Public hearing for new Cowichan Valley hospital siting proposal

A public hearing will be held on June 29 on the proposal to build a new approximately $340-million hospital in the Bell McKinnon Road area.

A public hearing will be held on June 29 on the proposal to build a new approximately $340-million hospital in the Bell McKinnon Road area.

At a recent meeting, North Cowichan council gave second reading to the bylaw that would allow rezoning for three lots that could be used to construct a new hospital.

But the caveat to that decision is that a covenant must be registered that restricts any development of the properties until more detailed planning and service studies have been completed for those lands and the neighbourhood.

As part of preparations for the possible construction of the hospital, the municipality decided to develop a basic neighbourhood plan for the Bell McKinnon Road area during the last five months.

The neighbourhood is currently a mainly rural-residential area, and many of the residences do not have sewer, water and other services from the municipality.

The municipality’s objective is to complete as much of this work as possible before July 31, the deadline for the Cowichan Valley Regional Hospital District’s final decision on whether it will purchase the three properties on which the hospital would be built.

However, during public discussions on the issue, it has become clear to the municipality that many people in the Bell McKinnon neighbourhood want to see the development of a more comprehensive and detailed plan for the area than the basic plan that had been devised to deal with the hospital project.

In response, council gave the green light for staff to develop a more detailed neighbourhood plan, and for funding to be set aside in the municipality’s budget for 2017.

It’s expected the process will take up to two years to complete.

Coun. Al Siebring said he has pushed for the development of a comprehensive neighbourhood plan for the Bell McKinnon area since 2009.

“This gets us on parallel tracks that will meet the needs of the community and the hospital district,” he said.

“We’re looking forward to having good input from the public during the process.”

The public hearing begins Wednesday at            6 p.m. in North Cowichan’s council chambers.