North Cowichan council is holding monthly meetings during the summer. (File photo)

North Cowichan council is holding monthly meetings during the summer. (File photo)

Council meetings to continue virtually to maintain physical distancing

North Cowichan business from July 15 includes RCMP’s second quarter report amid onset of COVID-19

North Cowichan council considered and accepted the 2019 Annual Municipal Report during its July 15 meeting.

This document compiles the 2019 financial statements, municipal initiatives of note, and progress toward achieving council’s Strategic Plan.

The first of four delegations was Kate Black of Malatest & Associates, who presented the final report on the Cowichan Region Child Care Plan. Malatest & Associates undertook research and consultation on behalf of the Cowichan Valley Regional District to develop a child care plan for the region for the next ten years.

Council then heard from Heidi Hartman, Vancouver Island Regional Director of BC Housing. She presented an update on the upcoming public engagement BC Housing will undertake on the 50-unit supportive, purpose-built housing facility to be located at 2983 Drinkwater Rd.

Shayne Williams, CEO of the Lookout Society, made a presentation to council. Lookout will be operating North Cowichan’s new supportive housing facility that BC Housing is constructing on Drinkwater Road.

Inspector Chris Bear delivered the second quarter North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP report, and the draft Annual Performance Plan and Department Operations Overview.

During the second quarter, it was an unprecedented time for the RCMP with the sudden onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the movement to address systemic racism in police institutions across the United States and Canada.

On June 12, there was a Black Lives Matter protest in Duncan which was a peaceful and well-attended. In response to calls to reform the police, Inspector Bear acknowledged there is no place for racism within the RCMP and the North Cowichan/Duncan detachment is working with local community groups to find ways to better serve the community.

On June 10, Council initiated an Alternative Approval Process to obtain elector assent to borrow funds to construct a new integrated RCMP facility that will house Provincial, Municipal and Indigenous police members, as well as South Island Traffic and Forensic Identification Services.

A total of 1,234 valid Elector Response Forms were accepted in opposition to the proposal, which represented 4.6 per cent of North Cowichan’s eligible electors. This was an insufficient number to prevent council from proceeding with the borrowing bylaw.

Council thus approved the North Cowichan/Duncan Integrated RCMP Facility Loan Authorization Bylaw No. 3787. Construction of the new facility will begin next year.

A new bylaw proposed to defer the annual tax sale on September 28, 2020, to September 27, 2021 was considered. Earlier this year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, council extended the property tax payment due date to September 30, 2020, which established the 2020 property tax due date to occur two days after the tax sale date for this year.

North Cowichan consistently collects over 95 per cent of current taxes each year and offer very few properties for sale at the annual tax sale, and with such a high rate of collection, council learned there would be little to no impact to operations by extending the tax sale date by one year.

Council agreed to adopt the Tax Sale Deferment Bylaw, resulting in no tax sale this year, with the next one taking place on September 27, 2021.

First, second, and third reading was given to an amendment to the Building Bylaw that will require all new construction in North Cowichan to comply with Step 2 of the BC Energy Step Code, as of January 1, 2021. In conjunction with this, council approved a policy to implement a staged rebate program for new builds in North Cowichan that voluntarily comply with Step 2 (or higher) of the BC Energy Step Code.

Rebates for voluntarily reaching Step 2 will be offered until compliance with this step is mandatory in 2021. Council allocated $30,000 from the Climate Action Reserve Fund to provide rebates on a first-come-first-served basis until funds are exhausted. Two information sessions on the new rebate program will be held digitally over the summer, with dates to be confirmed and posted on the North Cowichan website soon.

Council gave first and second reading to a rezoning application to allow retail cannabis sales in the Beverly Corners Shopping Centre at 2763 Beverly St. A public hearing will be held on the application at a later date for the public to provide input.

Council discussed how to accommodate public input and participation in Council, Committee and Advisory Body of council meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the wake the Provincial Health Officer’s orders easing, a new Ministerial Order was brought forward to allow local governments to resume offering physical space to observe council proceedings in-person.

“However, at this time, we are unable to safely resume in-person meetings while observing physical distancing requirement,” noted North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring. “As a result, council decided to continue live-streaming meetings and offering the opportunity to receive public input via email to accommodate requirements of transparency and participatory governance.”

The next regular council meeting takes place, electronically, on Wednesday, Aug. 19, at 1:30 p.m.

Municipal Government

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