Council Matters for June 3, 2020

Council met for about 3 hours during our Regular Council meeting on June 3, 2020.

 Council considered a Development Variance Permit that would allow driveway access for lots 13-16 on Farleigh Way and Lot 17 on Adams Road. Through the original Development Permit, parking would need to be accessed from a lane, not a street. However, allowing the variance would permit parking access via the street. After some discussion, Council approved the Variance Permit.

 Then, Council gave direction to the Corporate Officer to initiate the Alternative Approval Process (AAP) to obtain elector assent for North Cowichan to borrow the funds needed to construct a new RCMP facility. During an AAP, borrowing goes ahead unless 10% of the eligible electors (meaning property owners and residents) oppose the proposal. The total cost of the new facility is $48 million, North Cowichan would borrow the full amount, while the RCMP would pay back about 60% of the loan.

 Next, Council received a presentation from the Senior Environmental Specialist advising of changes to the Riparian Areas Protection Regulations (RAPR), known as the Riparian Area Regulations (RAR). A riparian zone is an area bordering streams, lakes, or wetlands that link water to land and can influence or provide fish habitat. In this presentation, staff highlighted recent changes in Provincial regulations mandating that all RAPR assessments will now be reviewed by the Province until a 90% approval rate of all assessments is achieved.

 Each spring, the RCMP sends North Cowichan a request to approve, in principle, the RCMP contract budget for the next fiscal year. Approval of the budget be forwarded to the RCMP by June 15, which allows the Federal Government to set aside their proportionate share of the budget (10%). Council considered the 2021/2022 RCMP contract budget of $6.98 million, which shows a 1.6% increase over the previous fiscal year. North Cowichan would be responsible for the balance not paid by the Federal Government (90%). This increase reflects the added cost of adding one new police member and includes $500,000 for a new telephone system for the new RCMP facility. Council had some concerns regarding the potential increase in staffing levels and decided not to approve the proposed budget at $6.98 million. Instead, Council approved, in theory, a budget of $6.76 million, which included the phone system, but not the additional police member.

 Then, Council considered creating a Public Engagement Framework and Policy, as well as a select committee to help guide staff their development. These documents would help shape standardized processes for engagement across the organization, build in measurements for success to facilitate continuous improvement, and set Council’s expectations and visions for public engagement. Councilor Douglas, Councilor Sawrie, and I were appointed to be on the select committee, and Council directed staff to move forward with the Framework and Policy.

 Next, the 2019 Statement of Financial Information (SOFI) was presented to Council for approval. The Financial Information Act requires municipalities to prepare a SOFI each year, within six months of the organization’s fiscal year-end. A SOFI details financial statements and disbursements for employee remuneration, and goods and services. Council unanimously approved the 2019 SOFI.

 Council then considered resuming Public Hearings and Board of Variance business. Both of these types of meetings were paused in March, due to the Provincial Health Officer’s orders in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Since then, the Provincial Government has made provisions that would make it possible to hold Public Hearings and Board of Variance Meetings safely. Council decided to lift the moratorium on public hearings and to hold them electronically. Members of the public will be able to participate via teleconference or written submission by email or Canada Post. Council also directed staff to prepare an amendment to the Fees and

Charges Bylaw, to reduce the fee for a Development Variance Permit to $250 while the provincial state of emergency in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic is in effect.

Finally, Council decided to raise the Pride Flag for the balance of the month of June in honour of Pride month and to show support for diversity, inclusion, and the LGBTQ2S community.

 Our next Regular Council meeting will take place, electronically, on Wednesday, June 17, at 1:30 pm.

 Thank you for reading and staying informed!

 Al Siebring, Mayor
Municipality of North Cowichan
T 250.746.3117