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Echo Heights saga could be just a rubber stamp from finally being over

By a 6-1 margin: North Cowichan council passes third reading to save 91% of Chemainus site as parkland

Chemainus’ Echo Heights is just one more council reading away from seeing 91% of the publicly owned forest preserved as parkland.

North Cowichan passed second and third readings Wednesday, with development-minded Councillor John Koury the lone objector.

Mayor Jon Lefebure said he gained recent support from Chemainus Chamber of Commerce toward his 91% solution to the thorny question of Echo Heights’ future that has split his community for some eight years.

“I’m extremely happy to have gotten a 6-1 vote,” he said of fourth reading expected June 4. “This is great news for our community — now we have a chance to heal.”

Koury insisted council support its earlier plan to preserve 80% of the 52-acre property — which the vocal Chemainus Residents’ Association wanted completely saved.

He was frustrated council could lose a potential $1.5 million in lost revenues from selling just 17 Echo Heights lots for green housing — not 40-plus lots under the 80% plan.

The 80% bylaw still must be rescinded, with Koury vowing to underline its virtues.

“It’s not easy being the last man standing,” he told the News Leader Pictorial Thursday.

“I can’t compromise the public’s interest.

“Now we have to scramble, and go back to the drawing board.”

Koury, a potential mayoral candidate in this November’s civic election, said he has ideas about recouping that $1.5 million.

“I have ideas, and if I run for office, you’ll see them. We need a construction boom in North Cowichan; we need customers.”

Koury claimed Lefebure’s plan for saving 91% of Echo Heights was created purely for political reasons.

“The mayor created enough chaos around the table to get this (bylaw) done.”

Lefebure called Koury’s claims “bizarre.”

“I’ve never heard anything so ridiculous. This is all about Echo Heights. We’re a serious council dealing with a serious issue.”

Lefebure has basically explained he sought a compromise between the 80% plan, and CRA and local First Nations’ demands for saving the whole site.

Koury called the CRA an environmental activist group that doesn’t believe in any development.

“The vast majority of people in Chemainus, I believe, were happy with the 80-20 approach,” he said.

Koury cited tonnes of staff documents massaging the 80% plan, compared to “a two-page report done by political manoeuvring.”

“The question now is what services do we cut, and how many more taxes do we need to raise to compensate for $1.5 million?”

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