Council Matters for June 2, 2021

Our June 2, 2021 Regular Council meeting began with 215 seconds of silence in honour of the 215 children discovered buried last week at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops. Our Municipality’s flags will also be at half-staff until the end of the day Monday, June 7 (215 hours), but that action, and many others, while well-intended, have seemed inadequate to me.  Out of a desire to have more of an impact, Council also considered a motion that you will read more about at the end of this Council Matters update. 

Council received a presentation from Bernie Willock of the Cowichan Valley Intentional Recovery Centre regarding the women’s Therapeutic Recovery Community proposed for the former St. Joseph School property in Chemainus. He shared his group’s plans to subdivide and develop the property into a centre that will help to address one of our region’s most deadly health crises – substance abuse and addiction. The facility will be for women only, adding to the limited services available on the island for this demographic.  (Currently, there is just one 5-bed facility for women only in Nanaimo.) As a therapeutic recovery centre (not a homeless shelter, detox centre or safe injection site), clients will live on site for extended periods and under significant community rules, such as no drugs or alcohol, no violence, and no one entering or leaving the premises without permission and an escort. Mr. Willock committed that they will continue to keep the neighbours and community informed about the project with a Good Neighbour Policy and ongoing meetings and opportunities to ask questions.

We received a presentation from staff regarding a Zoning Bylaw Amendment application for the construction of an apartment building located at the corner of Skinner Road and Cowichan Lake Road. The current zoning permits an apartment building with commercial on the ground floor, however this application seeks rezoning to permit a residential only building that would have an additional 15 units on the ground floor (for a total of 66 units – 41 one-bedroom units and 25 two-bedroom units). The applicant has committed that the tenancy of the building will be rental-only for the first ten years, and they will be contributing amenities such as secure bike storage lockers, electric bike charging stations, a bike share program, and the installation of a sidewalk along the Skinner Road frontage. Council gave the application first and second reading, and we can expect a Public Hearing to take place in July.

Next, Council awarded ‘Tender Package 2’ (the construction contracts) for the new RCMP facility. This includes the building envelope and cladding finishes to Flynn Canada Ltd. for $2,477,000 plus GST, glazed aluminum curtain wall and sunshade systems for to Visionary Glass Inc. for $823,750 plus GST, and civil works (excluding paving) to Milestone Equipment Contracting Inc. for $555,668 plus GST. This tender package, like the first tender package, has come in under budget, putting us in good shape as this important project progresses.

We considered a proposed amendment to the 2021 Building department budget to hire a two-year, temporary Building Clerk position in order for us to address capacity issues and increased legislative requirements. This position will be funded through increased revenue from building permit fees and will have no tax implications to residents. Council approved the temporary position, which will provide support to the building inspectors, help improve permit timelines, and help match service delivery expectations. (As an aside, staff is projecting that the total value of our building permits for calendar 2021 will total approximately $80-million dollars, which is more than double the $39.7 million dollar value in 2016.) 

Council considered a motion, put forward by Councillor Marsh, regarding public communication about the Municipal Forest Reserve (MFR) Review and Engagement. While the public consultation process is currently paused while Council conducts government-to-government consultation with the Cowichan Nation regarding their interests in the MFR, the motion seeks to provide clarification to residents about where they can find information from the Municipality on the project. Council directed staff to share some information on social media, including the July 7, 2020 Committee of the Whole video recording, and explain that interested residents can sign up to receive updates on various projects at www.northcowichan.ca/subscribe. Details of the MFR Review and Engagement, including comprehensive background information, is available at www.northcowichan.ca/forestry.

Next, we considered a motion brought forward by Councillor Douglas regarding the potential downzoning of 9090 Trans-Canada Highway from residential mobile home park (R5) to a rural zone (A2). The property currently permits mobile homes and the Municipality has received a development application for a manufactured home park that seeks to provide a more affordable option to residents hoping to buy a home in this area. Downzoning the property would not permit the development to proceed. We heard strong reasons why the downzoning would better align the property with the current Official Community Plan, but some members of Council felt the need for affordable housing is a higher priority. As such, Council voted to defeat the motion, and the zoning will remain as R5.

Lastly, in light of last week’s discovery in Kamloops, Council considered a motion regarding residential schools in Canada. The motion, which passed unanimously, calls on the federal government to ensure adequate resourcing for any First Nation, Métis governance organization, or Inuit Council that seeks investigation of the possibility that remains of residential school residents may be interred on the grounds of former school sites. The motion also asks that money be made available to scientifically ascertain the identities of any found remains, and that the remains of those children be repatriated to families, clans, or nations or origin. Council agreed to authorize that I write to the Prime Minister and other officials, as appropriate, with this request, and an additional request that the government implement the 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Our next Regular Council meeting will take place electronically on Wednesday, June 16, 2021, at 1:30 p.m.

Thank you for reading and staying informed!

Al Siebring, Mayor
Municipality of North Cowichan
T 250.746.3117
Mayor@northcowichan.ca