Drive-through debate at North Cowichan sets Berkey’s Corner development back

The controversial commercial development proposed for Berkey’s Corner has taken a step backward

The controversial commercial development proposed for Berkey’s Corner has taken a step backward over the issue of allowing a drive-through at the site.

Third reading for the development was rescinded by the Municipality of North Cowichan at Wednesday’s council meeting, with councillors Tom Walker and Al Siebring opposed.

That means the proposal must now go through another public hearing before council decides if it can proceed.

That would allow council to hear what people think of the controversial proposal to include a drive-through in the development, which is situated next to a residential area.

It would also allow another opportunity for the public to express their opinions of the project as a whole.

But, before another public hearing can be held, the owner of the property must agree to a covenant on the property that would prohibit a drive through to be built there, and North Cowichan’s CAO Dave Devana said the owner hasn’t agreed to that.

Mayor Jon Lefebure said staff will talk to the landowner to see how he would like to proceed.

“Council can decide to move forward without this covenant put in place, or we can turn down the entire application,” he said.

The proposed development site lies southwest of the Berkey’s Corner roundabout, which is the intersection of Sherman, Somenos and Cowichan Lake roads.

The plan is to build a development anchored by a number of national chain stores, including a grocery and drug store, as well as a number of smaller, more local tenants.

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.

A developer that was taking the lead on the project pulled out in May.

Lefebure said during Wednesday’s meeting that he had decided that rescinding the third reading and going to another public hearing would be a good idea.

“I now think it would be beneficial to the community and the environment to remove the drive through as a permitted use there,” he said.

Coun. Kate Marsh said she thinks it’s a good idea to take the proposal to another pubic meeting.

“It would give us a chance to look at other options that could be included in a development at that site, like affordable housing,” she said.

“The property owner may not agree, but we’re here to make the best decisions in the interest of the community that we can.”

But Coun. Al Siebring said studies have indicated that having a drive-through is important to make the development economically feasible.

“We’ll be leaving the owner high and dry,” he said.

“We’ve been criticized for years for changing our rules in mid-game. I understand that this about a covenant on the drive through, but many at this table want to see a lot more changes than that.”

robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com