Council Matters for June 15, 2022

Council Matters for June 15, 2022

Council met for about five and half hours during our Regular Council meeting and Public Hearing on June 15, 2022. Here are some highlights from the meetings.

During my Mayor’s Report, I noted I was absent from the June 1 meeting as I was in Regina with Councillor Sawrie attending the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) annual conference. I thanked Councillor Toporowski for chairing that meeting as Acting Mayor, and for filling in during my absence.

FCM is an opportunity to connect with municipal leaders from across Canada. In encounters with municipal leaders from PEI, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario, I noticed a great similarity in issues we are all facing across the country. Chief among them was the expectation that local governments fund programs and services which are actually intended to be dealt with by senior governments. 

I also took in a presentation from Senator Paula Simons, who is working to formally recognize municipalities as an order of government, something that is not the case for local governments in Canada. Currently, if the federal government wants to speak with a municipality, they technically have to go through provincial governments to do so, because municipalities are a “creature of the province.” Senator Simons is working to address this issue through a Senate committee. I also attended a panel discussion on inclusionary zoning, in particular around ensuring there is an affordable housing component, and learned this can have good results but it can also produce instances where it is counter-productive. The big take-away was that this process should only be adopted after extensive research into local market conditions.

Councillor Sawrie spoke about her experience and expressed gratitude for the opportunity to attend FCM, and the great experience of meeting so many from across the country, struggling with the same issues, especially housing affordability. She shared what she heard about communities recovering from the pandemic, experiences about adapting to climate change, and municipal/indigenous partnerships that are driving reconciliation. She noted it was pleasant to see Regina at this time of year and see some of their infrastructure and public amenities, and the many tree lined streets.

John Elzinga, General Manager, Community Services from the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) made a presentation on the recent facility-use study that was done at nine regional recreation facilities, and updated Council on the CVRD Board approved recreation funding formula that will guide the new Regional Recreation Service Establishment Bylaw for the referendum in October 2022. Fair and equitable funding has been an issue in the region since Fuller Lake Arena was constructed in the 1960s. A review was undertaken in 2015 and included recommendations to revisit a funding formula. In 2019, the CVRD approved in principle nine regionally significant recreation facilities funded on the basis of the residency of users. The facilities are owned by five government entities, with various governance models.

The funding formula for the nine regionally significant facilities is based on a blending of the usage data collected in 2017 and the data recently collected between November 2021 and March 2022. For North Cowichan’s two facilities (Cowichan Aquatic Centre and Fuller Lake Arena) the combined usage data clearly identified that although the residents of North Cowichan are the majority users of the two facilities (50.15% for the Cowichan Aquatic Centre and 52.50% for Fuller Lake Arena) they are not the only users. Likewise for a facility like the Cowichan Lake Sports Arena where North Cowichan residents compose 23.80% of the users.

This funding formula this would mean that North Cowichan residents’ funding  for the Cowichan Aquatic Centre would decrease from approximately $2.37 million to $1.44 million. For Fuller Lake Arena, it would decrease from $0.69 million to $0.36 million. For Cowichan Lake Sports Arena, funding would increase from no contribution to $0.41 million. Taking in all changes in funding for all nine regionally significant facilities, North Cowichan’s funding for recreation facilities would decrease by $0.71 million or 11.2% overall.

The referendum question on supporting regional recreation will be on the local government election ballot in October in North Cowichan as well as on all ballots within the CVRD. The referendum will require a 50% plus one result across the region. Details on the referendum question and background on the facility use formula will be available soon.

A Zoning Amendment Bylaw to permit a second detached dwelling unit at 7167 Bell McKinnon Road received first and second readings. This item will now head to a public hearing in the near future.

The required statutory steps for the consultation for Official Community Plan Amendment Bylaw received second reading and will now move to public hearing. These administrative actions were necessary to ensure the last steps in this process are completed prior to the public hearing, which is scheduled for July 18 (online) and July 19 (in person). Details will be available at, in the local paper, and on North Cowichan’s social media channels. A public hearing is the public’s final opportunity to provide feedback on the document.

A proposed Zoning Bylaw amendment to harmonize existing Development Permit Guidelines with Development Permit Areas as proposed in the 2022 Official Community Plan was introduced. This administrative change will harmonize the documents to ensure the continued orderly administration of Development Permit applications should Council adopt the new Official Community Plan. Council will now consider this bylaw for first reading at its regular meeting on July 20, 2022.

A Zoning Amendment Bylaw which would permit a second detached dwelling at 964 Pacific Place was denied.

The 2023 Budget process has begun, with Council approval of the timeline and direction. The report provided a draft timeline of the 2023-2027 financial plan for consideration and recommended 2023 budget direction to assist Council with setting expectations for 2023 budget preparation. While the initial staff report included a projected 9.26% tax increase based on existing needs, programs, and commitments, Council decided to instruct staff to do all they can to leverage grant opportunities and budget reallocations and review departmental budgets to identify possible cost savings and best value for money.  Staff will also be considering revenue generation options for services that are identifiable to specific users; and, limiting capital expenditures funded from current taxation revenue to 10.4% of taxes. The public will be invited to participate in the budget process this fall.

The Asset Retirement Obligations Policy was adopted. The Public Sector Accounting Board has implemented PS 3280 Asset Retirement Obligations (ARO), a new accounting standard effective for fiscal years beginning on or after April 1, 2022. North Cowichan is now required to report ARO on its December 31, 2023 financial statements.

Council supported a $10,000,000 grant application to the Community Childcare BC New Spaces Fund. The grant would support the creation of new and replacement childcare spaces for Parkside Academy Childcare Society at a facility on Morton Way, just northwest of the Municipal Hall,

Council authorized an application to the Canada Community-Building Fund, Strategic Priorities for integrating Natural Assets into the Asset Management Plan project for a grant of up to $200,000.

Recommendations contained in a late report that outlined municipal financial contributions to the 3191 Sherman Road affordable housing project were carried. This includes inviting the Community Land Trust to submit a 2023 grant-in-aid application for up to $432,000 for the affordable housing project and to submit a permissive tax exemption application for an amount equivalent to half the annual property tax. It also commits $75,000 from the Affordable Housing Fund to this project.

Council received the 2021 Annual Municipal Report. The report contains the financial statements for 2021 as well as a detailed description of the significant projects, programs, and services carried out last year.

During the Public Hearing portion of the meeting, a Zoning Amendment Bylaw was considered for a detached second dwelling at 934 Khenipsen Road. 

Following the Public Hearing, Council approved third reading and adoption of the Zoning Amendment Bylaw for the property, approving the second detached dwelling unit.

The next Council meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, July 20, at 1:30 p.m.

Thank you for reading and staying informed!

Al Siebring, Mayor
Municipality of North Cowichan
T 250.746.3117