Building it Right: Best Projects Honoured

Development: Water management to community garden, Crofton Hotel to Woodland Hills recognized by municipality

Sarah Simpson, The Citizen
Published: Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Quamichan Stewardship Society, Cowichan Green Community, Mortel Development Company and Maple Mountain Estates are the 2010 winners of the Municipality of North Cowichan's sixth annual Community Planning Awards.

David Coulson Design received an honourable mention.

The awards recognize innovative and attractive developments and projects that demonstrate the goals of the Municipality's Official Community Plan.

"The Community Planning Awards are a great way for the Municipality to celebrate the positive contribution that home owners, developers, community groups have made to making North Cowichan a great place to live, work and play," said North Cowichan Mayor Tom Walker during the Nov. 3 presentation.

Dirk Helms, the chair of the advisory planning commission helped Walker announce this year's winners.

"The 2010 Community Planning Awards criteria were changed somewhat to allow for more flexibility to highlight also projects and undertakings not necessarily manifesting themselves in the use of bricks and mortar, but which are also very much in line with what the OCP is trying to aim for."

The first award handed out last week was just such an example.

Under the Plans in Action category, the Quamichan Stewardship Society's Quamichan Watershed Plan was the big winner.

"The project is a showcase of preserving the rural setting and taking action to stop lake deterioration and enhance stewardship by implementing a water management plan," Helms said.

The project's go-to guy, Roger Hart, was on hand to accept the award.

"We need to acknowledge the contribution of hundreds of ordinary citizens," he told council. "In the end analysis it is the simple act of empowering members of the community that has made this process possible. The lesson of this has much greater implications than simply improving the Quamichan Watershed."

In the Community Spaces category Cowichan Green Communities was selected for the Warmland House Community Garden.

"This project took a vacant lot and transformed it into an oasis with over 20 beds, six wheelchair accessible beds, a herb and vegetable garden, edible wild plant garden and greenhouse," Helms said.

Judy Stafford and Jason Greenwood accepted the award from Helms and Walker.

"The first time I drove by there when I started to see that plywood building go up, I thought 'oh my gosh wait until the bylaw officer sees that.' But each time I go by there it gets better and better," Walker said.

Primarily the residents of Warmland House use the garden, but people from the community are also welcome.

In the Enterprise and Innovation category, Tony Van de Mortel of Mortel Development Company Ltd. was selected for the Crofton Hotel renovation. The renovation of this 1902 heritage building fits the west coast style and provides North Cowichan with a pub, bistro, liquor store and live entertainment venue.

"The significance of this project is the fact that the landmark feature of Crofton which had deteriorated to the point of having become an eyesore was courageously redeveloped by Tony Van de Mortel and a lot of investment capital and a business plan was put into place," Sue Gibbons wrote in her nomination

Maple Mountain Estates Ltd. took home the top prize in the Structures and Development category for their Woodlands Hills development off Herd Road.

"It showcases development in a rural setting with very limited disturbance to the original landscape and this is the main point," Helms said. "This is a good example of how something can be developed in a rural setting without damaging it too much."

Also in the Structures and Development category, David Coulson Design Ltd. was awarded honourable mention for the Stewart House at Woodland Drive. This project made use of second-growth Douglas fir trees from the property and minimizes the environmental footprint through use of geothermal heating and air conditioning. Extensive native plantings were incorporated into the landscape plan and rainwater chains were used to direct rainfall to the garden beds.

"It has a real wow factor when you drive up to it," Walker said.