New site in running for RCMP station

A little closer to Chemainus with quick access to the Trans Canada Highway, North Cowichan council has confirmed it has eyes on a site near Cowichan Commons for a replacement RCMP detachment.

While a parcel carved out of the Somenos marshland has been the prime contender (and remains in the running) the municipality announced Wednesday it entered into a conditional purchase agreement on Option B: a 1.21-hectare (3-acre) plot at the northwest corner of Ford and Drinkwater Roads, immediately north of Cowichan Commons.

There’s still a long way to go before a decision is made one way or the other.

"Because of the difficulty in finding a suitable location, council felt it was in the best interests of the community to pursue the purchase of the Ford Road property as an alternative option," Mayor Jon Lefebure said in a press release. "The conditional purchase of the Ford Road property as an alternative option puts us in a much better position to carefully consider the merits of each site and not be limited to focusing on just one potential site," Nothing is set in stone and council is moving ahead with both options as the costs and benefits are weighed.

On Jan. 3, North Cowichan learned the Agricultural Land Commission approved its application to exclude 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. Community members rallied in defence of the marshland, prompting council to continue looking for other options, despite having applied for the exclusion.

Council now needs to ponder which site would be the most suitable. Both are centrally located within the RCMP service area with quick and easy access to the highway, and close to the City of Duncan and University Village core areas.

It’s been no secret that the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP’s Canada Avenue detachment was falling apart at the seams, unable to hold the number of officers, prisoners and support staff to meet the needs of a growing community. The municipality has spent four years scouring the area for a suitable property. There’s still much work to do.

In order to complete the purchase of the Ford Road site, which is not in the ALR, council needs to consider an application to rezone the property from its current zoning (A2 – rural) to PU (public use) for the 1.21 hectare portion of the property included in the conditional purchase agreement, and R1 (residential rural zone) for the 0.89 hectare portion of the property (which contains the existing single-family dwelling) which will be retained by the current owner.

Council will consider first and second reading of a bylaw at it’s meeting at 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 15. If the rezoning application is approved following the public hearing scheduled for Feb. 5, and council decides to proceed with the Ford Road site purchase for the RCMP building, then the property will also need to receive subdivision approval to complete the purchase.

Lefebure anticipates council will further review and analysis of the two sites in February.