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Council Matters for June 16, 2021
June 18, 2021
Council met for about seven hours during our Regular Council meeting on June 16, 2021. Here are some highlights from the meeting:
During my Mayor’s report, I took some time to recognize this Monday, June 21 – National Indigenous Peoples Day. This is a day to recognize and learn more about the cultural diversity of the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples, the first people of Canada. As a Council and Municipality, we are committed and supportive of moving towards meaningful recognition and reconciliation of this chapter of our history. Councillor Toporowski shared how she’s begun working as a Councillor for North Cowichan at an interesting time – where we begin to implement UNDRIP, and all of us are learning together about what that means. She noted how, for often the first time, we are including everyone in the decision-making process, and how these are important steps in the right direction. I encourage everyone to celebrate this Monday, and take some time to learn more. To begin, learn about Cowichan history, learn whose land you live on; learn some Hul’q’umi’num, the traditional language of the local First Nations.
Council then considered and accepted the 2020 Annual Municipal Report. This document compiles our 2020 audited financial statements, municipal initiatives of note, and successes and progress toward achieving Council’s Strategic Plan. The full report can be viewed here.
Next, we received a presentation from Paul Fletcher from the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society (SMWS) who shared their findings on Parrots Feather management in Somenos Creek and their GreenStreams strategy to help increase salmon productivity in the Somenos Watershed. We learned that Parrots Feather plays a large role in creating problematic, and even lethal, conditions for fish. An invasive aquatic plant, Parrots Feather occupies 80% of Somenos Creek, and the SMWS is collaborating with North Cowichan and Cowichan Tribes, and using various strategies, to manage the problem. Mr. Fletcher thanked the Municipality for the ongoing support, both financially and on the ground, and anyone interested in learning more, including how to help, can visit www.somenosmarsh.com.
Council then considered two development applications for 3135 Manor Drive that were seeking variances to allow for the lot to be subdivided into two lots, with one lot retaining the existing residence, and the construction of 18 townhouse units on the second lot. Council agreed to grant the variances that will vary some setbacks, lot coverage, landscape screens, and building separations. The applicant has made various provisions to mitigate the effects of the variances, and presented an attractive plan focused on preserving the Stone family heritage home built in 1930.
Staff presented options for developing an affordable housing policy with the goal of confirming Council’s desired direction for the policy. We heard that staff are aiming to develop a meaningful policy within a short timeframe, about 3-6 months, which would help to address the current housing crisis. We heard that the goal with this policy is to strike a balance between setting out a strategic approach within the upcoming updated OCP, delegating actions to a more nimble standalone policy, and identifying short-term actions that can be undertaken without a significant process or overarching direction. Council agreed to endorse the proposed inclusion of numbered tools within the OCP (as per Table 1) and proposed Affordable Housing Policy (as per Table 2), as set out in the staff report (on pages 281-290 of the agenda). We can expect that the draft Housing Policy will be back before Council in the coming months for further review and consideration.
We also considered what features Council would like included in our requested Telecommunications Antennae Structures Policy. Council agreed to direct staff to move forward in drafting a policy that specifies a consultation area radius of 300 meters, that all applications require a public meeting, that all applications are to be determined by Council, that there be certain exemption criteria for additions to existing structure less than 15 meters, and that there be an application fee of $1,000. Similar to the Housing Policy described above, this draft policy will come back before Council for further review before its final adoption.
Next, staff shared the findings of a Traffic Calming Study for Indian Road and directed staff to implement traffic calming measures, as desired by area residents who were engaged on the issue, and that are in alignment with the results of the study. Three speed tables will be installed on Indian Road between Maple Bay Road and Cygnet Drive, the 30 km/h speed sign for northbound traffic near Indian Road and Maple Bay Road will be relocated to a new location approximately halfway between Maple Bay Road and Swans Nest Drive, a new 30 km/h speed sign will be installed on Indian Road for northbound traffic just before Cygnet Drive, and one new stop sign will be installed for eastbound traffic on Indian Crescent.
Council considered recommendations from the Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC) regarding prioritization of the updated Climate Action and Energy Plan (CAEP) greenhouse gas emissions reduction actions. Council directed staff to incorporate the EAC’s recommended CAEP actions relevant to the Official Community Plan (OCP) into the policy and implementation sections of the updated OCP, as appropriate. Council also agreed to change wording of the first sentence under Infill development (page 315 of the agenda) to “Focus development in existing centers”. Staff will also work with the consultant to finalize the CAEP update to include the EAC recommendations as outlined in the staff report on pages 314-379 in the agenda. Development of the recommended policies and targets will also be included within the 2022 departmental business plans and budgets.
Also in relation to the update of the Climate Action and Energy Plan (CAEP), we received the results from the public survey conducted on emissions reduction actions earlier this year. We also directed staff to incorporate this feedback into the Climate Action and Energy Plan update and implementation plan.
Next, Council voted in favour of a motion brought forward by Councillor Sawrie asking the Mayor and staff to invite Suzanne Simard to give a public virtual presentation about her work with local context on our forests as part of the education for the Municipal Forest Reserve. In addition, that a letter is sent to Bond Group Entertainment, inviting them to film Suzanne Simard’s memoir, Finding the Mother Tree, in North Cowichan. We also requested that staff solicit input from the following groups and report to Council with other potential education opportunities that we can host or share as part of the forestry review process: Forestry and Environment Staff, the Forestry Advisory Committee, the Forestry Review Working Group, the Forestry Review project consultants, the Environmental Advisory Committee, and Resource Works.
As we head into the summer months, our Regular Council meetings occur once per month in July and August, with the next one scheduled for Wednesday, July 21, 2021, at 1:30 p.m.
Thank you for reading and staying informed!
Al Siebring, Mayor
Municipality of North Cowichan