Council Matters for April 21, 2021

Council met for about 1.5 hours during our Regular meeting on April 21, 2021, and then again for 2 hours in the evening for the Public Hearing portion of the agenda.

To begin, we amended the agenda to pull item 7.1, the Zoning Bylaw Amendment Application for a proposed rental apartment building at Skinner Road and Cowichan Lake Road. The applicant received new information from their financial institution and were not prepared to proceed at this meeting. We expect that a revised version of this application will be back before Council at a future date. 

For my Mayor’s Report, I passed the floor to Councillor Sawrie to share about an upcoming initiative to recognize and support Earth Day. From Thursday, April 22 to Saturday, April 24, local community groups and governments are working together, from a distance, to participate in a region-wide community clean up. The premise is simple – “Clean Where You Are”; in your neighbourhood, when you are out for a walk, in a park, or on your favourite trail with the people in your ‘bubble’. Take a bag, gloves, long tongs, and go pick up! North Cowichan is supplying up to 100 free garbage tags (maximum 1 per household) that residents can pick up from Municipal Hall on April 22 and 23. The garbage you pick up will be collected at the curb on your next collection day (it must be in a can, with the garbage tag stuck to the lid).

Next was a delegation from the Quamichan Lake Neighbourhood Association which requested Council consider developing a Tree Protection Bylaw. They shared information to support their request and offered suggestions on how the Municipality could implement such a bylaw. After some discussion, Council and staff concluded that policy relating to trees would be considered as part of the current process to update the Official Community Plan, and that the Municipality’s current Local Area Plans also already include guidance regarding planning and trees.

Council gave the first three readings to the Five Year Financial Plan Bylaw and the Tax Rates Bylaw that will see a 2.5% tax increase distributed equally across all classes for 2021. The municipal budgeting process is an annual cycle that begins the year before with comprehensive business planning by staff, community engagement (typically in the fall), and many Committee of the Whole meetings along the way. Last year, Council directed staff to focus on a “recovery budget” for 2021 with the goals of: returning to sustainable tax levels post-COVID-19, cutting capital projects and leveraging existing capital by supplementing it with grant funding for eligible projects, and slowly phasing capital projects back in over 2021-2022. These bylaws will be back before Council for adoption during a Special Council meeting on May 11, 2021.

We then considered, and gave three readings to, an Alternative Municipal Tax Collection Scheme Bylaw that would extend the penalty date by two months for taxpayers who cannot meet the July 2 deadline to pay their property taxes. To clarify, the deadline for property tax payment will remain July 2, but if you are unable to pay by then, the 10% penalty will not be applicable until after September 1. This bylaw will also be back for adoption at the May 11 meeting.

We discussed a Notice of Motion from Councillor Douglas regarding policy development related to street trees. He shared about the many benefits of street trees, and requested that staff introduce policies and regulations to expand the number of street trees and shade trees in residential and commercial developments and public works projects as part of the new Official Community Plan, Zoning Bylaw, Subdivision Bylaw, Biodiversity Strategy and any other relevant initiatives planned or underway. Council voted in favour of this motion, and you can read more about this in Councillor Douglas’ report on pages 300-306 of the agenda.

Council then discussed, and agreed to, having me write a letter to the Solicitor General to advise that the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP Detachment is still interested in participating in the Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crimes Unit (VIIMCU), or similar organization. I have been involved with this file for many years, but we’ve never been able to get any concrete answers to our questions around this issue. But earlier this month, the Province indicated there was a possibility of us becoming a partner in VIMCU, which would offset some of the potential costs of major crime investigations. The letter will also request more information on the funding formula associated with this, asking for clarification on the cost breakdowns. 

To end the regular meeting portion of our day, Council discussed submitting an application, on behalf of the Cowichan Housing Association, for approximately $2.5 million in grant funding under the Union of B.C. Municipalities’ “COVID-19 Restart Funding for Local Governments, Strengthening Communities Services” program. Council agreed to make the application; if successful, it is envisioned that the funds will be spent throughout the Cowichan Region, but mostly in “the core” of Duncan and North Cowichan. In addition, the Cowichan Housing Association would be required to enter into an agreement with the Municipality to administer the expenditure of the funds.

At 6:00 p.m., Council reconvened for two Public Hearings. The first was for a Zoning Amendment Bylaw at 2772 Herd Road that would permit a second detached dwelling unit in addition to a principal single family dwelling on the property. We heard from a few members of the public who supported the application but had concerns about increased run-off and drainage issues that might result from additional site works on the property. Council gave the application third reading, but also determined that prior to adopting the bylaw, the applicant must provide confirmation that a covenant has been registered on the property that requires a storm water management plan and drainage works before a building permit is issued for the second dwelling. 

The next Public Hearing was for an Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) Exclusion Application for Chemainus River Campground located at 8682 Trans-Canada Highway. The application asks the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) to exclude the 10.7 hectare property from the ALR. We heard that the majority of the property has very poor soil quality, is not suitable for agriculture, and has never been used for agricultural purposes. The Municipality is the applicant for the ALC application, something we decided to move forward last year on behalf of, and in support of, the property owners. During the Public Hearing, Council heard again from the proponents and no one opposed to the application. Council voted in favour of forwarding the application to the ALC recommending that the application be approved.

Our next Regular Council meeting will take place electronically on Wednesday, May 5, 2021, at 1:30 p.m.

Thank you for reading and staying informed!

Al Siebring, Mayor
Municipality of North Cowichan
T 250.746.3117