Council opts for a recovery budget during 2022-26

Gradual return sought to a sustainable capital program and maintaining of current service levels

Chemainus Secondary School bursary winner Melanie Cheng. (Photo submitted)

Chemainus Secondary School bursary winner Melanie Cheng. (Photo submitted)

North Cowichan council’s regular meeting on July 21 included the presentation of Tom Walker Forest Legacy Bursaries and Scholarship to Halle Oud from Cowichan Senior Secondary School (scholarship), Melanie Cheng from Chemainus Secondary School and Ryan Hindle from Frances Kelsey School (bursaries).

The Tom Walker Forest Legacy awards are presented to secondary school graduates who are residents of North Cowichan and enrolled in a post-secondary institute such as a technical school, college or university, preferably in science related studies such as forestry, environmental, fisheries, hydrology, geotechnical, etc. The scholarships are funded from revenues derived from the Municipal Forest Reserve.

The award is named after Tom Walker, who was one of the first members of the North Cowichan Forest Advisory Committee and also served on North Cowichan council for 20 years, including as mayor. With Walker’s extensive background in forestry, he played a significant role in helping to establish the municipality’s sustainable forestry program which gives back to the community in many ways.

Three Zoning Amendment Bylaws were considered, including 9376 Cottonwood Rd. in Chemainus to permit the construction of a detached second dwelling that passed and also at 2772 Herd Rd. to permit a second detached dwelling unit in addition to a principal single family dwelling that also passed.

The Forest Use, Bylaw Offence Notice Enforcement and Municipal Ticket Information Systems Bylaw Amendments received first three readings. The amendments, once adopted, will increase the fines for offences such as entering the forest when closed, illegal harvesting of trees, damaging trees or streams, having open fires when restricted and more.

The Fireworks Regulation Bylaw also received first three readings. The bylaw sets out updated regulations and permitting requirements for fireworks within the municipality.

Council reviewed and adopted the draft Telecommunications Antenna Structures Policy that sets out a consultation area radius of 300 meters, that all applications require a public meeting and to be adjudicated by council, that there be certain exemption criteria for additions to existing structure less than 15 meters and an application fee of $1,000.

Staff presented three options seeking direction on the 2022-2026 budget: recovery, status quo or restraint. There was a lot of debate and discussion around the options, and the impacts in the near, medium, and long term to taxpayers, and for service and project delivery. In the end, council approved a recovery budget that includes a steady rate increase each year with a gradual return to a sustainable capital program and an ability to maintain current service levels.

The 2022 Draft Budget Public Engagement Plan was also approved. The municipality is required under the Community Charter to provide an opportunity for residents to have a say on the budget. This year, the plan includes informing residents about budget options, pros and cons of adjusting different service or projects and different tax rate scenarios. The motion passed, with information on the budget to come this fall.

Council directed staff to work with Diamond Head Consulting to complete a simple comparison of the Environmental Policy Review and the draft Climate Action and Energy Plan actions; Sustainability Solutions Group to include an Eco-Industrial Lands Policy as an action in the final CAEP Implementation Plan; and Community Energy Association to pursue potential partnerships and apply for grant funding in order to implement the recommendations under the draft CAEP. These actions were the result of recommendations from the Environmental Advisory Committee.

Council considered the recommendations from the July 13 Committee of the Whole meeting regarding the Official Community Plan project’s growth scenarios survey results. Council accepted the recommendations in MODUS’ “What We Heard” report as a basis for drafting a growth management strategy and land use plan for the new Official Community Plan. However, council omitted the part of the plan that references adding a health and wellness precinct in the Bell McKinnon area, adjacent to the hospital site. Council will further review this omitted portion of the report at an upcoming workshop to better consider the implications of this draft policy.

Council also accepted the draft Community Profiles for the Official Community Plan Update Project as recommended at the July 13 Committee of the Whole meeting. The draft profiles will be amended to better clarify the intent, including a description of the project limitation and how the profiles will and won’t be used.

With council meetings taking place once per month in the summer, the next one will be Wednesday, Aug. 18 at 1:30 p.m.

Municipal Government