The property at 339 Berkeley St. straddles the Duncan/North Cowichan border. (Warren Goulding/Citizen)

Life on the border of Duncan and North Cowichan

The strange case of properties that straddle municipal boundaries

For years, Dr. Robert Wilson travelled between North Cowichan and Duncan regularly. More so than any of his neighbours and likely more than even regular commuters into town.

Wilson lived at 339 Berkeley St. which technically straddles both the Municipality of North Cowichan and the City of Duncan.

That means every time he went to the kitchen for coffee he left one zone of governance and entered another. Well, it’s plausible anyway. His daughter Joan isn’t quite sure where the boundary technically is but he could have been leaving town every time he went from the living room to the bathroom, or every time he mowed from one side of the lawn to the other. She believes though, that most, if not all of the house, is in North Cowichan while some of the land is in Duncan.

“I have not ever seen the property plot,” she admitted. “My dad’s water came from the City. The garbage collection was from the City, simply because they were collecting everybody else’s,” she said with a laugh.

“My father never made a big deal out of it. He figured he was getting the best of both sides of the neighbourhood. It was just the way it was,” she said. “We had 50-some-odd years of delight on the property but it’s not our problem now.”

The family home was sold after Dr. Wilson died in 2016.

Wilson said with the potential for amalgamation, it might not be an issue for long but as it stands, if anybody wanted to sub-divide the property then they’d have some problems.

“It would be interesting to see how many other properties, if any, are in both,” she added.

Kyle Young, North Cowichan’s development services director, offered a surprising answer.

Young said there are 124 properties straddling the border and 84 of those are administered by Duncan while the municipality takes care of the remaining 40.

Who knew?

Just down the block a ways, it turns out that Queen Margaret’s School is also split between the two local governments in a peculiar way.

QMS facilities manager Bruce McPherson said the line goes right through the property and more specifically right through the chapel and the primary building.

Students wishing to get from one side of the chapel to the other have to cross from the City to the Municipality to do so.

Good thing there’s not a toll booth.

In fact, six buildings on the property are within Duncan city limits while the remainder sit in North Cowichan.

“We like both Duncan and North Cowichan. We have a good relationship with both. It was interesting when we were getting our building permits,” McPherson said. “Not challenging, but exciting.”

It’s a unique layer to life at the school.

“It’s fun,” McPherson said.

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