Tofino’s proposed new police building is taking some heat from locals and council has requested a meeting with the RCMP to discuss it.
The current one-storey, 2,500 sq. ft., detachment at 400 Campbell Street is set to be replaced with a new two-storey detachment with a roughly 7,350 sq. ft. ground floor and a 5,550 sq. ft. second floor.
Council approved the new RCMP detachment in December but a surge of social media criticism, sparked by the new building’s plans being posted online, motivated Coun. Dorothy Baert to re-raise the issue during Jan. 12’s regular council meeting.
Baert brought forward a motion, seconded by Coun. Cathy Thicke, which read:
“Whereas the District of Tofino Council supports the redevelopment of the Tofino RCMP detachment; and whereas significant concerns have emerged from both Council members and the public with respect to various aspects of this proposal, since the regular Council meeting held December 8, 2015; Therefore the District of Tofino Council requests that the RCMP and other partners engage in dialogue regarding the location and design of the new Tofino detachment.”
After a lengthy discussion, this motion was whittled down to: “The District of Tofino Council requests that the RCMP and other partners engage in dialogue regarding the new Tofino detachment.”
Prior to the discussion’s kickoff, Osborne asked council to constrain their comments to the specific motion.
“We’re not going to be rehashing the decision from December of course and we’re not going to be discussing anything except for what we’ve got before us today,” she said.
Baert suggested the building’s design is not suitable for its downtown location.
“Partly what strengthens that resolve for me is the downtown Campbell Street DPA (development permit area),” she said.
Baert began to explain that the DPA suggests buildings comply with a small-town, coastal-themed, character but was cut off by Osborne.
“I’m sorry to interrupt but I really want to constrain the comments around the motion at hand, which is that we engage in dialogue regarding the location and design,” Osborne said. “I don’t want to rehash the design and why councilors feel for or against as it is. I just feel that that’s really not productive at this point.”
Baert responded that she was trying to explain why she’d brought the motion forward.
“We have been told that it conforms to our design and I’m bringing forward a case where I don’t think that that’s accurate,” she said.
“I think the community has spoken really clearly about what it wants in the downtown core through the DPA and that we should at least have that conversation.”
Baert also spoke against the suggestion that council had little influence in the matter due to the building being on federally-owned land and its cost being split between the provincial and federal governments.
“I have had experience where I’ve been told things very emphatically and found out that actually they’re not that emphatic when you start to peel back a few layers,” she said.
“I feel that we need to have more than a completed design presented to council, a nearly-complete design presented to staff, and just have that be the end of the story when it’s such a significant location and so impactful.”
Coun. Ray Thorogood slammed Baert’s motion and was frustrated to see it on council’s desk.
“I’m just embarrassed that this proposal for a motion was put forward,” he said.
He noted council had voted to go ahead with the project in December.
“Since then several councillors have taken it upon themselves to run out to the public, go on social media, soliciting opinions, and everybody has an opinion, and the hundred-and-so responses from the social media is a small portion of the 2,000 people that live here,” he said.
“We have already told the RCMP at our Dec. 8 meeting that we approved the project and now we’re being asked to go back and say, ‘Well maybe we don’t approve it’…I would just be embarrassed if this motion goes forward and we have to sit down again with them.”
He also questioned the validity of online concerns.
“I like the design and there were comments from at least one builder I saw on the social media stuff that likes the design and he’s a builder. I didn’t see anybody else there that was from the building trade offering any written opinion,” he said.
Osborne supported meeting with the RCMP but wanted to leave the motion at that.
“I support the idea of meeting with them to seek clarification, to discuss things around process and mitigation of some of the concerns that we have moving forward,” she said.
“I can support a motion to meet with the RCMP but I would be much more comfortable seeing the whereas clauses removed. I would even be more comfortable seeing ‘regarding the location and design’ removed.”
Baert said she was fine with those changes but assured she would bring up location and design at the meeting.
Council agreed to amend the motion to simply request a meeting with the RCMP but Thorogood remained unconvinced on the meeting’s merits.
“I don’t know what the big issue is,” he said. “If it was a library or a museum I would guarantee there would be no objection.”
Coun. Greg Blanchette said the meeting could provide an opportunity to talk about public art on the building and suggested public art could boost the public’s support.
Council approved the amended motion with Thorogood the only vote in opposition.