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North Cowichan looks at second police station option?
Mayor Jon Lefebure won’t say which of two candidate sites he wants for North Cowichan’s new police station.
But Lefebure is glad council is hedging its bets with a second possible property on Ford Road, to go along with its current Beverly Street option.
Debate is set for Jan. 15 when Lefebure aims to be open-minded.
“I have to respect what my fellow councillors have to say, and be clear about what I think; I am very relieved to have another option.”
Council has taken heat from locals opposed to pulling the publicly owned 1.78-hectare site on Beverly from B.C.’s agricultural land reserve, then building the cop shop beside eco-sensitive Somenos Marsh.
A week after Victoria approved removal of that Beverly parcel from farmland status, councillors announced a conditional offer to buy about three acres of a five-acre property at Ford and Drinkwater roads, across from Cowichan Commons. Assessed value of that whole parcel is $177,400, staff said.
The Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society urged council to pick the Ford parcel, not Beverly land beside the wetland.
“As the SMWS have stated many times,” president Paul Fletcher’s Friday release says, “we are not against development but we are against development in ecologically sensitive areas such as the marsh margins.
“The SMWS applauds the decision to potentially move the RCMP detachment to a more logical site by the Commons, and would hope the change in venue — should it occur — will not open the (Beverly) land to commercialization, high-density housing, or industrial uses as has been suggested in some North Cowichan planning documents.”
RCMP brass also gave a preliminary thumbs up to Ford Road, Lefebure noted.
“And I’m unaware of any flooding concerns up there.
“The key thing is it’s zoned A2, and not in the agricultural land reserve,” Lefebure said of the Ford site he called “a pasture with some cows in it.”
“We bought it conditionally, on there being rezoning to allow public use.
“Rezoning goes through a public process, and council must enter the hearing with an open mind, and listen to everyone. We won’t be buying the property if the rezoning’s not successful.
“It’s on the outer limit of where we’d like a station with proximity to downtown Duncan, but still in range.”
There’s also transit close by so when Mounties release folks from the station (2,200 last year) they can get home, noted the mayor. There’s also access to the highway.
And the marsh site has poor soils “so there’s a significant cost to remove soil and do filling, and those costs would be virtually nil at the Ford Road site.”
That deal — or deciding to build on Beverly — would end staff’s eight-year dragnet for a site to replace North Cowichan/Duncan’s cramped, damp RCMP detachment on Canada Avenue.
Besides, council is a signatory of the Somenos Marsh Management Plan, and did include the (Beverly) section identified “so one consideration for council is the (marsh’s) environmental impact.”
It’s also the marsh society’s top priority.
“SMWS believes it is imperative the recently removed ALR land remain part of the Somenos Marsh Conservation Area and Important Bird Area,” Fletcher says.
“The best use of this property is to allow it to remain in its natural state and, where possible, use it and other lands south of the Beverly Street dike to be remediated into effective wetlands and storm-water management properties.”
Second marsh area site removed from ALR
Owners of Fun Pacific Golf Centre also received word this week their 8.8 acres along Beverly Street — just east of North Cowichan’s potential cop-shop plot — had been removed from B.C.’s agricultural land reserve, Mayor Jon Lefebure said.
Fun Pacific’s property is zoned for C-4, commercial-recreational use.
C-2 zoning allows a hotel, restaurant, driving range and other uses.
“There’s nothing to prevent them form moving ahead under current zoning.”
It was unclear what the site’s future holds.
Agricultural land commissioners' ruling about Fun Pacific's farm land was made separately from the owners' earlier proposal involving property at Averill Hills, the mayor explained.