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Council Matters for December 21, 2022
December 22, 2022
Council met for about two hours during our Regular Council meeting on December 21, 2022. Here are some highlights from the meeting.
During the Mayor’s Report, I provided updates on the following events and meetings that I have participated in during recent weeks:
- Last week, I joined other mayors and regional district chairs from across Vancouver Island for an introductory meeting with the new Minister of Municipal Affairs, Anne Kang. I shared with the Minister that North Cowichan faces major challenges related to street disorder, homelessness, and lack of affordable housing; concerns that were echoed by many other communities on the call. I also thanked the Minister for moving forward with the new Cowichan District Hospital and providing support to workers impacted by the indefinite curtailment of paper operations at the Crofton mill.
- Councillor Toporowski and I met with Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA Doug Routley to discuss how North Cowichan and the Province can work together to tackle the major issues in our community – including homelessness, affordable housing, climate change and infrastructure. I look forward to building strong relationships with our area MLAs and provincial ministers to advance our shared priorities.
- We have continued to host regular meetings at Municipal Hall between the Province, Paper Excellence, PPWC, Unifor, and various stakeholders to discuss how to best support Crofton mill workers impacted by the indefinite curtailment. The Province is funding a needs assessment to survey impacted workers and help determine the most effective supports. In addition, some workers are applying to the Bridging to Retirement Program, and others may be moved to positions in pulp operations.
I was pleased to be able to present a long standing service award to firefighter Ken Denham. Mr. Denham received a Federal Fire Service Exemplary Service Award for 50 years of service and a municipal plaque for 50 years of service on the North Cowichan Fire Department. He has been with the Chemainus fire hall since 1972.
Peter Shepherd presented an overview of his Salish Sea Stones Project to Council. The art project raises funds to help vulnerable kids and teach them the process of the stone art. A request for a $1500 grant-in-aid to assist with start-up costs was allocated to the project.
The amended Council Procedure Bylaw was adopted, which incorporates a new start time of 5pm for Council and Committee of the Whole meetings in 2023. Later in the meeting, a report outlined the 2023 Regular Council and Committee of the Whole meeting schedule, which includes adjustments to reflect conflicts with other meetings and conferences. Meetings will continue to be held electronically, which means members of Council, staff, plus consultants who may need to make presentations to Council, have the option on participating electronically or in person.
The Board of Variance Amendment Bylaw was also adopted. This bylaw authorizes the Board to meet or participate electronically.
The Revenue Anticipation Borrowing Bylaw was also adopted. This bylaw allows the Municipality to borrow money for a short term, if needed, to continue municipal operations while waiting for anticipated revenue (e.g. property taxes) to be received.
First two readings were given to the Zoning Bylaw Amendment Bylaw (Retaining Walls & Fences) and first three readings were given to the Building Bylaw Amendment Bylaw (Retaining Walls).
The updated bylaws aim to:
- Provide clear and transparent regulatory direction (plain language with visual aids) relating to retaining walls and associated regulations
- Add retaining wall regulations into the Building Bylaw where none existed before and harmonize the building and zoning bylaws
- Create departmental efficiencies by reducing the volume of variance applications received (for retaining walls located in setbacks) and bylaw enforcement files to free up staff time and resources
- Align retaining wall best practices requirements with neighbouring jurisdictions
Details of the amendments, as well as opportunities for the public to share ideas and ask questions, can be found at ConnectNorthCowichan.ca. The bylaws will return to Council for third reading, a public hearing, and adoption, in early 2023.
Council provided pre-budget approval for hiring a full time IT Client Support Specialist. In 2021, Council recognized the need for additional client services support by funding a temporary position from 2021 to the end of 2022 using the COVID-19 Safe Restart Grant funding. As the position ends at the end of the year, approval to begin the hiring process as soon as possible is required to ensure no loss of service. This position provides support for all Council and committee meetings as well as daily support to all staff in the organization.
Council provided approval to submit an application to the Community Emergency Preparedness Fund (CEPF) grant program under the Volunteer & Composite Fire Department Training & Equipment funding stream for marina firefighting training. The $30,000 grant would support marina firefighting training and associated costs for the North Cowichan Fire Department.
Councillors Justice, Toporowski, and Manhas were appointed as alternates to the Cowichan Valley Regional District's (CVRD) Cowichan Centre Commission for the 2022-2026 term, to act in place of Councillors Caljouw, Findlay or Istace when one or more are unavailable.
Council discussed a letter from a community member regarding the Municipal Forest Reserve review process currently underway, and decided to extend the survey deadline from December 31 to January 31.
The next Council meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, January 18, at the new time of 5pm.
Thank you for reading and staying informed!
Rob Douglas, Mayor
Municipality of North Cowichan