls the properties and stated when it first started the rezoning process more than two years ago that its main purpose is to amend the current zoning to allow its tenant, Pacific Industrial Marine, to continue the operation that the company has had in place for years.
But members of the Cowichan Estuary Restoration & Conservation Association and other environmental groups are taking issue with the rezoning application, fearing that the doors could soon be wide open to a lot more heavy manufacturing and its related pollution in Cowichan Bay, which could play havoc with its fragile ecosystem.
The public hearing in March that was held in the Heritage Room at the Cowichan Community Centre in Duncan drew hundreds of people from both sides of the issue.
At Wednesday’s meeting, Lori Iannidinardo, the CVRD’s director for Cowichan Bay, said the rezoning application has been an extremely emotional and challenging one for her.
She said the applicant, Western Stevedoring, has not been treated well in the process.
“This company provides a valuable service in our community and has been treated extremely unfairly,” Iannidinardo said.
“I’m in support [of the application moving to consideration of third reading and adoption].”
But Alison Nicholson, the CVRD’s director for Cowichan Station/Sahtlam/Glenora, said she wouldn’t support the motion.
She said the rezoning application lacks a significant amount of environmental information that is needed to properly assess the proposal.
“In fact, staff approached the application with a focus primarily on land use and issues like rising sea levels, environmental mitigation and other concerns were not addressed,” Nicholson said.
“But we pushed on and held the public hearing expecting comments from the public without information on the level of environmental risk. So here we are a long time later, after much energy and good will has been expended, considering an application with only opinions and no facts. The bottom line is we need an environmental assessment.”
Ian Morrison, chairman of the CVRD, said the board had to decide if the process of the rezoning application up to the point of the public hearing was inclusive enough for the next steps to take place, or if it desired to allow new information, which would trigger another public hearing.
“I don’t know what the new information is, as we have not seen it yet, but the board was clearly in support of option one of the staff recommendations [which allowed the process to continue without a public hearing],” he said.
“We are now ready to proceed with the consideration of the third reading and adoption.”