Should one end of Lake Cowichan’s main street be reserved for commercial while the other end becomes cultural and residential? Council is pondering new ideas. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette file)

Should one end of Lake Cowichan’s main street be reserved for commercial while the other end becomes cultural and residential? Council is pondering new ideas. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette file)

Working group pondering future of Lake Cowichan’s downtown

With the economy changing so rapidly, Lake council is wondering what the future of downtown will be

A working group is talking about a vision for downtown Lake Cowichan and appropriate zoning needed, according to Coun. Bob Day, who raised the subject at the April 24 Lake Cowichan town council meeting.

Some of the ideas they are looking at include making the eastern end of the main street commercial while the western end, on the other side of the Cowichan River would be more artistic and residential. This would partly be as a way to deal with an increasing number of empty buildings on the street, and also the need for more housing in Lake Cowichan, according to discussions at previous council meetings.

Day asked if and when the public can get involved.

“Midway through the working group process, there is a chance for public comment, then it will go back to the working group and then there will be another public session,” CAO Joe Fernandez said.

“So, will it come back to council already input into the official community plan, for approval?” Day asked,

“It should come as a plan,” Fernandez said.

Coun. Tim McGonigle asked, “Will we still have opportunities, then, if we want to send certain items back for clarification before we approve it?”

Fernandez nodded, and said, “I think the process should end about March of next year.”

Mayor Forrest added, “I just think that the zoning you’re talking about for downtown is really good timing. I hear a lot of interest in a lot of the commercial buildings all along the main street here. People are wanting to convert them to residential or to have both, a mix of residential with commercial. I think it’s a good thing. The timing couldn’t be better for it. That is part of the desire now. There is the expense of buildings; you could have a business, and the assurance of income coming through rentals make a difference. I think it’s a good thing,” he said.

Day said, “That was my reason for bringing this forward. We always hear, why don’t you do this? or why can’t you do that? Well, this is what we can do to help facilitate; it’s just plain old leadership by elected officials. Pre-doing some of this existing stuff means we are not putting the onus on a whole bunch of people. I know we might be missing out on a few rezoning dollars but what we’re going to get in our community far outweigh the $5,000 or $10,000 you might get to rezone a property.”

McGonigle asked, “The working group was charged with going out and finding examples of commercial and residential entities that exist elsewhere, whether it be in Duncan or anywhere, bringing back pictures on how that would look in the future, so the working group is in the process of bringing those ideas back to the next meeting.”

Day said, “I would invite council to walk down the north side of South Shore Road in town and look in a few windows there. You’ll see a few windows that are made up to look like homes to get a visual of what that could look like on our main streets. It’s worth peeking in those windows. There’s nobody living there, but somebody is using their imagination,” he said.