Residents in the Cowichan Valley may well be asking themselves why the provincial government doesn’t seem to care about them at all.
It was shades of the approval of the permit to dump contaminated soil in the Shawnigan Lake watershed over the objections of virtually the entire community and the local government (Cowichan Valley Regional District) when we heard the province has now approved the development of an open-pit quarry on a farm on Richards Trail.
Like in Shawnigan Lake, the neighbours have strongly objected to the idea, as has the Municipality of North Cowichan.
The farm owners say the idea is just to build a cistern on the property, but some are skeptical. Significant amounts of material has already been removed under smaller North Cowichan permits.
It is particularly puzzling that the provincial permit has been granted in the face of the municipality’s report that the road in question is not only unsuitable for big dump trucks hauling aggregate due to neighbourhood character, but also simply due to physical limitations.
There are currently signs on the road warning against moving heavy equipment on the route, and the Catalyst mill water line runs right underneath it.
It seems bizarre that with such united opposition the province would choose to allow the project to move forward.
The disregard for the opinions of local governments is particularly alarming, as these are the bodies that know the areas in question best — certainly a lot better than the bureaucrats in Victoria.
The provincial government should not be overriding local wishes when it comes to the development of the character of local areas.
There’s a certain amount of “not in my backyard” that almost inevitably crops up whenever there are changes proposed for an area.
But it’s a mistake (that the province seems determined to make in Cowichan time and time again) to just dismiss concerns as hot air under this heading.
It’s significant that people feel so strongly about it that they’ve set up the Save Richard’s Trail committee to fight it, and gathered almost 400 signatures on a petition.
Richard’s Trail is a narrow, rural road that is becoming a favourite with cyclists looking to get a bit off the beaten path and visit one of the farms on the route, which has organically been developing as an agritourism hotspot.
That they will have to dodge trucks is problematic.
But more problematic is the lack of interest on the part of the province in what the community wants for itself.