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Inlet group to battle Bamberton industrial plan

Jan 24 2012

The Friends of Saanich Inlet organization is fighting the latest plan for the Bamberton lands, saying proposed industrial zoning puts the ecologically sensitive area at risk.

A hearing into the application from Bamberton Properties LLP takes place today at 7 p.m. at Brentwood College in Mill Bay.

"I'm anticipating a big fight. A lot of us will come out," said Balu Tatachari, a member of Friends of Saanich Inlet and neighbour to the north of Bamberton.

Bamberton Properties has applied to extend its industrial zoning north and south of the existing industrial area on the waterfront. That land would be leased. It is also seeking zoning for a business park and a light industrial park on the west side of the highway, where lots could be sold.

The developer has put plans of creating a community on hold after Cowichan Valley Regional District directors decided last year not to support residential construction at this time, pointing out there is a fair amount of housing going up in the region already. They are also worried that infrastructure and amenities were lacking for a planned 3,200 housing units, to be built over 25 years.

Tatachari and Lena Lee, also a Friends of Saanich Inlet member and Bamberton neighbour, fear that the latest development plan has been fast-tracked without necessary environmental studies and reviews on how it may affect everything from Malahat traffic to the waters of the Inlet. "We want this application to be evaluated thoroughly," Tatachari said Monday.

They worry that safety on the Malahat will be compromised by trucks related to increased industrial use. "The Malahat highway has a lot of issues that need to be addressed and this is going to complicate matters," Tatachari said.

Bamberton once housed a cement factory. Its future has been debated for more than 20 years as various developers have unveiled their visions for the property. The site covers more than 630 hectares.

Before any plans are made to develop the property, Tatachari said, "What we really need is a growth management strategy for the entire Cowichan Valley."

Instead of industrial use, Lee favours a hotel and unique shops. "We would like it to be tourist-oriented. That is what it lends itself to."

Bamberton Properties' proposal includes six hectares for outdoor recreation use, including a zipline. Also part of the plan is 12 hectares at McCurdy Point to be dedicated as a park, something Tatachari described as "paltry."

Tatachari and Lee said the industrial uses which would be permitted are too broad to protect the area. CVRD staff said the light industrial zoning is designed to exclude heavy industry and anything which would be damaging to the inlet.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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