Council Matters - May 7, 2014

Council met for 5 hours on May 7 to deal with a packed agenda with the RCMP Quarterly report, BroomBusters delegation, Municipal Auditors 2013 report and the proposed Echo Heights Parks Dedication Bylaw--just to name a few of the high profile discussions.

Staff Sergeant MacNeill presented the quarterly RCMP report outlining the detachment's focus on reducing incidents of domestic violence and crime using their prolific offender programs. He also expressed concern with the 3 pedestrian fatalities, and urged Council to work with the City of Duncan, Cowichan Tribes and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to improve the safety of the Trans-Canada Highway corridor.

Next up was an inspiring presentation from Joanne Sales of the BroomBusters Invasive Plant Society. She explained that the best approach to removing broom is to cut it close to the ground (and not pull it out at its roots), when the plant is in bloom but has not yet produced seeds (generally the month of May) as this will generally kill the plant. Council was very impressed with the results achieved by volunteers in the Qualicum Beach/Parksville area and asked staff to prepare a report and make recommendations on assisting with a similar program in North Cowichan.

The Municipal Auditor then presented his report on the 2013 Financial Statements and was able to report that the financial statements are fairly stated with no errors noted. Following a report by the Director of Finance, Council accepted the 2013 Financial Statements and adopted the 2014 - 2018 Financial Plan and 2014 Tax Rates Bylaw.

Council then turned its attention to a recommendation to create a Park Dedication Bylaw that would commit 91% of the Echo Heights lands to park that will preserve the atmosphere, environment and ecology of the lands for public enjoyment. A Park Dedication Bylaw is our highest level of commitment to protecting these lands for future generations as it can only be changed with the approval of the electors, and with a 2/3 majority of Council. The remaining 9% of the land, a portion of the most disturbed area, would remain in its current R2 zoning allowing for an estimated 17 single family lots to be created. It is estimated that this development will generate $1.8 to $2 million in net profits with minimal financial risk as the services are already adjacent to the property. It is expected that the profits will be directed to the Sale of Land Reserve and funds will be used for a range of community development projects that will make our community more attractive for visitors and residents to enjoy. After discussing the merits of the proposal, Council passed first reading of the bylaw. Council then agreed to hold in abeyance any action on the 80% / 20% development plan until Council makes a final decision on the new park dedication proposal.  Further readings of the Park Dedication (Echo Heights) Bylaw 3455 will be scheduled at upcoming council meetings, and I encourage our residents to express their opinions on this important issue.