Echo Heights concerns aired at open house

Plans for Echo Heights will be drafted after North Cowichan council decided to push ahead.

Plans for Echo Heights will be drafted after North Cowichan council decided to push ahead.

Chemainus residents want answers when it comes to the Echo Heights development.“What’s with pushing this and doing it now?” asked Chemainus resident, Bernice Ramsdin at the North Cowichan open house on March 3 at the Chemainus Legion.The Echo Heights development which would sit on North Cowichan-owned land is zoned residential, but is mostly forested.Under the plans, 40 per cent would be developed for housing, with the remaining preserved as parkland.“I would like to see it left entirely alone,” Ramsdin said. “We have something within our community that’s a precious piece of land that should be reserved.”The open house was an opportunity for residents to hear about the Echo Heights development and the rest of North Cowichan’s Official Community Plan.Another Chemainus resident, Barbara Swanson, said she’s worried about the wildlife in the forested area.“Where do they expect them to go?” she asked.Echo Heights is situated on 54-acres of second-growth forest.Swanson said she doesn’t want to see the development at all.“We need to save that for this community.”Ramsdin echoed her concerns.“We’ve got other areas that can be developed rather than taking down a forest,” she said. “There’s going to be a fight and they know it.”At the regular council meeting on Wednesday, March 2, council voted to direct staff to draft a bylaw to create a Comprehensive Development Plan for Echo Heights and adopt the proposed communication strategy.With Councillors Dave Haywood, Al Siebring, Ruth Hartmann and Mayor Tom Walker in favour, the motion carried.Coun. George Seymour  voted against the motion, along with Coun. Garrett Elliott.“I’ve tried to find a way to address the concerns reflected,” Seymour told council. “I’m torn between various issued and the merits of them.”Seymour proposed a referendum for the next election — a move that was voted down by council.“This is a potential unique area,” he said of Echo Heights. “The potential for this area to be a unique laboratory preserved for interest and study does exist.”Mayor Walker pointed out the development still has a long way to go.The bylaw, once drafted, would still require first reading from council and then would go to a public hearing.