Stoney Hill Road debate sees some action after plenty of talk Wednesday

Longtime Maple Bay resident Barbara Stone said she is happy about the way the democratic process is working in relation to the Stoney Hill Road proposal. - Peter W. Rusland
Longtime Maple Bay resident Barbara Stone said she is happy about the way the democratic process is working in relation to the Stoney Hill Road proposal.
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland

North Cowichan council spent 4 1/2 hours Wednesday wrestling with how to build a safe Stoney Hill Road while preserving Maple Bay Peninsula’s rural character — and satisfying a legal deal calling for the road.

But building that $2.5-million road, for citizen and emergency access through the municipal forest reserve, won’t likely happen any time soon.

Wednesday’s debate also heard a reminder about hearing Cowichan Tribes’ cultural and archaeological values, on the peninsula and its cliffs. Those issues are set for discussion with tribal elders at month’s end.

“Cowichan Tribes has a lengthy internal process,” Tribes spokeswoman Tracy Fleming said, noting some 50 known archeological sites, plus 30-odd traditional-use sites, in Stoney Hill.

“This meeting at the end of January is an initial meeting of many. We’re not against the road per se, but potential impacts on our historical uses in the area.”

Road-rejection rallier Icel Dobell handed council another 230 resident alternate-approval process forms, bringing the total to 1,149, calling for a road referendum or council’s scrapping the road plan — still shy of the required, 2,150.

“We all want a road, “ said Councillor Ruth Hartmann. “We’re just arguing over the width and the costs.”

The proposed main road measures eight metres; five metres on the arterial West Shore and Fairweather roads, and on a trunk road to Paul Bourke’s property as described in his legal settlement with council.

John Mackay, municipal engineer, noted both roads are legal, but don’t meet the municipality’s usual engineering standards.

Hartmann and Councillor Kate Marsh expressed fears the road will lead to subdivision and development — or worse, an embarrassing white elephant such as the Cliffs Over Maple Bay — unless council acts now to preserve the peninsula.

“The road violates our OCP policy of not encouraging rural sprawl and violates our road standards,” Hartmann said.

Mayor Jon Lefebure cautioned downzoning peninsula property to prevent development could be legally risky.

But Marsh argued for saving the area’s rare coastal Douglas fir stands. “I’m not necessarily against downzoning.”

Planner Scott Mack’s report cites various safeguards council already has to control peninsula property density and rural character.

For example, the peninsula currently has 43 homes. That number could rise under current zoning, with the new road, to 234, and a density of one home per 9.2 acres.

Council failed to agree on a density definition of rural character.

But all the citizen reaction, talk, and some action by council, gained applause from long-time bay resident Barbara Stone.

“The democratic process is working very well,” she said of lively discussion aplenty about the road.

Stone urged councillors to follow “vision first” about that road and its ramifications.

Especially in what she called the potential legacy of Paul Bourke’s 39-acre property some want eventually bought as parkland and added to the adjacent Sansum Point Park.

Under the legal settlement agreement with council, Bourke’s property is to receive a trunk road from the main Stoney Hill Road.

In return Bourke will pay $70,000, twinning by taxpayers’ $230,000, for access property from Bird’s Eye Cove Farm, the main road’s starting point.

Bourke indicated his property may be for sale at a fair negotiated price.

“My first choice is to keep my property in my family. Nobody has talked to me about selling. But who will pay for that?” he asked, upset with trespassers.

“I’m a reasonable person. I’m not opposed to selling it, but I need to get something out of it too.”

Councillor Al Siebring cautioned council that legal deal must be followed or council could land in court.

“The worst-case scenario is a judge gets to decide what the road looks like. Right now we have control,” he said.

Noted Bourke: “Some people think this (road debate) will go on forever, but it won’t.”


What council decided

Acting on four staff recommendations Wednesday, council agreed to consider, at its Feb. 6 meeting, a local-area service function to build the $2.5-million gravel road between Genoa Bay Road and the ecologically sensitive peninsula’s Fairweather Road subdivision.

Council also adopted Councillor Ruth Hartmann’s amendment for a staff review of the peninsula’s zoning to ensure land uses follow rural intent of the official community plan. That zoning review could take a year or more.

Budgeting for the peninsula’s Neighbourhood & Resource Management Plan, in council’s 2014-2018 ledger, will also be aired after a ratepayer-hosted Jan. 29 meeting in Maple Bay fire hall, council agreed.

And Councillor John Koury’s motion to study the forest reserve’s money-generating land-use options — spanning parkland, environmental research by VIU, and other potential uses — was also passed.

His motion about “finding the reserve’s best and highest  use” sprang from staff’s recommendation to probe making the 755-acre forest reserve into parkland.

Municipal forester Daryl Frank will report the reserve’s potential timber values to council.

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