Following are the highlights from the Dec. 1 regular meeting of North Cowichan council.
In Mayor Al Siebring’s report, he shared what he saw, heard and learned while touring some of the most heavily impacted flooded properties along the Chemainus River.
“The area around Pinson’s Corner is very complex, there used to be seven bridges in the area that went over various drainage channels of the Chemainus River and estuary,” he pointed out. “Many of them today are blocked by gravel and other deposits and the bridges have been eliminated or replaced by culverts. I also met with landowners near Russell Farm who shared their observations about the impact of concrete highway median barriers on their property. The barriers act like a dam until the weight of the water moves them away and allows the water to flow. This is creating higher water levels on the west side of the highway. We have now convinced the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to remove these centre barriers when flood trigger points happen to allow the water to move more freely.”
Chief Administrative Officer Ted Swabey and Siebring met last week with Josie Osborne, Minister of Municipal Affairs, and Rowing Canada Aviron CEO Terry Dillon in Victoria to talk about Rowing Canada’s planned clubhouse and the ongoing water quality issues on Quamichan Lake. The meeting was just to share information. Once there’s more information on the resources needed, the minister suggested connecting with the Ministers of Finance and Environment to further discuss the project.
Tom Andrews, representing the Chemainus Festival of Murals Society presented two proposals to council for wind sculptures for Chemainus. A twisted oval sculpture, measuring 11 feet tall, and a double spinner sculpture, measuring 16 feet tall, will be installed across from the Chemainus Theatre with $2,000 in funding from North Cowichan to construct and install the foundations. Council also authorized a post and rope fence at the snipes pond in Heritage Square. A replica bronze cast statue of Stefan was installed as a replacement for the one damaged a few years ago. Stefan joins his brother Josh from In Search of Snipes. Both were created by late Maple Bay sculptor Glen Spicer. It is hoped the work can start as soon as possible.
A recommendation by staff to extend the consultation period for the Draft Official Community Plan was carried. The public engagement process now ends on Dec. 22, adding two weeks for people to provide input on this important policy document.
Council authorized the purchase of a standard fuel fire department pick-up truck, up to a maximum of $70,000 plus tax to replace the 1999 pick-up truck currently in use. A report outlined the challenges of procuring an electric or hybrid vehicle that would meets the needs of the fire department.
The 2022 council meeting schedule has been set. The schedule reflects some cancellations and rescheduling of meetings where conflicts with other meeting dates exist, and to hold public hearings on the third Wednesday of each month, excluding October. Council also directed that regular meetings and the Committee of the Whole be conducted electronically. This allows for virtual, in-person, or hybrid meetings for council and staff, as the meetings themselves will be conducted using electronic means such as Webex. This provision is outlined in the Council Procedure Bylaw, updated in October.
Councillor Christopher Justice introduced a notice of motion regarding the economic impacts from the proposed development in the Bell McKinnon area. The motion will be considered at the Dec. 15 meeting.
Recommendations from the Environmental Advisory Committee regarding the OCP were considered. The importance of pollinators in the development permit guidelines will be considered for inclusion in the draft OCP. The draft OCP will also be referred to the Environmental Advisory Committee and the Forestry Advisory Committee for feedback by the end of the public consultation period.
Parks and Recreation Director Don Stewart provided an overview and answered questions from council regarding the background to the implementation of the proof of vaccination requirement for all attendees at the Cowichan Aquatic Centre. Technically, pool users are not covered by any Public Health Orders with respect to POV, but there are challenges in separating those who use the pool from those who access other parts of the facility, including the pool deck and the spectator areas.
The new requirement went into effect Dec. 1, but Stewart informed council he is continuing to work with the B.C. Recreation and Parks Association to find ways to adhere to the Public Health Orders while facilitating some kind of use of the pool for those who need it for therapeutic and other reasons, but have medical conditions which may preclude them from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
The next council meeting is Wednesday, Dec. 15 at 1:30 p.m.