Crofton Fire Department members on the scene of Twin Gables fire in February of 2020. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Crofton Fire Department members on the scene of Twin Gables fire in February of 2020. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Numerous changes and adjustments to Official Community Plan Update

Pandemic results in negative impacts to the schedule and budget

The North Cowichan council meeting of April 7 began with two delegations.

The first was from Judy Stafford and Chris Hall from the Cowichan Green Community, who updated council with their year in review for 2020 and their agriculture food hub project on Beverly Street, which was one of only eight hubs in B.C. to receive provincial funding last December.

For the second delegation, council heard from Jocelyn Anderson, a 26-year resident of Crofton, who is part of Concerned Citizens of Crofton, a group wanting attention at 1508 Joan Avenue, also known as the Twin Gables Motel. Anderson described the community’s many concerns about the property. Bylaw and engineering staff confirmed they will look into the matter further.

First and second reading was given to a Zoning Amendment Bylaw for 1379 Maple Bay Rd. to permit the use of an existing building as a detached second dwelling. The 600-square foot building was constructed 60 years ago as an accessory building and has since been converted to a cabin. Under the current zoning, a two-family dwelling is permitted and this application seeks to reallocate the same density to two detached residential buildings. A public hearing for the application will be scheduled in the coming weeks.

Council received an update from staff on the status of the Official Community Plan Update project. Public engagement for the project was nearing a roll-out just as the pandemic began last year, requiring numerous changes and adjustments to the plan. Coupled with other challenges, this has resulted in negative impacts to the schedule and budget.

After much discussion, council directed staff to add $55,000 to the OCP budget, which will come from COVID grant funds or the previous year’s surplus. Staff will prepare a revised schedule with a goal of October 31, 2021 as a completion date for Phase 3 of the project and a February 28, 2022 date for Phase 4, adoption of the OCP. The revised schedule will be presented at the May 5 council meeting.

Council then authorized staff to partner with the Cowichan Valley Regional District on its FireSmart Economic Recovery Fund Program application under the Community Resiliency Investment program. This will strengthen regional wildfire preparedness, increase public FireSmart awareness and support increased wildfire resiliency within the region’s communities.

Staff was also given the authority to partner with the CVRD on another regional application, this one under the Union of BC Municipalities Community Emergency Preparedness Grant for emergency operations centres. The maximum individual local government grant would be $25,000, but under the regional grant, this increases to $200,000 if all partners join. If successful, this funding will build local capacity for the Emergency Operation Centre and enhance EOC capacity through training and exercises.

Council was provided with an update on the Cowichan Sportsplex Fieldhouse project, which received a $1.067 million grant in 2019 from the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program. The initial construction cost analysis and concept design came in at $2.2 million, significantly more than the estimated $1.25 million budget. The design was further refined, reducing the construction budget to $1.58 million, which is still $330,000 above the original budget.

Council agreed to transfer unallocated funds left over from the recent Cowichan Aquatic Centre Renovation Capital Project – completed under budget – to this project to cover the outstanding amount.

Council then considered the recommendations from the March 23 Committee of the Whole meeting regarding the Financial Plan and Capital Expenditure Plan. Moving a portion of the director of parks and recreation’s salary from the Forestry Reserve Fund to the General Revenue Account was approved, resulting in a small tax increase for property owners. The 2021 operating budget and 2021-2025 capital expenditure plan were also approved in principle. Staff was directed to prepare the 2021-2025 Financial Plan Bylaw for adoption by council in May.

The next meeting will take place electronically on Wednesday, April 21 at 1:30 p.m.

Municipal Government

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