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New cop shop could go at Ford and Drinkwater roads

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A second site for North Cowichan's new police station is targeted at Ford and Drinkwater roads.

Despite Victoria's nod to use farmland next to sensitive Somenos Marsh for the cop shop, council announced today its has as conditional purchase agreement on an alternate site for the new North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment at the northwest corner of Ford and Drinkwater.

The property sits immediately north of Cowichan Commons shopping centre.

Assessed value of the Ford-Drinkwater property was unavailable by press time.

"This 1.21-hectare site is being considered in addition to a potential site located on the north side of Beverly Street between the Trans-Canada Highway and York Road," staff's email says of council hedging its bets.

Council has sought suitable station site for some four years.

To date, the only potentially suitable, and available, site identified is a municipally owned 1.78-hectare parcel on the north side of Beverly Street.

It was created by the construction of a new flood-protection dike.

The marsh site was contingent on the Agricultural Land Commission approving North Cowichan's application to pull the parcel from the agricultural land reserve, staff says.

The public has protested that site's proximity to the wildlife wetland.

"Not knowing if the agricultural land commission would approve North Cowichan's application to exclude the Beverly Street parcel from the ALR, council identified the property on Ford Road as another potential site for a new RCMP facility, and entered into a conditional purchase agreement," states Mayor Jon Lefebure.

"Because of the difficulty in finding a suitable location, council felt it was in the best interest of the community to pursue the purchase of the Ford Road property as an alternative option."

Jan. 3 saw council get ALC approval of its application to pull the 1.78-hectare site on Beverly Street from the ALR.

In addition, the ALC also approved council's application to include a separate 3.26-hectare site at the east end of Beverly Street into the agricultural land reserve.

That addition is in keeping with North Cowichan's official community plan and commitment to ensure any exclusion request results in a net benefit to agriculture.

"The conditional purchase of the Ford Road property as an alternative option puts us in a much better position to carefully consider the merits of each site and not be limited to focusing on just one potential site," Lefebure added.

To buy the Ford Road site, not in the ALR, council must consider an application to rezone that property from its current rural-A2 zoning to PU (public use) for the 1.21-hectare portion of the property included in the conditional purchase agreement.

R1 (residential rural) rezoning would also be needed for the .89-hectare piece holding an existing single-family home — to be kept by the current owner, noted staff.

Council will consider first and second reading of a bylaw to this effect at its Jan. 15 regular Council meeting at 1:30 p.m.

If the rezoning application passes, after a Feb. 5 public hearing, and councillors decide to go with the Ford Road site buy, the property will need subdivision approval to complete the purchase.

Both sites are centrally located in the RCMP service area. They also offer quick access to the highway, Duncan, and the University Village.

Some taxpayers suggest building the new detachment as a multi-level structure on its current 6060 Canada Ave. site.

But that property is too small to properly accommodate existing staff, and does not meet current building and safety codes, especially in the cell areas, staff says.

Construction of a new RCMP building is included in council's 2015 budget.

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