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Bamberton industrial zoning moves forward

Feb 10 2012

A plan to rezone a portion of the Bamberton lands from forestry to light-industrial use has moved ahead in the approval process, but a final decision on the future of the property is still a month or two away.

The Cowichan Valley Regional District board of directors met this week and received the minutes of a Jan. 24 public hearing on the Bamberton issue, before giving two necessary bylaws third reading.

The fourth and final readings could not be considered because some of the land is within 800 metres of the Trans-Canada Highway, meaning the minister of transportation has to sign off on the proposal.

There was no formal public input on the plan at the meeting, but concerns raised at the public hearing included water supply and the prospect of increased traffic, such as truck traffic using the Malahat.

Gerry Giles was among the board members who praised the direction that land owner Bamberton Properties has taken, saying the project is "approaching certainty" and that the company has already put considerable effort into cleaning up after the site's industrial past.

The bulk of the land under consideration is where a cement plant operated for close to 80 years, producing cement for projects including the Lions Gate Bridge and the George Massey Tunnel. Bamberton also included a townsite for workers and their families.

Board member Mel Dorey said the move to a light-industrial zone could be a big benefit to the region. "This is a perfect opportunity to create a lot of jobs."

Board member Loren Duncan said he would like to see a more substantial park dedication, but agreed with a number of his colleagues that the developer has earned a level of trust in the community.

Support for the plan is not universal. The Friends of Saanich Inlet are concerned about ecologically sensitive areas.

The group wants a thorough environmental review. Duncan also called for close attention to the area environment.

The owner's plan calls for light-industrial zoning on 140 of 632 hectares. That would permit the expansion of an industrial park that already exists on the east side of the property, along with the establishment of a forestry and recreation zone that could be used for activities such as ziplining. Twelve hectares would be set aside as a park.

The land has been the subject of many ideas in the almost two decades since the plant closed, including a plan set out in the 1990s to create a town-like setting with 12,000 residents.

Bamberton Properties bought the land in 2005 and had plans for 3,200 homes. The CVRD voted last year against residential construction at the site for the time being, but the company still envisions a residential area on part of the property at some point.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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