Council Matters for July 17, 2019

Council met in open session for 6.5 hours on July 17, 2019. Here are some highlights from our Regular Council Meeting.

We began the meeting by recognizing the achievements of some very talented youth. First we presented to the winners of our annual “Friends of the Environment” contest. These are students in kindergarten to grade 7 from schools in North Cowichan who participated in a poster contest to display how they imagine their sustainable house, town, city, school, or transportation to appear in the year 2050. Next we presented to three high school students who designed and built a project in our annual Value-added Woodworking Contest. This year’s project was to build a side table, and with materials supplied by the municipality’s Forestry department, we had 18 students enter the contest. In third place from Duncan Christian School was Jesse Popma, second place went to Lucas Edmondson from Chemainus Secondary School, and first place was awarded to Dawson Jory from Cowichan Secondary School. Congratulations to all the winners!

Next up was a presentation from NRG Research Group who shared a summary of the results from our recent and first-ever Citizen Satisfaction Survey. Results were overall very positive, showing that 97% of residents rate the overall quality of life in North Cowichan as good or very good, 89% of residents are satisfied with the overall level and quality of services provided by North Cowichan, and 4 in 5 residents feel that they get good value for their tax dollars. A detailed summary of the survey results can be found on our website, here: Summary of 2019 Citizen Satisfaction Survey Results

Council heard Inspector Bear’s Quarterly RCMP Report for April through June 2019, which gave us a brief overview of policing operations during this period. We learned that calls for service in the detachment continue to climb, up 4.6% from this time last year. The Inspector also highlighted this summer’s positive ticketing campaign, which sees officers rewarding youth in the community for positive actions and behaviours.

Dr. Dave Preikshot provided a thorough presentation of his year-long water sampling program results on Quamichan Lake. In a motion put forward by Councillor Justice, Council agreed to move ahead with further action and directed staff to act on a number of Dr. Preikshot’s recommendations around improving the health of the lake. Staff have also been directed to undertake a feasibility study for development of the wetlands.

Next on the agenda was a Zoning Bylaw Amendment for 110-2951 Green Road that would permit retail cannabis sales at the location. This proponent revised their application with a different location at Cowichan Commons, which Council gave first and second reading to. The applicant will now proceed with a public information meeting, and a Public Hearing will take place at a later date.

In order to borrow the funds necessary to build a new RCMP detachment, the municipality must receive elector assent for financing. We had two options to consider; a Referendum with an associated cost of $60,000 or an Alternative Approval Process (AAP) with an associated cost of $2,000. Council agreed to move forward with the AAP, which requires that 10 percent or more of eligible electors sign and submit responses in opposition to the borrowing of funds. It’s important to note that part of our contract with the RCMP is to provide a suitable building, and so if elector assent is not granted, the RCMP could build the building themselves and charge the cost back to North Cowichan. This would be at a higher cost to the taxpayer than if we were to borrow the funds and build the building ourselves. Residents can soon expect a lot more information from us about the building of a new North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP Detachment.

Council received a request that as a local government we “declare a climate emergency and step up local and regional climate action”. In response to this request, Councillor Sawrie put forward a motion to provide clarity of Council’s intention to look at all applicable decisions through a climate lens. Council agreed not to declare, but to officially acknowledge we are facing a climate emergency, and following the hiring of the Environmental Specialist position, to report back to Council with an integrated climate action strategy. The environment is identified as one of Council’s six strategic priorities, where we aim to lead in environmental policies and practices to support the future health of our community.

We had a few recommendations to consider, as Council, from the July 8, 2019 Committee of the Whole meeting. First, we endorsed the Official Community Plan (OCP) Engagement Strategy that will involve thorough collaboration with the community during the entire OCP process. Next Council agreed to amend the Retail Cannabis Sales Policy, removing distancelimitations to schools, playgrounds, recreation centres, as well as other retail cannabis locations. We also amended, under section 4.5 (Community Impact) of the policy, to state that "Council will consider the impact of retail cannabis sales in proximity to public or independent elementary, middle, or secondary schools, playgrounds, libraries, public recreation centres, public community centres, parks, places of worship, family-oriented facilities, or areas where children and youth frequent."

To end the meeting, we agreed with the July 5, 2019 First Nations Relations Committee's recommendation that a letter be sent by Council to the local First Nation Chiefs and Councils to see if there is interest in having joint Council to Council meetings to discuss matters of mutual interest.

Thank you for reading and staying informed! Our next Regular Council meeting is August 21, 2019 at 1:30 p.m.

Al Siebring, Mayor
Municipality of North Cowichan