Council Matters for May 19, 2021

Council met for about 4.5 hours during our Regular Council meeting on May 19, 2021.

The meeting began with a report from Inspector Bear on the RCMP’s first quarter activities for the North Cowichan-Duncan detachment. Calls during the months of January to March were down slightly, consistent with last year’s trend during the pandemic. Overall, they have seen a decrease in criminal code offenses, but a rise of 71% in section 28 (mental health) apprehensions, which we heard is most likely attributed to an overall increase in societal stresses relating to COVID-19. We learned that this is not isolated to our region; detachments across the Island and BC are seeing similar trends. Inspector Bear also shared a draft of their Annual Performance Plan for the upcoming year, which includes a plan for increased police presence and visibility in the “north end” of the Municipality (Crofton and Chemainus). This will be accomplished by dedicating a minimum of 700 hours of patrol time to these areas this year, and the opening of a new Community Policing Office in Chemainus. You can read Inspector Bear’s full report on pages 90-115 of the agenda.

Next, we adopted two bylaws. The first was a Zoning Bylaw Amendment for 3325 Henry Road that will permit a second detached dwelling unit, in addition to a principal single family dwelling, in the A3 zone. The second, the Bylaw Offence Notice Enforcement Bylaw establishes a bylaw adjudication system for the Municipality as an alternative to the provincial court for resolving minor bylaw contraventions. This system will enable the Municipality to implement a more cost-efficient administrative system for enforcing minor bylaw infractions. 

Council considered an application to exclude 2993 River Road from the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). The applicant was seeking to exclude their 1.35-hectare property due to it historically not being used for farming due to poorer soil conditions, slopes on the property, and its relatively small size. A unique situation, the property is located both within the Urban Containment Boundary (the Municipality’s urban growth center) and the ALR, resulting in conflicting policies pertaining to the land. After hearing from staff, the proponent, and much debate, Council voted to keep the property in the ALR, thus denying the application and not moving it forward to the Agricultural Land Commission.

We then looked at an application for a development permit and variance for an addition to a single-family dwelling within 30 metres of the ocean and a man-made watercourse at 7933 Stoney Hill Road. We heard of the many measures planned to protect the watercourse, including a 2-metre buffer and vegetation enhancement, and that the proposed addition will not harm any ecosystems. Council agreed to approve the application, reducing the setback from a watercourse from 15 metres to 3 metres.

Next, we considered a request for Exemption from Flood Construction Requirements for the proposed construction of buildings at 2431 Beverly Street. North Cowichan leases this land to the Cowichan Green Community for their farm incubator program, seed program, and more. They have received grant funding for a new agricultural food hub and have plans to construct two non-residential buildings on the property for commercial agricultural activities. Council learned that the property is safe for the intended use provided staff’s recommendations are followed, including:

  • limiting the use and development of the land in accordance to what has been certified in the Geohazard Assessment Report prepared by Madrone Environmental Services Ltd. and
  • establishing conditions that respect the reimbursement by the tenant or owner for any expenses that the Municipality may incur as a result of a breach of the lease or covenant. 

The full report, including a location plan, site concept plan, the geohazard assessment report, and more can be found on pages 356-431 of the agenda.

Council received a report on the use of Anticoagulant Rodenticides and directed staff to ban their use on all North Cowichan owned properties. Recognizing that a significant degree of concern exists in the general public regarding the potential risk posed to wildlife, domestic animals, and human health through the continued use of anticoagulant rodenticides, Council agreed to limit their use where possible. (For clarity, local governments do not have the jurisdiction to ban use broadly, but can do so on their own properties). Residents can expect to hear more about the harmful impacts of anticoagulant rodenticides through upcoming communication and the sharing of educational materials.

Staff are considering the options around implementing an automated solid waste collection system, but before making any decisions around this service change, Council directed staff to proceed with public engagement that will seek input from the community on this proposed change. Switching from the current manual curbside collection to an automated system could have positive implications; reduced injury claims for staff, and increased options for service such as new bins, and the possibility of yard waste collection. However, it would come with an increased cost to taxpayers. Residents will receive more information and opportunities to submit feedback on this topic beginning late summer/early fall.

Next, we considered a motion brought forward by Councillor Sawrie, to amend the Flag Protocol Policy to fly the Pride Flag, beginning in 2021, every year from June 1 to June 30 (during Pride Month) at the Cowichan Aquatic Centre. To note, we have authorized the flying of this guest flag in previous years as a celebration of diversity and inclusion, but this motion, which Council agreed to, will ensure the flag is flown every year so that this issue will not have to repeatedly come back to Council for consideration.

Council has received a large amount of correspondence and feedback from residents about Rogers Communications’ two proposed cell towers in North Cowichan. While Rogers is undertaking some public consultation, Council felt the public response to this proposal warranted something more regarding decision-making on this topic. Council has directed staff to develop a Communications Tower/Antenna Systems Approval Policy, and while that policy is under development, we directed staff to inform Rogers that the Municipality will not be entering into Licences of Occupation for the two proposed sites (near Kaspa Road and Evans Park). 

Our meeting reconvened at 6:00 p.m. for a Public Hearing for a Zoning Amendment Bylaw at 1379 Maple Bay Road which proposed a zoning amendment to permit the use of an existing building as a detached second dwelling. We did not receive any public correspondence on this application, either for or against. The existing building, at 600 square feet, 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. After closure of the Public Hearing, Council gave third reading to the application, and this will be back for adoption once staff confirm the registration of covenants.

Our next meeting will take place electronically on Wednesday, June 2, 2021, at 1:30 p.m.

Thank you for reading and staying informed!

Al Siebring, Mayor
Municipality of North Cowichan
T 250.746.3117