North Cowichan council met for about five and half hours, including a public hearing on June 15. Here are some of the highlights:
Mayor Al Siebring returned after being absent from the June 1 meeting in order to attend the Federation of Canadian Municipalities annual conference in Regina with Councillor Rosalie Sawrie.
“In encounters with municipal leaders from P.E.I., Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Ontario, I noticed a great similarity in issues we are all facing across the country,” noted Siebring. “Chief among them was the expectation that local governments fund programs and services which are actually intended to be dealt with by senior governments.”
Siebring took in a presentation from Senator Paula Simons, who is working to formally recognize municipalities as an order of government, something that is not the case for local governments in Canada. Currently, if the federal government wants to speak with a municipality, it technically has to go through provincial governments. Senator Simons is working to address the issue through a Senate committee.
Siebring also attended a panel discussion on inclusionary zoning, in particular around ensuring there is an affordable housing component, and learned this can have good results but it can also produce instances where it is counter-productive. “The big takeaway was that this process should only be adopted after extensive research into local market conditions,” he indicated.
Sawrie expressed gratitude for the opportunity to attend the FCM, and the great experience of meeting so many from across the country, struggling with the same issues, especially housing affordability.
In other matters, John Elzinga, Cowichan Valley Regional District’s general manager of community services, made a presentation on the recent facility-use study done at nine regional recreation facilities, and updated council on the CVRD board’s approved recreation funding formula that will guide the new Regional Recreation Service Establishment Bylaw for the referendum in October 2022.
Fair and equitable funding has been an issue in the region since Fuller Lake Arena was constructed in the 1960s. A review was undertaken in 2015 and included recommendations to revisit a funding formula. In 2019, the CVRD approved in principle nine regionally significant recreation facilities funded on the basis of the residency of users. The facilities are owned by five government entities, with various governance models.
The funding formula for the nine regionally significant facilities is based on a blending of the usage data collected in 2017 and the data recently collected between November 2021 and March 2022. For North Cowichan’s two facilities – Cowichan Aquatic Centre and Fuller Lake Arena – the combined usage data identified that although residents of North Cowichan are the majority users of the two facilities (50.15 per cent for the Cowichan Aquatic Centre and 52.50 per cent for Fuller Lake Arena) they are not the only users. Likewise for a facility like the Cowichan Lake Sports Arena where North Cowichan residents compose 23.80 per cent of the users.
This funding formula means North Cowichan residents’ funding for the Cowichan Aquatic Centre would decrease from approximately $2.37 million to $1.44 million. For Fuller Lake Arena, it would decrease from $0.69 million to $0.36 million. For Cowichan Lake Sports Arena, funding would increase from no contribution to $0.41 million. Taking in all changes in funding for all nine regionally significant facilities, North Cowichan’s funding for recreation facilities would decrease by $0.71 million or 11.2 per cent overall.
The referendum question on supporting regional recreation will be on the local government election ballot in October in North Cowichan as well as on all ballots within the CVRD. The referendum will require a 50 per cent plus one result across the region.
The required statutory steps for the consultation for Official Community Plan Amendment Bylaw received second reading and will now move to public hearing. These administrative actions were necessary to ensure the last steps in the process are completed prior to the public hearing, which is scheduled for July 18 (online) and July 19 (in person). Details will be available at northcowichan.ca/ocp, in the local paper, and on North Cowichan’s social media channels. A public hearing is the public’s final opportunity to provide feedback on the document.
A proposed zoning bylaw amendment to harmonize existing Development Permit Guidelines with Development Permit Areas as proposed in the 2022 Official Community Plan was introduced. This administrative change will harmonize the documents to ensure the continued orderly administration of Development Permit applications should council adopt the new Official Community Plan. Council will now consider the bylaw for first reading at its regular meeting on July 20.
The 2023 budget process has begun, with council approval of the timeline and direction. The report provided a draft timeline of the 2023-2027 financial plan for consideration and recommended 2023 budget direction to assist council with setting expectations for 2023 budget preparation.
While the initial staff report included a projected 9.26 per cent tax increase based on existing needs, programs and commitments, council decided to instruct staff to do all it can to leverage grant opportunities and budget reallocations and review departmental budgets to identify possible cost savings and best value for money. Staff will also be considering revenue generation options for services that are identifiable to specific users and limiting capital expenditures funded from current taxation revenue to 10.4 per cent of taxes. The public will be invited to participate in the budget process this fall.
Council supported a $10m million grant application to the Community Childcare BC New Spaces Fund. The grant would support the creation of new and replacement childcare spaces for Parkside Academy Childcare Society at a facility on Morton Way, just northwest of the Municipal Hall.
Council authorized an application to the Canada Community-Building Fund, Strategic Priorities for integrating natural assets into the Asset Management Plan project for a grant of up to $200,000.
Council received the 2021 annual municipal report. The report contains the financial statements for 2021 as well as a detailed description of the significant projects, programs and services carried out last year.
The next council meeting is Wednesday, July 20, at 1:30 p.m.