Council Matters for April 7, 2021

Council met for four hours during our Regular Council meeting on April 7, 2021.

We began the meeting with two delegations. The first from Judy Stafford and Chris Hall from the Cowichan Green Community (CGC) who updated Council on their year in review for 2020 and their Agriculture Food Hub project on Beverly Street, which was one of only eight hubs in BC to receive provincial funding last December. Every year when we hear from this group, their leadership in the community is evident and the number of initiatives they lead is quite remarkable. North Cowichan has a long history of supporting the CGC, and currently provides a licence of occupation for the land they use on Beverly Street. I encourage you to watch their year-in-review video to see some of their accomplishments from 2020.  

For the second delegation, we heard from Jocelyn Anderson, a 26-year resident of Crofton, who is part of Concerned Citizens of Crofton, a group wanting to address Council about 1508 Joan Avenue –also known as the Twin Gables Motel. Ms. Anderson described the community’s many concerns about the property, and Bylaw and Engineering staff confirmed that they would look into the matter further.

Next, Council gave first and second reading to a Zoning Amendment Bylaw for 1379 Maple Bay Road that would permit the use of an existing building as a detached second dwelling. The 600 square foot building was built 60 years ago as an accessory building, and has since been converted to a cabin. Under the current zoning, a two-family dwelling is permitted, and this application seeks to reallocate the same density to two detached residential buildings. We can expect that a Public Hearing for this application will be scheduled in the coming weeks.

Council received an update from staff on the status of the Official Community Plan (OCP) Update project. Public engagement for this project was gearing up to roll out right when the pandemic began last year, requiring numerous changes and adjustments to the plan. This, coupled with other challenges, has resulted in negative impacts to the schedule and budget. After much discussion, Council directed staff to add $55,000 to the OCP budget, which will come from COVID grant funds or the previous year’s surplus. Staff will prepare a revised schedule with a goal of October 31, 2021 as a completion date for Phase 3 of the project and a February 28, 2022 date for Phase 4 – adoption of the OCP. The revised schedule will be presented to Council at the May 5, 2021 Council meeting.

Council then authorized staff to partner with the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) on their FireSmart Economic Recovery Fund Program application under the Community Resiliency Investment program. A regional, collaborative approach often makes sense for these applications; wildfires do not recognize regional or community boundaries and building wildfire resiliency within the broader community is a common goal we share with our regional neighbors. This will strengthen regional wildfire preparedness, increase public FireSmart awareness, and support increased wildfire resiliency within the region’s communities.

We also gave staff the authority to partner with the CVRD on another regional application, this one under the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) Community Emergency Preparedness Grant for Emergency Operations Centres. As above, collaborating on this application is the best approach. The maximum individual local government grant would be $25,000, but under the regional grant, this increases to $200,000 if all partners join. If successful, this funding will build local capacity for our Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) and enhance EOC capacity through training and exercises.

Council received an update on the Cowichan Sportsplex Fieldhouse project, which received a $1.067 million grant in 2019 from the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program. The initial construction cost analysis and concept design came in at $2.2 million, significantly over the estimated $1.25 million budget. The design was further refined, reducing the construction budget to $1.58 million, which is still $330,000 over the original budget. Council agreed to transfer unallocated funds left over from the recent Cowichan Aquatic Centre Renovation Capital Project (which was completed under budget) to this project, to cover the outstanding amount.

Council then considered the recommendations from the March 23 Committee of the Whole meeting regarding the Financial Plan and Capital Expenditure Plan. We approved moving a portion of the Director of Parks and Recreation’s salary from the Forestry Reserve Fund to the General Revenue account, resulting in a small tax increase for property owners. We also approved, in principle, the 2021 Operating Budget and 2021-2025 Capital Expenditure Plan, and directed staff to prepare the 2021-2025 Financial Plan Bylaw, which will be back before Council in May for adoption.

Our next meeting will take place electronically on Wednesday, April 21, 2021, at 1:30 p.m.

Thank you for reading and staying informed!

Al Siebring, Mayor
Municipality of North Cowichan
T 250.746.3117