Echo Heights saga ends as council dedicates 91 per cent to parkland

The long saga surrounding the subdivision of municipal land in Echo Heights drew to a close Wednesday as the Municipality of North Cowichan moved forward on three fronts.

Council adopted a bylaw to dedicate 91 per cent of a the site near Chemainus – 19.65 hectares – as parkland.

Then, they rescinded and abandoned a previous attempt at a bylaw, and directed staff to designate the Echo Heights Park as “a public conservation zone” in the municipality’s proposed new general zoning bylaw.

Finally, councillors authorized staff to apply to subdivide the remaining nine per cent not dedicated as park into about 17 lots with R2 zoning designation, as discussed a few weeks ago.

That area was logged two decades ago, and the sale of the single-family residential lots and will help fund community amenity projects.

Mayor Jon Lefebure had been the point man for these proposals, suggesting them to his colleagues last month as hopefully the last in a series of ideas for the contentious piece of land.

By May 21, a majority of council decided it was a good day to get a widely-accepted solution on track and on Wednesday they reached the adoption stage.

“The park is created,” Lefebure declared. The only councillor continuing to speak against this solution was John Koury, who repeated that he couldn’t see any new information that would drive the municipality to this decision.

He held that saving 20 per cent of the land for subdivision, instead of Lefebure’s suggested nine per cent, would earn the municipality more money.

The difference between the two ideas was not large, he said, adding, “it’s a handful of trees, but not that many.”

Koury was supported during the public input section of the meeting by Don Graham, who said he’d heard from fellow Chemainus residents that were not pleased with the reduction in revenue that would follow the enlargement of the park.

Graham also said he was unhappy to see former opponents to the 91-9 split finally knuckle under to the concept of council solidarity, adding it could lead to North Cowichan dipping into taxpayers’ pockets to develop the park.

“Do not now [do that] to develop a backyard park for a group of affluent activists,” he warned.