Council Matters for September 21, 2022

Council met for almost 3 hours during our Regular Council meeting and Public Hearing on September 21, 2022. Here are some highlights from the meetings.

During my Mayor’s Report, I shared that last week, myself, Councillors Sawrie and Manhas, plus CAO Ted Swabey attended the annual Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) conference. These conferences are a busy time, with lots of meetings with other municipal and provincial representatives to discuss issues and programs of mutual interest. Among those meetings were discussions with four provincial cabinet ministers: Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development Katrine Conroy to talk about flooding on the Chemainus River; Finance Minister Selina Robinson regarding the property tax structure for fee simple lands owned by First Nations; Solicitor General Mike Farnworth on ever-increasing policing costs; and, Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside to discuss plans for the current Cowichan Senior Secondary School once the new secondary school is completed.

In each of those instances, we made our case based on some of the discussions Council has previously had on these issues, and gave the ministers some “on the ground” insight into how each of these things were playing out here, in our community. 

We also met with senior executives from Island Health to continue discussions around the need for more mental health and other services in connection with some of the continued street disorder we’re seeing around York and Paddle Roads. Again, our message was heard and well received.

Amongst the many policy sessions included one regarding recommendations of the legislature’s All-Party Committee on the Reform of the Police Act. The cost pressures those recommendations will put on local governments continue to be a concern, and in our meeting with Minister Farnworth later in the week, I emphasized the need for the province to step up and mitigate those cost increases.

Along with the learning, this year was a chance for me to say good-bye. It was also Premier Horgan’s last UBCM conference, and he also said good-bye. I took the opportunity to thank him for his many years of public service.

Councillor Sawrie shared her experiences and thoughts on the conference and expressed how great it was to have the conference in-person again, with the opportunity to share experiences with other elected officials about the many challenges faced across the province. Some municipalities have been able to reduce building permit wait times which she was interested in learning more about. A presentation by Mayor Staples (Duncan), Mayor Helps (Victoria), and Mayor Minions (Port Alberni) on their successes in setting up transitional housing for those experiencing homelessness was a highlight for her. These projects – including The Village in Duncan – include wraparound services, peer programs, and art installations, and all three mayors shared stories and statistics that back up the success of these projects.

The 2022-2026 Financial Plan Amendment Bylaw was adopted. This bylaw updates the financial plan with projects and initiatives authorized by Council between March and August of this year.

An amendment to the Permissive Tax Exemption Bylaw was given first three readings. This amendment proposes to exempt from taxation units at 9806 Willow Street leased by Cowichan Neighbourhood House Association.

Amendments to the Bylaw Offence Notice (BON) Enforcement Bylaw and the Municipal Ticket Information System (MTI) Bylaw were also given first three readings. The amendment will update the offence descriptions for failing to remove a political sign within seven days after general voting.

Council directed staff to terminate the existing lease for the Safer Community Safety Office at 490 Trans-Canada Highway, and to look for a different location that is within North Cowichan’s boundaries, to allow for continued safety patrols of the area around the Cowichan Commons and the Friendship Trail.

Council supported the Climate Adaptation Assessment grant application to the Disaster Risk Reduction – Climate Adaptation Program (DRR-CA) administered by the Union of BC Municipalities. The grant provides funding for up to $150,000 for the development of a Climate Change Risk and Vulnerability Assessment and support overall grant management of the project.

Staffed provided a report on Septic Tank Management and an assessment of the environmental effects of septic tanks on surface water quality. Staff will work with Island Health on educational resources for residents about septic systems, including; material on septic tank maintenance and repairs; a virtual workshop on caring for septic systems; and, information on the benefits of regular septic tank pumping.

A report about mitigating blue-green algae blooms in Quamichan Lake was presented to Council. The report provided an overview of algae blooms, data collected through monitoring, and recent sediment sampling conducted this past February. Blue-green algae is just one of six phytoplankton found in the lake. Staff will be exploring the costs and benefits of aeration in Quamichan Lake to manage phosphorus dynamics and mitigate blue-green algae blooms and will report back to Council on a recommended management option for mitigating blue-green algae blooms in the lake.

Three items were heard during the public hearing portion of the meeting which got under way at 6 pm:

  • A zoning bylaw amendment from R1 to CD23 for high density rental apartments at 3005 and 3011 Drinkwater Road & 6455 Ford Road. Community amenities and commitments include enhanced street design, BC Energy Step Code 3, electric vehicle (EV) charging in 20 per cent of parking stalls, plus electric bike charging, land for a park and a financial contribution of $3,000 ($786,000 total) per residential unit toward a future public park. At the resumption of the Council meeting, this item received third reading. This will be back before Council for adoption at a future meeting.
  • A zoning bylaw amendment for 3288 Cowichan Lake Rd to permit retail cannabis sales at the Berkey’s Corner Shopping Centre. At the resumption of the Council meeting, this item received third reading. This too will be back before Council in the coming weeks for adoption.
  • A zoning bylaw amendment to rezone an existing duplex at 3181 and 3183 Gibbins Road from R3 to R3-MF to allow a four-plex. First reading in May 2018 was carried with a building code analysis and letter of commitment, and gave second reading in July 2022. At the resumption of the Council meeting, this item received third reading and was adopted.

The next Council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, October 4, at 1:30 p.m. (note the change in day).

Thank you for reading and staying informed!

Al Siebring, Mayor
Municipality of North Cowichan
T 250.746.3117