Municipality of North Cowichan.

North Cowichan delegation addresses issues at UBCM

Council meeting report includes amendment to exempt Willow Street units from taxation

Highlights from the North Cowichan council regular meeting and public hearing on Sept. 21 were as follows:

During Mayor Al Siebring’s report, he shared that last week he was joined by Councillors Rosalie Sawrie and Tek Manhas, plus CAO Ted Swabey, at the annual Union of British Columbia Municipalities conference.

Among those meetings were discussions with four provincial cabinet ministers: Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development Katrine Conroy to talk about flooding on the Chemainus River; Finance Minister Selina Robinson regarding the property tax structure for fee simple lands owned by First Nations; Solicitor General Mike Farnworth on ever-increasing policing costs; and, Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside to discuss plans for the current Cowichan Senior Secondary School once the new secondary school is completed.

“In each of those instances, we made our case based on some of the discussions council has previously had on these issues, and gave the ministers some on-the-ground insight into how each of these things were playing out here in our community,” noted Siebring.

Among the many policy sessions included one regarding recommendations of the legislature’s all-party committee on the reform of the Police Act. The cost pressures those recommendations will put on local governments continue to be a concern, and in meeting with Minister Farnworth later in the week, Siebring emphasized the need for the province to step up and mitigate those cost increases.

Councillor Sawrie shared her experiences and thoughts on the conference and expressed how great it was to have the conference in-person again, with the opportunity to share thoughts with other elected officials about the many challenges faced across the province. Some municipalities have been able to reduce building permit wait times which she was interested in learning more about.

A presentation by Mayor Michelle Staples (Duncan), Mayor Lisa Helps (Victoria), and Mayor Sharie Minions (Port Alberni) on their successes in setting up transitional housing for those experiencing homelessness was a highlight. These projects – including The Village in Duncan – include wraparound services, peer programs and art installations, and all three mayors shared stories and statistics that back up the success of these projects.

The 2022-2026 Financial Plan Amendment Bylaw was adopted. This bylaw updates the financial plan with projects and initiatives authorized by council between March and August of this year.

An amendment to the Permissive Tax Exemption Bylaw was given the first three readings. This amendment proposes to exempt from taxation units at 9806 Willow St. leased by the Cowichan Neighbourhood House Association.

Amendments to the Bylaw Offence Notice Enforcement Bylaw and the Municipal Ticket Information System Bylaw were also given the first three readings. The amendment will update the offence descriptions for failing to remove a political sign within seven days after general voting.

Council directed staff to terminate the existing lease for the Safer Community Safety Office at 490 Trans-Canada Highway, and to look for a different location within North Cowichan’s boundaries to allow for continued safety patrols of the area around the Cowichan Commons and the Friendship Trail.

Council supported the Climate Adaptation Assessment grant application to the Disaster Risk Reduction – Climate Adaptation Program administered by the Union of BC Municipalities. The grant provides funding for up to $150,000 for the development of a Climate Change Risk and Vulnerability Assessment and support overall grant management of the project.

Staffed provided a report on Septic Tank Management and an assessment of the environmental effects of septic tanks on surface water quality. Staff will work with Island Health on educational resources for residents about septic systems, including: material on septic tank maintenance and repairs; a virtual workshop on caring for septic systems; and information on the benefits of regular septic tank pumping.

A report about mitigating blue-green algae blooms in Quamichan Lake was presented to council. The report provided an overview of algae blooms, data collected through monitoring and recent sediment sampling conducted in February. Blue-green algae is just one of six phytoplankton found in the lake. Staff will be exploring the costs and benefits of aeration in Quamichan Lake to manage phosphorus dynamics and mitigate blue-green algae blooms and will report back to council on a recommended management option for mitigating blue-green algae blooms in the lake.

Three items were heard during the public hearing portion of the meeting.

The next council meeting is Tuesday, Oct. 4 at 1:30 p.m.

Municipal Government

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