How to choose? Council sets criteria for detachment location

After the RCMP’s power of veto naturally topped the list, discussion over the next most important criteria for the location of the new North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment was a hot topic for North Cowichan council Wednesday.

Staff had presented a method by which to rank the three proposed sites, with purchase and development costs, disaster response capability and environmental and First Nations impacts all worth 20, the most points on the 110-point scale.

But council didn’t entirely like it.

Access to the highway, proximity to other emergency responders and social services and proximity to public transit and the urban core were also on the list, but each worth 10 points on the scale. Most of council wanted to see the weight distributed differently.

"The weight that has been assigned to each of the elements in this report, to me, are not best reflecting the public interest," Councillor John Koury said. "When I think of this type of building I think of access and flow as being a very paramount issue. I think of how best it’s going to serve the core. I don’t see that environment and First Nations carries the same weight in those areas."

He said he’s not being insensitive either.

"The very fact that we’re making these factors at all is a testament to how important they are." Koury explained.

Coun. Al Siebring agreed. "Most of the activity is in the urban core. At the very least I think the access to the urban core should be given more weight," he said.

North Cowichan Chief Administrative Officer Dave Devana said it was council’s prerogative to adjust the site selection criteria.

"To me, you could make these all worth 20 if you want. I’m not saying any of them are not important or they wouldn’t be on the list," he said. "All we’re saying are these seven things are important. We just want to go through a fairly fair process. As fair as we could make it."

Coun. Jen Woike suggested that after the RCMP’s input, which carried significant weight, all six remaining criteria be weighted equally. Council agreed.

It’s expected that senior staff and the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP’s detachment commander will make their criteria-based site recommendation to council on Feb. 19.

Three sites have been identified for a new North Cowichan/Duncan detachment: Option A: the municipally owned property on the north side of Beverly Street between the Trans Canada Highway and York Road, from the Agricultural Land Reserve. The plot had been identified as one of high potential after a dike was built that separated the 1.78-hectare site from the Somenos Marsh.

Option B: A 1.21-hectare (threeacre) plot at the northwest corner of Ford and Drinkwater Roads, immediately north of Cowichan Commons. This land was conditionally purchased by council as a contingency should the Agricultural Land Commission not approve its application to exclude Option A from the Agricultural land reserve.

(The ALC has since approved the exclusion.) Option C: Surplus School District 79 land just one block over from the Option A site, near the corner of York and Beverly.