Council Matters for April 17, 2019

Council met for about seven hours in open meetings on April 17, 2019. Here are some highlights from our Regular Council meeting and Public Hearing.

The Regular Council meeting began with two delegations:

  • Alistair MacGregor, Member of Parliament for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford: Alistair shared information with us about his work at the federal level on housing, the opioid crisis, and watershed protection. On housing, Mr. MacGregor urged North Cowichan to take advantage of funding opportunities under the National Housing Strategy. On the opioid crisis, we learned that 31 people lost lives in Cowichan last year from opioids, and Mr. MacGregor would like to see the federal government declare a National Emergency in response to this crisis.
  • Next, we heard from Cynthia Montgomery, who presented a petition and request that Council considering implementing a tree protection bylaw for all large healthy trees, especially native trees.

Council then had a lengthy discussion and debate about confirming the scope for public engagement on the future management of the Municipal Forest Reserve. In the end, we all agreed to affirm our desire to move forward with a meaningful public engagement, both broad and deep, on the future management of our forests, which in the end will allow us to define the highest and best use for our Municipal Forest Reserve. Council will need to confirm the budget and timeline for this engagement at an upcoming meeting, following which the planning for this process can begin.

Council decided to hire a new senior environmental staff position, which will focus on expediting completion of the many climate change and environmentally-related priority projects that we identified in our 2019-2022 Council Strategic Plan.

Next, we considered recommendations from the April 8, 2019 Forestry Advisory Committee. We agreed to explore the opportunity of forming a collaboration between North Cowichan, UBC, and the Coastal Douglas Fir Conservation Partnership for the purposes of developing forest management plans to achieve shared goals. We will also invite UBC/Conservation partnership group members to attend an upcoming Forestry Advisory Committee meeting to provide a presentation and answer Committee member questions. Council also decided that a resident survey should be considered as part of the above-mentioned public engagement on forestry.

Council gave third reading to the new Animal Responsibility Bylaw, which included a number of minor amendments requested at Council’s last meeting. The Bylaw will be on the agenda for adoption at one of Council’s upcoming meetings. This bylaw contains important, modernized provisions for animal welfare, control, licencing, duties of animal owners, penalties, and enforcement.

Council gave three readings to both the Five-Year Financial Plan Bylaw and the Tax Rates Bylaw, which propose a 2.95% tax increase for homeowners this year. This equates to, on an average-valued home in North Cowichan ($445,350), an additional $48.74 on the municipal portion of your tax bill this year.

Council received a letter from the BC Liquor Distribution Branch requesting that Council reconsider first reading of its rezoning application for Retail Cannabis Sales at 2900 Drinkwater Road (the Cowichan Commons Shopping Centre.) At Council’s last meeting, we considered the LDB’s application and noted that a second rezoning application for a retail cannabis store has been received by the Municipality from Costa Canna Corp. on an adjacent parcel. At that time, Council decided that there was merit in reviewing both applications at the same time and decided to hold off considering the LDB application until the application from Costa Canna Corp. is ready for Council’s consideration. The LDB asked Council to reconsider this decision, but after discussion, Council decided to reaffirm its prior decision to wait and review both applications simultaneously.

To end the meeting, Council decided that it will not strike any new advisory committees until at least October 2019. With the exception of the Forest Advisory Committee, Council held off on establishing advisory committees until completing its Strategic Plan. With the Strategic Plan now complete, Council determined that it wishes to wait until one year into its term to re-evaluate volunteer advisory committees. We believes that it is important to allow time for the organization to align with Council’s new Strategic Plan prior to establishing additional committees. In addition, October coincides with the beginning of the 2020 budget development cycle, making it a prudent time to reconsider whether advisory committees are desired moving forward. Until then, all members of Council will sit on a Committee of the Whole, which allows Council to meet in a less formal and structured manner to discuss issues. This Committee, while made up of all members of Council, has limited decision-making powers; in most cases, it will report and make recommendations to Council. Committee of the Whole agendas will be published on North Cowichan’s website, and meetings will be open to the public. The timing and frequency of Committee of the Whole meetings will be determined at an upcoming Council meeting.

Council then held Public Hearings/Meetings on the following:

  • Temporary Use Permit – 2003 University Way (Women’s Shelter) – Council received public input on and then decided to amend the existing Temporary Use Permit to remove the condition that use of the temporary women’s shelter at 2003 University Way be restricted to November 1 and March 31. This amendment means that the temporary women’s shelter can operate year-round.
  • Rezoning application for 1038 Herd Road – Council received public input on and then decided to deny the rezoning application for 1038 Herd Road, which was intended to permit a second detached residential building. Council made this decision after the Municipality was informed - just days before the Public Hearing - that a non-compliant secondary suite already exists on the property.
  • Council received input on and then gave third reading to a staff-generated rezoning application to define and permit micro cannabis production facilities in the Commercial Service Zone (C3).

That’s it for today! Thank you for reading and staying informed! Our next Council meeting is Wednesday, May 1 at 1:30 p.m.

Al Siebring, Mayor
Municipality of North Cowichan