Council Matters for February 2, 2021

Council met for about six and a half hours during our Regular Council on February 2, 2021.

I opened the meeting with my Mayor’s Report and took the opportunity to share that on January 22, Council attended a full-day training, entitled Working Effectively with Indigenous Peoples. This valuable session offered new perspectives and insights I had never considered. The facilitator was extremely knowledgeable and engaging, and I am grateful to Councillor Toporowski for being a proponent of this training. In other news, last week, I along with other Island Mayors and Regional District Chairs virtually met with the Municipal Affairs Minister, Josie Osborne. I used the opportunity to advocate for expedited vaccine access for our front line municipal employees, particularly first responders and our employees who engage in specialized services such as the maintenance of our essential infrastructure such as water and sewer.  As I told the minister, it’s not like we can just plug other employees into some of those specialized positions if some of those essential workers fall ill. I also had the opportunity to ask whether the province would again extend the payment deadline for commercial and industrial taxpayers, as they did last year. We are currently waiting to hear back on both of these requests. 

On October 2, 2019 Council authorized the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) to apply for and administer grant funding from the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) to prepare a regional housing needs report, including a component that is specific to North Cowichan. MODUS Planning, Engagement, and Design was awarded the contract by the CVRD to complete the assessments, and the Cowichan Housing Association was sub-contracted to undertake engagement with hard to reach communities. The project has now concluded, resulting in a Regional Housing Needs Assessment Report applicable to the entire Cowichan Valley Regional District and individual sub-regional reports applicable to individual Municipalities and Electoral Areas within the CVRD. As such, Council received a presentation from George Parker of G.P. Rollo and Associates (a sub-consultant of MODUS), and John Horn of the Cowichan Housing Association. Overall, the assessment determined that the supply of housing in the Cowichan Valley is not keeping pace with demand, especially in rental housing. There is also a misalignment in housing costs and regional wages. For a more detailed look at the full report, visit pages 99-193 of the agenda

Next, Council received an update from Jeremy Murphy, of Sustainability Solutions Group (SSG), on the Climate Action Energy Plan (CAEP) Update. He also presented a list of potential actions, opportunities, and measures to meet Council’s emissions reductions targets (80% by 2050), along with the associated costs and benefits of each action. In summer 2020, municipal staff and SSG completed the first round of community and stakeholder engagement on assumptions, parameters, and emissions forecasts of the CAEP model. Now, SSG has completed the economic modelling and low carbon scenario measures and is preparing to carry out a second round of community and stakeholder engagement to inform the implementation strategy for the updated CAEP. Council directed staff and SSG to carry out this further engagement, and once complete, to present a final engagement summary and recommendations for the CAEP Update to Council.  More information can be found on pages 194-205 of the agenda.

Council received a proposal and presentation from SitePath Consulting Ltd., on behalf of Rogers Communications Inc., to increase their cell service coverage by installing two new cell towers in North Cowichan; one in Evans Park, and one on Mount Tzouhalem. Rogers is looking to enter into a license agreement with North Cowichan to enable the tower installations. In order to move forward, Rogers needs Council’s support and would proceed with community engagement before beginning installation. Council directed staff to negotiate the License of Occupation. Once the terms are agreed upon, Rogers will conduct community engagement at their own expense for the proposed towers. More information can be found on pages 202-206 of the agenda.

At the December 16, 2020 regular meeting, Council directed staff to provide a report to review options for short and long-term solutions to address concerns stemming from growing use of the Kaspa Road parking lot. The following traffic mitigation solutions have already been actioned:

  • Traffic flagging services have been implemented on weekends and statutory holidays when weather is conducive to high usage;
  • Restricting commercial and user group from accessing the Kaspa Road parking between 10 am to 3:00 pm on weekends and statutory holidays. These times may be adjusted by the Parks and Recreation Department, based on actual usage; and
  • Engineering staff completed traffic studies in 2020 for Kaspa, Chippewa and Sansum. The studies found traffic volumes to be below the traffic calming thresholds, and, as a result, a more thorough traffic study was not recommended. Council and residents received the study in December 2020.

Parks and Recreation staff put forward some proposed solutions, as well as some community ideas, to address the high volume of use, and congestion challenges at the Kaspa Road parking lot. Actions planned for 2021 include a new parking lot by the Kingsview/Nevilane roundabout, expanding the Nevilane parking lot, sanctioning and wayfinding of the trails near the Maple Bay Fire Hall, and sanctioning the Mount Prevost downhill biking trail network. Additional items presented for discussion included resident only on-street parking, paid parking, a shuttle, booking time slots, and others.

To provide short-term relief, Council directed staff to install signage to remind users that they cannot park within two-metres of residential driveways (per the Parking Bylaw) and for Bylaw staff to periodically enforce these rules. Council accepted the Director of Parks and Recreation’s report with the caveat that any long-term solutions (2021 and beyond), as recommended in the report, are subject to the ongoing review of the Municipal Forest Reserve.

Council awarded one of the final two tenders from the RCMP Tender Package 1 for the C-007 Rock Foundation Anchors to Western Grater Contracting Ltd. for $749,000 plus GST.

Also in connection with the construction of the new RCMP station, Council decided not to accept a staff recommendation to allow – during the construction phase – heavy truck traffic along Drinkwater Road from Ford Road west to the municipal gravel pit adjacent to Duncan Paving. That road is a “No Heavy Truck Traffic” route, but there would have been some financial savings in using that most direct access route to transport soils and gravel that have to be moved as part of the construction project. However, in recognition of community concerns about the increased heavy truck traffic along that very narrow and scenic road, Council voted to maintain the status quo, which means trucks will have to use the more conventional (and slightly longer) route to access the gravel pit, traveling via Highway 1, Highway 18, and North Road. The extra costs amount to about $20,000 over the life of the construction project, which is less than .05% of the total project budget (and the tenders for the construction thus far have come in at about a million dollars under budget).

In order to increase public participation in regular Council meetings, Council directed staff to utilize a different meeting platform that would allow for public input and questions directly, as opposed to providing written submissions via email. The limit of 5 speakers during the Public Input portion of each meeting will be implemented once again, and we will no longer need to take a 10-minute recess to allow for email submissions during Question Period. Stay tuned for more details, and visit our website to learn how to join a virtual meeting.

Next, Council endorsed a recommendation from the January 26, 2021 Committee of the Whole meeting to support the CVRD’s application for Emergency Support Services funding under the UBCM Community Emergency Preparedness Fund.

Then, Council adopted the 2021 Water and Sewer rates, per the January 20 Committee of the Whole recommendation. Council increased the following:

  • Chemainus water metered minimum and parcel tax by 5%
  • Crofton water metered minimum and parcel tax by 5%
  • South End water metered minimum and parcel tax by 3%
  • Metered water rates by 3%
  • Chemainus sewer parcel tax and user fees by 2%
  • Crofton sewer parcel tax and user fee by 3%
  • South End sewer parcel tax and user fee by 3%
  • Maple Bay sewer treatment plant user fee by 3%

Finally, Council authorized me to write three letters:

  1. To provide support for the BC Hockey League which seeks to apply for funding under British Columbia’s COVID-19 Recovery Fund, describing the importance of amateur hockey in our communities
  2. To provide support to John M Wilson of The Wilson Group’s request to Transportation Minister Rob Fleming for a short-term emergency COVID-19 recovery contract to continue this essential service until ridership is restored.
  3. A letter to BC Hydro and the BC Utilities Commission not supporting BC Hydro’s request to the BC Utilities Commission to increase the costs of street lights for municipalities who upgrade HPS fixtures to LED luminaires.

Our next meeting will take place electronically on Wednesday, February 17, 2021 at 1:30 pm.

Thank you for reading and staying informed!

Al Siebring, Mayor
Municipality of North Cowichan
T 250.746.3117