ROBERT BARRON CITIZEN
A controversial development project for Berkey’s Corner will be able to proceed without an assessment by Environment Canada, councillors in the Municipality of North Cowichan decided in a 5-4 vote on April 20.
Coun. Kate Marsh had asked for the project, which will see a neighbourhood commercial centre built near Berkey’s Corner, be put on hold pending information from Environment Canada on the status of species-at-risk on the approximately two-hectare site.
Marsh said the property is in a Coastal Douglas fir ecosystem and contains rare Oregon ash trees and possibly other rare or endangered species that she would like to see protected.
If council had agreed to allow the study, the decision would have triggered another public hearing for the new information to be presented.
Hall Pacific, a Vancouver-based development company, was given permission by the municipality last month to build a development at the site that will be anchored by a number of national chain stores, including a grocery and drug store, as well as a number of smaller, more local tenants.
“There could be other species-at-risk on that property as well,” Marsh said.
“The assessment would only take about a week, wouldn’t cost anything and it would be good to know what other species are there as well. There’s no hurry for the project to proceed so I think there’s time to do this.”
But Coun. Tom Walker said the issue of Oregon ash trees on the property had already been dealt with in a staff report.
He said he’s concerned that allowing the study to take place would probably set a precedent that would require similar assessments on all development applications in the municipality.
Coun. Al Siebring agreed and said that allowing the environmental assessment on the property would be “overkill.”
“In a sense, the whole municipality is in a Coastal Douglas fir ecosystem, so are we going to do environmental assessments like this on all development applications?” he asked.
“I thik we have good (environmental) regulations already in place in the municipality.”