Opinion

Before we put the ECO Depot in the rear-view, one final look

On June 27, the chief administrative officer of the CVRD finally delivered his report on  the failure of the CVRD ECO Depot venture.

The report largely  blamed the failure on public opposition with attention paid to the Citizens Together  Group (CT Group) and earlier  F.A.R.M.S Group, and padded these accusations with lame excuses.

The Cowichan Valley taxpayer has cause for concern with the use of tax dollars to pursue such ventures. The land the CVRD purchased on Cameron-Taggart Road was zoned ‘agriculture’ and not for industrial use.  More importantly, the neighbourhood was not consulted.

The CVRD ECO Depot venture was a 2010-11,  board-driven activity. Then-chairwoman Gerry Giles, during this period, spearheaded  the activity and constantly referred  to  ‘South Cowichan’. This reference was an incorporation dream. The Cameron-Taggart Road land, a  22-acre site, would  provide room for other utilities and would  help set the stage for incorporation.

Cameron-Taggart Road, a beautiful country road on agricultural land near to Shawnigan Creek, was the  wrong location. “Recycle Yes, Location No” was the public’s position.

As well, the local private  recycle operations would be put out of business.   After months of resistance by the CT Group and F.A.R.M.S. Group before that,  the legality of the CVRD circumventing  the land use zoning bylaw was taken to the Supreme Court of  B.C. About $25,000 was raised by concerned citizens in Areas A, B and C to  pay for this legal challenge.

In August 2011, facing a legal challenge; public opposition growing; costs spiralling;  and the election approaching; the CVRD announced a non-binding referendum, then spent another $50,000 of  taxpayers dollars to pay for more ECO Depot advertising.

The CVRD board chose to malign those involved with opposing the ECO Depot location. This approach by  the board only reinforced the public’s opposition. The opposition won the referendum handily and in December 2011, the new board  cancelled the  ECO Depot venture on Cameron-Taggart Road.

On Dec. 31 2012, a court ruling confirmed the CT Group’s contention the property was not properly zoned for the ECO Depot.

The cost to the CVRD taxpayer of this venture,  according to the CVRD, was only $1,300,000.  This  number is suspect because it does not include  CVRD staff costs estimated at $360,000 and the costs awarded the CT group in the Dec. 31 court decision..

So ended a needless and costly confrontation between a community and its local government.

Joseph Gollner was the spokesperson for the CT Group during the ECO Depot dispute.

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