Should Lake Cowichan look at changing the zoning on its main street? Talks might start soon. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)

Should Lake Cowichan look at changing the zoning on its main street? Talks might start soon. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)

Changing shopping patterns could change look of downtown Lake Cowichan

What will the community’s main street look like in future as business adapts to new ideas

What will Lake Cowichan’s main street look like in future?

Lake Cowichan town council is starting to wrestle with the problem of what to do about perennially empty storefronts, and where a new vision is needed for downtown.

Joe Fernandez, Lake Cowichan CAO, opened a brief discussion at a recent meeting.

“Coun. [Bob] Day brought this subject up before and I can speak to it. We have a downtown now that basically starts at the arena and goes to OK Tire.

“The challenge is to look at breaking the downtown into two sections. One [at the eastern end] would be commercial and residential and the part on this side of the river, cultural and residential. That would be the thought process behind it.

“If this is something that council would like to look at, then it could go from there to the Advisory Planning Commission (APC) for discussion. I think the idea came from a community in California: maybe to try and copy it or be similar to it,” Fernandez said.

Coun. Tim McGonigle said, “I think the timing for this discussion couldn’t be better with the working groups we have. One is focused on business in the downtown.

“I think we have to look at that whole section as to whether it still fits within the business model, as we look at the empty storefronts the unfortunate closure of businesses. Is that appropriate zoning for that area? Are there other options or opportunities? Are there other ways we can utilize those business frontages that now currently reside there for other options?”

With the input of discussion groups, and the APC, and council as well, “maybe we could refocus and think what that will look like in the 20-30 years down the road,” McGonigle said, adding it would not be necessary to copy some other community but “make it our own entity.”

Mayor Ross Forrest agreed with him.

“With Amazon, and online shopping, this isn’t the only place where business frontages are empty now. Things are changing. The timing is perfect for those three working groups, I agree. It’s important to find a direction for this town for the future,” he said.

Councillors decide to kick off talks by sending the idea first to the Advisory Planning Commission.