Council Matters for March 15, 2023

Council met for about an hour and a half during our Regular Council meeting on March 15, 2023. Here are some highlights from the meeting.

During the Mayor’s Report, I provided updates on the following activities that I participated in in recent weeks:

  • Last week, myself and all of Council were given a tour of the Cowichan Wellness and Recovery Centre on York Road, which is operated by Island Health and Lookout Health and Housing Society. Opened in fall 2021, the centre provides mental health and addictions services focused on prevention, treatment, and recovery. Like so many other communities across BC, the Cowichan region is facing a toxic drug crisis that is devastating families, with more than 40 lives lost in 2022, which have steadily increased in recent years, and are more than double the total of 15 deaths in 2016.
  • CAO Ted Swabey and I met with Nanaimo Mayor Krog to discuss the common issues we are facing in our communities related to homelessness, mental health, addictions, and street disorder. It’s important that we work with Mayor Krog and other Vancouver Island communities to advocate to the senior levels of government as a unified voice for solutions to these problems, including increased investments in supportive housing, addictions treatment facilities and mental health supports.
  • Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA Doug Routley and I recently had chance to meet at Municipal Hall to discuss North Cowichan’s major projects and their alignment with the Province’s priorities. We are building a strong relationship with MLA Routley’s office, and I look forward to continuing to work together on our shared priorities at the municipal and provincial level. 
  • Earlier today, CAO Ted Swabey, Councillor Christopher Justice and myself attended the Poverty Reduction Action Planning Forum at the Ramada Inn, organized by the Cowichan Housing Association. The event, which included various service providers and local government leaders, was an opportunity to discuss the work done to date and plan future actions to tackle the interrelated challenges of housing, homeless, mental health and addictions.

Joanne Sales, on behalf of Broombusters Invasive Plant Society, provided Council with a presentation on issues with Scotch Broom and asked Council to consider supporting a resolution for the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities regarding Scotch Broom. North Cowichan’s Biodiversity Protection Policy, currently in development, will aim to include priority locations for Scotch Broom removal. 

A Zoning Amendment Bylaw that permits high-density residential use at 3005, 3011 Drinkwater Road & 6455 Ford Road was adopted. The bylaw received third reading following a public hearing last September and has now received Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure approval.

The Retaining Walls & Fences zoning amendment bylaw was also adopted.

The Reserve Funds Establishment Amendment Bylaw received first three readings. The amendment addresses three reserve funds:

  • Removal of the Aquannis Centre Reserve: This is a housekeeping change as this centre was transferred to the Cowichan Valley Regional District in 2016.
  • Bell McKinnon Local Area Plan Streetscape Reserve: This new fund ensures community amenity contributions used to create amenities and public benefits from development are held for their intended purpose.
  • Quamichan Lake Water Quality Reserve: This housekeeping addition formalizes contributions provided through the Kingsview Phased Development Agreement for a local water quality initiative.

A Zoning Amendment Bylaw to rezone the Crofton Fire Hall site from R3 to Public Use (PU) received first two readings. A public hearing will be held on April 5.

A Development Variance Permit Application for an over-height accessory building at 9061 Chemainus Road was authorized.

Terms of Reference for the Sports Wall of Fame Nomination Committee was approved. The biannual event celebrates individuals and teams that have attained high achievement or made significant contribution to athletics.

The Canada Avenue Flood Gate and Road Upgrade Project construction contract was awarded to Stone Pacific Contracting Limited for the sum of $2,532,534.05. The work involves installation of a new flood gate, raising the roadbed, installation of new storm mains, and replacement of a sanitary sewer main and a water main. Once finished, Canada Avenue will include new active transportation features, sidewalk upgrades, a multi-use trail, and traffic calming features. The work is expected to begin this spring. Local residents, businesses, and roads users can expect detours while work is underway.

Earlier this month, the Province announced the $1 billion Growing Communities Fund to provide a one-time funding contribution to local governments to address the needs of growing communities. North Cowichan will be receiving $7,686,000 from this program in the next few weeks. Council authorized that the funding be allocated as follows:

  • $4,800,000 for the Crofton Fire Hall. The fire hall is currently under construction and an alternative approval process authorized borrowing to fund this project. By using this new funding, North Cowichan will save $390,000 in annual debt servicing, which equals just over $3 million in savings over the 20 years of the loan.
  • $1,984,000 for the capital costs of curbside automation. This will reduce the annual user fee for curbside collection to $153, which is a savings of $30 per year per household.
  • $902,000 contribution to the Affordable Housing Reserve. This includes up to $432,000 to support the Community Land Trust affordable housing project on Sherman Road, and the remaining $470,000 be placed in the Affordable Housing Reserve Fund for future housing projects.

Council directed that staff use their discretion to enforce noise infractions as they pertain to the Cowichan District Hospital Replacement Project on Bell McKinnon Road, to allow for construction to proceed outside of the regular construction hours, when necessary, until the project is completed.

Councillor Manhas was appointed Council’s representative on the Cowichan Community Policing Advisory Society, replacing Councillor Findlay.

The next Council meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, April 5, at 5pm.

Thank you for reading and staying informed!

Rob Douglas, Mayor
Municipality of North Cowichan
T 250.746.3117