Mayor’s 11th-hour proposal accepted

Most of Echo Heights Forest is now poised to become parkland.

Most of Echo Heights Forest is now poised to become parkland after North Cowichan council gave first reading to a controversial 11th-hour proposal by North Cowichan’s mayor.

The narrow 4-3 vote accepted Jon Lefebure’s plan to set aside 91 per cent of the forest, and sell 17 lots — worth about $150,000 each — comprising the rest of the 52-acre public property, the mayor explained.

Councillors John Koury, Al Siebring, and Jennifer Woike opposed Lefebure’s proposal that scrubbed council’s earlier two readings toward saving just 80 per cent of Echo Heights as parkland, and marketing 40-some housing lots.

Lefebure acknowledged his 91-per-cent solution will see council reap about $2 million for public programs — some $1.5 million less than selling 40 lots under the scratched 80-per-cent plan.

Still, he was delighted how his community came together under his 91-per-cent plan to help end an eight-year controversy rooted in saving the forest.

“It was amazing how the Cowichan Residents’ Association (CRA), and a lot of other people, e-mailed and spoke in support of the new proposal.”

He was gratified some folks, with “pretty rigid beliefs” about how much forest to save, exercised compromise.

“We wanted to find a sweet spot together and stop the bitterness and acrimony, and I think that happened with this proposal.”

He cited acceptance by the CRA’s task force that wanted all of Echo Heights saved as park.

The parkland bylaw does not need a public hearing. Its next three readings will surface at successive council meetings, Lefebure explained.

“We need a two-third majority on the final reading,” he said of required approval by four of his six councillors.

Logged land for the 17 lots already has R-2 zoning, twinning nearby residential use.

“It’s a straight extension of Humbird (Street), with a cul-de-sac,” Lefebure said of the 17 home lots.

Their development will likely follow green guidelines being designed by staff.