Council Matters for May 18, 2022

Council met for about one hour during our Regular Council meeting and Public Hearing on May 18, 2022 before the windstorm caused power outages and connection issues, and the meeting was suspended. The meeting resumed on Friday, May 20 at 2 p.m. at item 7.2 and lasted a further three-and-a-quarter hours. Here are some highlights from the meetings.

During my Mayor’s Report, I noted that this meeting was to have been the first official in-person Council meeting. However technical issues with the trial meeting set up on May 4 have delayed this to our next meeting on June 1. An updated Webex platform is now in use and includes easier ways for the public to connect and participate, should they choose.

I attended a recent Zoom call with our CAO, along with about 70 B.C. mayors and a senior official from the Federal Ministry of Public safety regarding the RCMP contract and its retroactive costs. The federal government has heard these extra costs are a significant impact on our municipal budgets. The information received at the start of this process was not accurate and the amount of money budgeted by municipalities – which were set aside based on that information - was often not enough to cover the retroactivity. The federal government is reviewing the issue, and promised not to send out any invoices for the retroactive portion of the contract until that review is complete. Fixing this is important, because a new round of bargaining on the next contract begins later this year.

The Island Coastal Economic Trust Board (ICET) had its first face to face meeting since late 2019 earlier this month. The board discussed how the trust is funded and noted that there are several other trusts in the province that operate on a different and more sustainable funding model. While our Council meeting was underway on Wednesday, ICET released a synopsis of the Board discussion, giving notice that it will be asking for a more sustainable capitalization model going forward. 

On Thursday the CAO and I traveled to Victoria for meeting with BC Ferries and a discussion on restarting the Crofton terminal upgrade plans. Planning for the terminal replacement had been put on hold due to COVID, but it has now restarted, with First Nations engagement slated as the first item on the agenda. The plan right now still calls for a replacement terminal to be built and operational by 2027. 

The Cowichan Public Art Gallery Society was scheduled to update Council on their progress towards building an international-standard art gallery in the Cowichan Valley. Due to power outages in the area, representatives were not available and they will return at a future meeting.

An amendment to the (2011) Official Community Plan received first and second readings. The amendment would change the designation of land north of Drinkwater Road from Commercial to Growth Centre. This amendment is in alignment with the current (2011) OCP, as well as the new draft OCP.

Two zoning amendment bylaws received first reading, and staff was directed to negotiate with both applicants to secure a percentage of total units or floor area as secure non-market rental units, consistent with inclusionary housing policies in other BC municipalities.

The first zoning amendment is for 6478, 6494, 6493, 6489, and 6495 Paddle Road to a new CD22 zone to permit high-density residential and commercial uses. This proposal for an estimated 350 residential units includes a mix of apartments and townhouses in one four-storey and three six-storey buildings, and includes community amenities for street design features and contributions toward a new park.

The second zoning amendment is for 3005 and 3011 Drinkwater Road and 6455 Ford Road to a new CD23 zone to permit high density residential use. This proposal for an estimated 262 residential units in two four-storey and one five-storey apartment buildings, and includes community amenities for street design features and contributions toward a new park.

Both proposals align with OCP housing policies and the Bell-McKinnon Local Area Plan.

Council approved $22,000,000 in long-term borrowing from the Municipal Finance Authority of British Columbia for the North Cowichan/Duncan Integrated RCMP facility. Under Provincial law, the borrowing is done through the Regional District, and Council approved a motion to authorize that borrowing to go ahead.

Council supported the submission of a grant application to the Strategic Priorities Fund Capital Infrastructure Stream. The grant is up to $6 million and would be used for the Trans-Canada Highway water main replacement and multi-use trail project from Beverly Street north to the Forest Discovery Centre.

Council passed an updated procurement policy. The update includes some language amendments, encourages an environmental lens toward purchasing decisions, and increases purchasing thresholds so that formal competitions are only required for goods with a value of more than $75,000 and for construction with a value of more than $200,000 in compliance with trade agreements.

The Climate Action and Energy Plan Reserve Fund terms of reference were referred back to staff.

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

Thank you for reading and staying informed!

Al Siebring, Mayor
Municipality of North Cowichan
T 250.746.3117