Koury lone holdout as popular Echo Heights solution proceeds

A burst of applause greeted North Cowichan council’s pushing of the Echo Heights controversy one step closer to a final conclusion.

"I should be stopping you from doing that," said a beaming Mayor Jon Lefebure after a bylaw to dedicate 91 per cent of a proposed municipal development site near Chemainus towards parkland passed the second and third readings.

Since he brought forward this, the latest in many, many proposals for the contentious piece of land, at the May 7 council meeting and found common ground with most of council, Lefebure has been inundated with support, he told councillors Wednesday.

"We have had a large number of emails and only three of them were not in favour," he said, adding that he has also spoken to groups like the Maple Bay Ratepayers and a combined session of the Chemainus-Crofton Chamber of Commerce and the Chemainus Business Improvement Area and has heard supportive comments there, too.

"Some of them said, ‘please just get this done!’ That was a very clear message from some very hard-nosed business people," Lefebure said.

Councillors Ruth Hartmann, Kate Marsh and Barb Lines had supported the 91-9 split last time but on Wednesday, Lefebure found significant new support from Jennifer Woike and Al Siebring. Woike pointed out that she had promised to support the idea if it got majority support and as it had, she will step up and add her approval.

Siebring took longer to decide, saying he had still held out hopes that the municipality wouldn’t have to take the $1.5 million hit involved in upping the parkland allotment to 91 per cent.

"Is the 91-9 a compromise I can live with? Well, I’m not prepared to be obstructionist. Coun. Woike has already said she would go with the majority. I’m not prepared to stand and die on this particular hill," Siebring said.

That left only Coun. John Koury, who said he thought that setting aside 80 per cent of the land for park was enough and would be "a true reflection of the views of Chemainus."

He, too, wanted to get the rest of the money that supporting an 80-20 split would generate and said he thought the public’s letters of support "were not compelling enough."

Koury also tried to get council to wait longer to deal with the longrunning problem.

"It’s not crucially important to start this today," he said.

But the rest of council had made up its mind that May 21 was the day a widely-accepted Echo Heights solution got on track and passed the park dedication bylaw, which now only needs fourth reading and adoption on June 4 to see the end of the long saga.