Editor’s Note: Up to 75 local jobs are on the line as Pacific Industrial & Marine Ltd. goes through a zoning amendment process for their manufacturing facility at the marine terminal in Cowichan Bay. There will undoubtedly be plenty of news coverage of why some people are opposed. Here is an opportunity for readers to know what this application is about.
Cowichan Estuary Restoration and Conservation Association (CERCA) is determined to rid Cowichan Bay of all industrial activity and jobs with Pacific Industrial & Marine (PIM) currently their target.
PIM is in a process with the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) to amend the zoning for the property their operation sits on in Cowichan Bay. As Cowichan Post was going to press PIM was expecting a CVRD board decision to put the zoning amendment to public hearing.
The purpose of the amendment was to bring the zoning into line with what has been going on in and around that property since at least 2004 when PIM came into being, and for decades before that under the work of Western Stevedoring, owners of the main lease on the property. Technically, it is Western that is applying for the zoning amendment on behalf of their tenant, PIM.
PIM owner Brian Thacker said that since 2004 he has slowly been building up a stable work force that totals about 75 today involved in fabricating bridges and floats that are too large to be moved on land.
About two-and-a-half years ago someone filed a complaint with the CVRD that work was being undertaken on the site that wasn’t allowed under existing zoning.
Decisions were taken that allowed PIM to continue work at least until a zoning amendment could be processed.Thacker says its important to note that the Cowichan Estuary Environmental Management Plan (CEEMP) established by the BC Government in 1986 designates the site for industrial and commercial activity. Also, the CVRD’s 2013 Official Community Plan for the area has designated the terminal for marine industrial use.
“The zoning amendment will not add any approval to do anything that isn’t already being done on the site,” Thacker said.
In fact, he added, the application contains measures to change current log storage areas to a water conservancy zone.
“When we started this we had no idea that we couldn’t do what we started doing,” Thacker said. “It was zoned industrial so we thought it was OK. We would never have gone to all this work and investment if we thought we would have to leave it behind.”
As part of the zoning amendment process Thacker said he conducted a walking tour of the site for all nine of the CVRD electoral area directors last year. There has been a local government election since then and three new directors were elected in Mill Bay, Shawnigan and Glenora. Thacker said he invited them on a site walking tour, but they have declined.
Thacker offered that there is misinformation floating around, that includes an allegation that PIM wants to install a smelter.
“There is absolutely no truth to that,” Thacker said.
On Wednesday February 27th the rezoning application passed first and second reading by a narrow vote of 5-4. At the meeting public input was limited to 15minutes, to the ire of some wanting to speak.
The next step is a public hearing scheduled for March 12 in the Heritage Room at the Island Savings Centre.
It is expected to be a lively meeting and that there weill be plenty of opponents out in full force making a full show of their opposition.
Partick Hrushowy is a forty-five year veteran of journalism and the communications field and he is the Editor of the Cowichan Post.