Council Matters for October 4, 2022

Council met for about three hours during our Regular Council meeting on October 4, 2022. Here are some highlights from the meeting.

During my Mayor’s Report, I noted this is the final time this Council will meet as a group for this term. The new Council will be decided October 15, and will be inaugurated at the November 2 council meeting.

I participated in a site visit at Chemainus Rd and Oak St traffic circle to discuss ongoing concerns with windstorms taking out trees in nearby Askew Park, causing damage and power outages to the nearby businesses, including the 49th Parallel Grocery. Our staff, along with BC Hydro, have done some vegetation control, and BC Hydro stated there is not much more they can do. Our staff will take another look at the trees in the park and make a determination on what more we can do. In the meantime, the best protection for the adjacent businesses would be to have a generator or refrigeration truck ready in the event of a lengthy power outage.

We continue to meet regularly with West Urban Development regarding the Magdalena apartment building and the engineered repairs required. Cowichan Housing Association continues to work with the remaining 28 tenants to find alternate housing.

We also have been meeting regularly regarding the Sq'umul' Shelh Lelum' supportive housing on Paddle Road. Earlier this summer, we were receiving considerable concerns about street disorder in the area such as needles and loitering. The manager of neighbouring Island Ford raised some concerns and was considering fencing his entire lot in order to address these issues. The meetings include neighbours, BC Housing, operator Lookout Housing and Health Society, plus North Cowichan staff. A resident peer clean-up crew has been established and the impact is measurable. The residents are taking real pride of community, keeping the area clean, and being a positive presence in the area around the housing. This has also reduced street disorder. Calls for service have dropped from an average of 15 per month from June through August to just two calls in September. These meetings may not be required in the future.

CAO Ted Swabey introduced Neil Pukesh, the new Director of Parks, Recreation, and Forestry. He takes over the position from Don Stewart who retired earlier this summer.

A Zoning Amendment was adopted. This bylaw amends the permitted densities within the A-1, A-2, A-3 and A-5 zones to accommodate various forms of accessory dwelling units on parcels of 2 hectares or greater.

The Permissive Tax Exemption Amendment Bylaw was adopted. The amendment exempts from taxation units at 9806 Willow Street leased by Cowichan Neighbourhood House Association.

Amendments to the Bylaw Offence Notice Enforcement Bylaw and the Municipal Ticket Information System Bylaw were adopted. The amendments pertain to the removal of election signs after an election. 

A Zoning Amendment Bylaw to permit a detached accessory dwelling unit (garden suite) at 3833 Gibbins Road received first and second readings. This will now proceed to a public hearing.

Council received a detailed presentation from Dr. Brad Seely and Dr. Peter Arcese of the UBC Partnership Group on the four draft forest management scenarios as part of the Municipal Forest Reserve Review process. The four scenarios were developed with input received last year in Round 1 of public engagement around vision and values. Economic, ecological, and social indicators were developed to evaluate a range of criteria and reflect a range of harvesting, carbon sequestration, and conservation levels. Last week, the Forestry Advisory Committee received the same presentation and provided input into the draft scenarios, recommending that the draft scenarios be referred to Council as presented.

Council endorsed the four scenarios and directed to staff to proceed with the next round of public engagement, which will include in-person and virtual opportunities, as well as a statistically valid phone survey. This round of public engagement is expected to begin later this fall.

Council directed staff to conduct a review of the Building Bylaw and the BC Energy Step Code Rebate Policy to ensure alignment with updates to the BC Building Code and options for zero-carbon new buildings when the Building Code is updated later this year.

Councillor Manhas, as Council's (non-voting) representative on the BC Forest Discovery Centre Board, provided Council with a verbal update on their activities. Councillor Manhas shared that the BC Forest Discovery Centre has received a substantial grant to support a new display about pre-colonial contact forestry, which will include considerable collaboration with area First Nations. The new digital display will also include material about the contributions of Asian and South Asian workers in the early days of forestry in the region. 

A new business item was added regarding the status of mail-in ballots. Our Chief Election Officer has received about 120 applications and they have either been mailed out or picked up in person. Mail ballots must be in the hands of the Chief Election Officer by 8pm on October 15 in order to be counted in the election. In lieu of Canada Post, these ballots can also be dropped off at municipal hall during regular business hours, or during election hours.

  • Advance polls are October 5 and 11, 8am to 8pm, at Municipal Hall
  • Regular election day is October 15, 8am to 8pm, at six locations.
  • Learn more about the election, voter requirements, and polling locations 

The next Council meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, November 2, at 1:30pm. This will be the inaugural meeting for the newly elected Council.

I won’t be at that meeting because – as you may have heard – I’m retiring from municipal politics. So this will be my final "Council Matters." I've checked with each of the candidates who are running for mayor, and two of the three of them have committed to continuing to send out these post-meeting updates if they get elected. So I'm happy to see that this communication tool will likely continue upon my departure.

As I wrap up my term as mayor, I want to thank those who put their confidence in me in the election four years ago. I also want to thank Council for a term where we got a lot done. While we certainly had differences of opinion, we were united in the notion that each of us sincerely wanted what was best for our community. (Our differences came mainly in how we defined that, and that actually reflects well on the democratic and governance process.)

And I want to thank staff for their amazing and dedicated service, also through the travails of the pandemic and everything that came along with that. It has certainly been an “interesting” four years. 

I wish the new Mayor and Council – whoever ends up getting elected to those positions – every success in the next four-year term. 

As for me, it's "grandkid time!"

Thank you.

Al Siebring, Mayor
Municipality of North Cowichan
T 250.746.3117