Council Matters for June 17, 2020

Council met for about four hours during our Regular Council meeting on June 17, 2020.

 Council gave first, second, and third reading to the Fees and Charges Amendment Bylaw, and subsequently adopted it. This Bylaw sets the application fee for development variance permits at $250. Changing the Fees and Charges Bylaw was proposed at Council’s June 3 meeting in response to the COVID-19 crisis. The new cost will remain in effect for eligible applicants as long as the provincial state of emergency is active.

 Then, Council considered a rezoning application to allow retail cannabis sales at 9568 Chemainus Road. Since this application could have potential implications on the community, referrals were sent to School District #79, the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP, and the Chemainus Residents Association. Five Neighbouring First Nations were also notified and invited to provide comment on the proposal. While there was some concern about the potential impacts of the application, Council gave first and second reading. The full staff report can be found on pages 14-36 of the agenda. A virtual public hearing will be held on this application at a later date. 

On May 8, 2019, the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) clarified that under new legislation, all forms of cannabis production in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) are considered farm use. This includes cannabis grown inside buildings with concrete and other non-soil-based floors. Previously, in July 2018, legislation limited cannabis production to outdoor field or soil-based growing. This change in regulation puts the responsibility on local governments to decide if, or how, to regulate cannabis production in the ALR within their communities. After some discussion, Council directed staff to draft zoning regulations to limit cannabis production to soil-based production only, per the ALR use regulation. However, Council also directed staff to draft a policy for site-specific exceptions for non-soil-based cannabis production in the ALR on a case by case basis.

 The Provincial Government recently invited the Municipality to participate in the “Clean BC Better Homes” Rebate Program. The main goal of which is to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the residential housing sector. This program focuses on replacing fossil fuel heating systems with high-efficiency air-source heat pumps. The program offers provincially funded rebates for homeowners to improve their home's energy efficiency. Although the rebates are available to all homeowners in BC, the provincial government is encouraging municipalities to provide additional top-up incentives to increase uptake in their jurisdiction. As a result, Council directed staff to enroll North Cowichan in the Clean BC Better Homes Program and to allocate up to $30,000 from the Climate Action Reserve Fund. North Cowichan’s retrofit incentive program will run on a first-come-first-served basis until the allocated funds are exhausted.

 Next, Council received a presentation on the Climate Action and Energy Plan (CAEP) Update Project from Sustainability Solutions Group’s consultant who is leading the update of the CAEP. The purpose of the CAEP update is to modernize emissions reduction targets and modelling to achieve an 80% reduction in GHGs by 2050. The presentation can be found on pages 61-78 of the agenda.

On June 9, at our Committee of the Whole meeting, Council was presented with some options for moving forward with the 2021 budget. In light of COVID-19, Council favoured a ‘Recovery Budget’ option, including a focus on:

  • developing projects, and finding resources to work on, improving natural assets and green infrastructure and achieving our climate-related mitigation, adaptation resiliency goals;
  • providing both short and long-term employment opportunities for those sectors of society that have been particularly impacted by the pandemic shutdown to support the local Cowichan economy; and,
  • being "agile" in anticipating a possible second waves of infection and economic shutdown, and recognizing the uncertainty of the immediate future.

 Council directed staff to proceed with a ‘Recovery Budget’ in preparing the 2020-2025 Financial Plan.

 Our next Regular Council meeting will take place, electronically, on Wednesday, July 15, at 1:30 pm.

 Thank you for reading and staying informed!

 Al Siebring, Mayor
Municipality of North Cowichan
T 250.746.3117