Third site enters cop shop debate

A third site is now in the running for the new North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment.

North Cowichan Chief Administrative Officer Dave Devana pitched his plan to council during Wednesday afternoon’s council meeting and they agreed to take the next step.

"I had a meeting with SD79 on Friday and they identified to me that they’ve deemed that the district office site at the corner of York and Beverly is now deemed surplus to educational need," he told council. "That site is only one block over from our Beverly Street site. If it was available at a reasonable price I think it’s worthy of council consideration for a potential RCMP site."

Councillor John Koury was adamant the third option should simply replace the second – the plot of land at the corner of Ford and Drinkwater Roads that the municipality uncovered late last week it had been working at acquiring.

Koury maintained that land was only ever intended to be a "fallback" location if the Agricultural Land Commission rejected the application to remove the initial Beverly Street land from its farmland reserve. The application was approved, paving the way for the paving over of the dry side of the dike.

"I’m encouraged by the surplus lands by SD79 and I think that is a viable option that may reduce some of our construction costs," he said.

"The Drinkwater location is the commercial best and highest use. That is what that location should be developed into as far as I’m concerned."

Coun. Al Siebring also wanted to see the end of the Drinkwater location debate but he disagreed with Koury about why.

Siebring said the area offers some of the region’s highest quality farmland, and if at all possible, it should be farmed.

"It was only by a fluke of history that it wasn’t included in the Agricultural Land Reserve," he said. Councillors Ruth Hartmann, Kate Marsh and Barb Lines agreed with Mayor Jon Lefebure and the CAO that the more options to explore for a new detachment site, the better.

"I’ll support anything that allows us as many options as possible," Lines said.

All three women had concerns about the ability of anything built in the Beverly Street area to withstand disaster, and thus for first responders to be able to function when the community will need them most.

"This is about our first responders being available in the best location and be disaster proof," Hartmann said, adding that it was too early to rule out any of the potential options.

"I would like to say let’s continue to do our best due diligence," she said.

Marsh’s safety concerns were balanced with her worries about the environmental impacts of Beverly Street construction.

"I think it’s a great idea to have the RCMP and the hospital on higher ground," Marsh said. "I’m not convinced building on a floodplain, building on an ecological asset like that is the way to go but what I do know is that we can’t evaluate all three sites unless we get all the information."

Lefebure said financial and environmental concerns, among many other factors could be looked at for all of them once council authorized Devana and company to do so.

"It’s really common sense and responsibility to have all three sites as options," Lefebure said.

Before decisions are made the public will be consulted.