Stoney Hill Road decision curbed until February report and talks with Tribes

Icel Dobell pleads with North Cowichan council to delay its decision about a new Stoney Hill Road. Council later agreed, awaiting staff
Icel Dobell pleads with North Cowichan council to delay its decision about a new Stoney Hill Road. Council later agreed, awaiting staff's rural preservation report due by February.
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland

Decisions about building a new Stoney Hill Road won't happen until at least February.

That's when North Cowichan council is to receive an ordered staff report about options to preserve the rural character of Maple Bay Peninsula, then debate impacts of the proposed $2.5-million public road to 73 properties.

Councillor John Koury was Wednesday's lone objector to Councillor Al Siebring's motion for a blanket postponement of three bylaws concerning the controversial gravel road.

"The report will clear up any misinformation," Siebring said. "This (Stoney road access) process has been going 60 years; another 1 1/2 months won't kill us."

But Koury basically argued preservationists are hijacking municipal development.

"There's an anti-development movement out there.

"They want to stop this road out of fear of what happens at this council," he said, noting hill folks have rights to a safe, reliable road.

His council colleagues agreed about safety aspects, but wanted time to address fears a future subdivision could spoil the hill's nature and privacy with tree loss, trash dumping, noise and more.

They also want to hear Native worries about impact on the bluff area's sacred sites and cultural rights.

"Cowichan Tribes has concerns about this project, the biggest is that we haven't been consulted," said Tracy Fleming, speaking for elder Arvid Charlie, who visited chambers.

Mayor Jon Lefebure agreed, while Councillor Kate Marsh also wanted everyone to be heard.

"Most people aren't worried about the road but what it would do to that wonderful pristine eco-system," said Marsh, who initially moved to delay discussion of Wednesday's first bylaw regarding pulling municipal forest land for the road.

The other two bylaws concern crating the road as a local service function, and borrowing $2 million — to be repaid by the 73 landowners over 25 years — from Victoria for the project.

Marsh cited 919 alternate approval process forms gathered in a week toward 2,150 needed to stop or stall the road.

"That's a lot of people," said Marsh. "Let's pull back and get the staff report."

But Koury disagreed.

"We don't need any more information," he said, noting council could log all of its forest reserve on the hill now.

"But we don't log it because we have the same kind of sensitivity (for nature) as the people wanting to stop development in North Cowichan."

Resident Icel Dobell just wanted to stop council from making a rash decision.

"We are simply asking for time after the holidays," she said of the AAP.

Road committee members stressed their demands for a safe road while respecting the area's natural splendour.

"Don't allow this to be put behind closed doors again," Wendy McPherson said of decades of private council debate, fueled recently by now-settled legal action against council and Bird's Eye Cove Farm by pro-road landowner Paul Bourke.

"We've done our best to involve the community."

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