Shrubbery behind Barbara Bond, left, and Ian Simpson is due to become a fabric wall once the intersection is moved back to accommodate the new River Road roundabout. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Lack of consultation on Chemainus Road corridor project irks business owners, residents

Surprise expressed over change to anticipated North Cowichan plans

Business owners and residents in the immediate area affected by the Chemainus Road Corridor Upgrade are expressing shock over plans unveiled by the Municipality of North Cowichan during an Aug. 13 meeting at the Chemainus 55+ Activity Centre.

Barbara Bond and Ian Simpson of Silvermine on Chemainus, located on the corner of Chemainus Road and River Road where a roundabout will be installed, wrote a follow-up letter to North Cowichan’s director of engineering Dave Conway about their disappointment with the Municipality’s changes to the original plan, but he’s away on holidays until Aug. 26 and they’ll await a response from him after that.

“We attended the meeting with the idea that the original 2011 plan was to begin in September 2019,” they stated in the letter.

“It was a bit shocking to walk in there and see a totally different plan,” added Bond.

The project encompasses the area of Chemainus Road between Henry Road and Victoria Street, with many upgrades to include benches, bike paths, utilities improvements, more formal parking stalls and landscaping to enhance the visual appeal of the main entrance into town.

But some of the people who are going to be most impacted by the construction and the eventual final product feel they could have been consulted, especially since so much time has elapsed since the original plan was formulated as part of the Chemainus Revitalization project and everyone was expecting the status quo. There’s only a small number of houses and businesses on that section of Chemainus Road.

They’re asking the Municipality to respect their concerns and are requesting a meeting for the residents and businesses directly affected from the corridor

In the letter, Bond and Simpson state: “Collectively, we feel that the Municipality changed the 2011 plan completely without any consultation to those directly affected. It was done in a very sneaky manner, as the Municipality did have several years to present their revised plan to those directly affected.”

They would also like an email of the visual of the new plan to scale and samples and a location for a proposed fabric fence.

The fabric fence that’s being planned along the roadway bordering the Western Forest Products and Mosaic Forest Management property is a bone of contention.

“They’re going to take the trees out and put up fabric fencing,” said Bond. “It’s going to look pretty shabby.

“It would be nice for them to address that. Those trees are going to be ripped out and it’s going to be an eyesore.”

Being an arts town, Bond figures a better option would have been to incorporate an appealing artistic design. It didn’t have to be a mural, but something to improve the visual aspect.

“I think the lack of consultation,” Simpson said stands out to him that would have easily smoothed out the fine details.

Bond and Simpson also cited some bench furniture and an extended sidewalk with the construction of the River Road roundabout as having an adverse affect on their business.

Other concerns pertain to bike lanes and parking. Bond said she rarely sees more than a few cyclists each day along the route, but the lanes are being given significant space in the reconstruction.

The road was also originally proposed to be divided with trees and shrubbery down the middle, she added, but was changed without knowledge. In hindsight, the business owners decided that change was probably for the better for access from motorists travelling in either direction.

Trisha Oldfield, a resident of the affected strip of Chemainus Road, was mainly concerned about the timeline for the project to begin without advance notice.

“There’s so much of it I love,” she said. “This is the first time they’ve contacted us and it’s starting the end of September.”

The number of parking spaces that will actually diminish doesn’t sit well with Katherine Rooney.

“We’re not going to get that back,” she said. “The first three houses, there’s zero on-street parking. We should have angle parking and that will calm the traffic.”

The prominence of the bike lanes also seems to be excessive to Oldfield.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” she said. “We could use that space for angle parking – at least on one side.”

At the very least, everyone hopes some fine-tuning of the project can be done before it proceeds.

“They changed the plan and let us know that the night we went there,” Simpson said of the meeting. “We had no pre-warning, no consultation.”

Bond hopes some lessons have been learned within the Municipality from the situation and if anything like this is going to be done that some advance contact be made.

“It’s just common courtesy,” she said. “These are people’s livelihoods they’re playing with.”

“You don’t generally put shovels in the ground without some stamp on the drawings,” added Rooney.

“Have a discussion and actually take back our concerns, take back our ideas and let the people of Chemainus have a concrete plan,” Bond reasoned.

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Ian Simpson and Barbara Bond of Silvermine on Chemainus outside their business on the corner of Chemainus and River Roads. (Photo by Don Bodger)

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