Parking in downtown Cumberland was one of the topics the VIU students examined. Comox Valley Record file photo

VIU students pitch planning projects to Cumberland

Students looked at topics such as historical values and parking issues

A few students from Vancouver Island University had the chance recently to get some hands-on experience with the Village of Cumberland.

Three students, Becky Thiessen, Cliff Feng and Kelsea Shadlock, each worked with the Village on projects, including preservation of local history to environmentally sensitive planning to parking, and presented their findings to council at a committee of the whole meeting in February.

The three are in VIU’s masters of community planning program and worked in Cumberland in the fall of 2019. Part of their program involves a 70-hour practicum during which students will work on a planning project or problem.

Statements of Significance

Thiessen worked on completing two Statements of Significance on the Big Store and Coal Beach/No. 4 mine site.

“I hadn’t heard of Statements of Significance prior to the project,” she told council.

The Big Store sat at in Cumberland’s commercial core on Dunsmuir Avenue for 97 continuous years, while Coal Beach and the No. 4 mine site mark an area significant to the industrial development of the community. The statements for the sites are part of a process to preserve historically significant locations through the community’s historical register.

“It brought back many memories for me,” Mayor Leslie Baird said following the presentation.

Thiessen also undertook research for Perseverance Creek, which will be finished by council’s heritage committee this year.

RELATED STORY: Cumberland wants more heritage committee members

Site adaptive planning

Feng told council site adaptive planning is a new concept when it comes to development. He cited some examples, such as in Saanich and Colwood, were this kind of planning is starting to be used.

“It’s basically environmental protection,” Feng said.

His work focused on a couple of areas key to current and future development in Cumberland: Coal Valley Estates and the Bevan Road industrial lands. As part of his work, he undertook site visits and attended a Bevan Road mini-charrette – a meeting for stakeholders to address problems and solutions around planning.

RELATED STORY: Cumberland expects draft plan for Bevan Road in 2020

RELATED STORY: Cumberland council gives go-ahead for next phase at Coal Valley

His research pointed to the need for the official community plan during its update in 2021 and development permits to consider environmental values and look for ways to mitigate the potential impact of development. An alternative method to site adaptive planning is conservation planning, which is less restrictive and proposes clustered development patterns, while still leaving relatively large natural areas, according to the Village staff report.

Parking study

Shadlock had examined parking studies in other communities to come up with a methodology around conducting a potential study of Cumberland. This involved counting spaces as well as occupancy rates, as she looked at demand at sites during regular hours as well as during event time, such as factors like duration and turnover.

“Parking’s always a great topic for planners and communities,” she said.

She visited the community several times through the fall, finding some spaces are not often used during regular periods. The area she studied ran from Sutton Road to Cumberland Village Park, including one block to the south and a block and a half to the north. It also included the museum, recreation centre and Village Park lots.

Her suggestions included adding signs to direct visitors to the communities to public parking spaces and conducting a more comprehensive parking study to help the community identify its needs as it continues to grow. Another issue was fading lines to delineate parking spaces.

“Cumberland is growing, and parking will continue to be an issue,” she said.

RELATED STORY: Some calling for speed bumps on roads in Cumberland


A Village staff report discussed the operational implication of the VIU students’ projects. The Statements of Significance and heritage register would require staff and fall within the development services department. The parking study would require significant staff time and could delay other projects, such as implementing recommendations in the recent urban forest management plan. As far as site adaptive planning, the staff report notes it could be explored as part of the next year’s planned OCP update.

RELATED STORY: Cumberland plan considers urban forest’s future

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VIU student Becky Thiessen. Photo by Mike Chouinard

VIU student Cliff Feng. Photo by Mike Chouinard

VIU student Laura Shadlock. Photo by Mike Chouinard

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