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North Cowichan road-naming guidelines released only after FOI request

Have you ever wondered how streets are named in North Cowichan? I have. But getting an answer from the Municipality proved more difficult than expected.

Three months and a freedom-of-information request later, I finally received a two-page document dated Mar. 31, 2005, and entitled: “District of North Cowichan Choosing a Road Name Procedure Applicant Guidelines.”

Why file an FOI request to obtain a simple document?

— September 5, I emailed Barb Floden, manager of communications and public engagement, to enquire about street-naming policies. “Let me look into this,” she replied.

— October 10, hearing northing further, I asked Floden again. No response.

— October 23, I filed an FOI request.

— December 4, I received a digital copy of the guidelines.

In an email Monday, Floden apologized, saying the request had “slipped out” of her “flagged emails.”

This is by no means the first time I have filed an FOI request to obtain basic information from municipal hall.

Earlier this year, I protested a policy that allowed the authors of letters appearing on council’s consent agenda to remain anonymous to the public. Kudos to council for voting unanimously to change the policy — over the objections of senior staff.

Yet much work remains to enhance openness at municipal hall.

Now, back to the road-naming guidelines, which include:

(1.a) Names which reflect and describe the natural features of the area which include the flora and the fauna such as: Oceanview Place, Blue Bird Drive; or

(1.b) Pioneers of the area who made a notable contribution to the community or the region, for example: Arthur, Robert and Joan.

(2) The names shall be consistent in theme with street names already in existence within that area of the Municipality, or be allowed to create a new theme in a new area, for example: a tree theme — Oak, Pine, Maple.

(3) Existing roads that are extended through subdivisions shall maintain the same street name.

(4) The main street in a subdivision should be named after the subdivision name where applicable. Subdivision names must not duplicate or be confused with street names in another location, for example: Channel View Estates & Channel Boulevard.

(5) Street names shall not exceed more than 18 characters, including spaces and the suffix.

(6) Duplicate road names with different suffixes will only be considered where the secondary road is a cul-de-sac, and only two different suffixes of a single prefix will be used, eg — Hampton Road and Hampton Place.

(7) Names with hyphens and apostrophes will not be considered.

(8) Street classifications are as follows:

(a) Road, Street, Avenue, Way — to be used for main rights-of-way.

(b) Place — to be used for cul-de-sacs.

(c) Crescent — to be used for roads which originate from a street and return to the same street, but in another location.

(d) Drive — to be used for the main right-of-way through the development, should the road be fairly long.

(e) Terrace — to be used where the road is located in a hilly area.

(f) Lane — Non standard road width. Usually an access road to the rear of lots fronting a municipal street.

(g) Close — No exit road, typically twice the length of a cul-de-sac road.

The Municipality gives the final approval of road names, the document adds.

In responding to my FOI request, Alyssa Meiner, information management officer for North Cowichan, noted that the guidelines fall short of strict policy.

“North Cowichan does not currently have a formal policy for street naming,” she said. “New street names are typically dealt with as part of the subdivision approval process and the Approving Officer makes the final decision on street names, after considering names submitted by the developer and after review by staff to ensure there are no street name duplications, and other considerations generally as included in the enclosed Choosing a Road Name Procedure Applicant Guidelines.”

If you look around your neighbourhood, you are likely to find odd or unexplained street names.

In the Kingsview residential area near Maple Bay, Sansum Drive is effectively an extended block and not the “fairly long” main right-of-way through the development.

In the same development, you can find streets named after Indigenous groups — Chippewa Road, Haida Road and Salish Road, though only the latter is regionally accurate.

I also strongly doubt that the word “pioneers” in the guidelines refers to the Quw’utsun people who have lived here for thousands of years. Undoubtedly, that will change in future.


In another naming twist, Stoney Hill Road used to end at a T-intersection with Fairweather Road. It is still shown as such on Google Maps. Yet the posted municipal signs describe both as Stoney Hill Road, which could be confusing. The change occurred as part of council approval in 2014 of improved access to Stoney Hill with a paved road.

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— Larry Pynn, Dec. 19, 2023

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