Following are the details from the regular North Cowichan council meeting and public hearing of Jan. 18:
During Mayor Rob Douglas’ report, he provided updates from several activities from recent weeks, including North Cowichan’s evacuation alerts for properties near the Chemainus River on Boxing Day following flooding in low lying areas. Heavy snow before Christmas, coupled with warming temperatures, rain and king tides led to localized flooding in the region.
Roads near Pinson’s Corner were closed until river waters subsided a few days later and the evacuation alert was cancelled on Dec. 28. Douglas thanked North Cowichan staff, the North Cowichan Fire Department, the Cowichan Valley Regional District emergency operations staff and Halalt First Nation for the work on coordinating the response to the flooding.
Douglas noted regular meetings have continued at the municipal hall between the Province, Paper Excellence, Public and Private Workers of Canada, Unifor and various partners and stakeholders regarding supporting workers at the Crofton mill impacted by the company’s decision to cease its paper operations.
Good news came Jan. 20 with Premier David Eby at the Crofton Mill to announce the federal and provincial governments are providing $18.8 million to help the mill retool to manufacture pulp products, including water-resistant paper packaging that will reduce the need for single-use plastics. Combined with an additional $50M from Paper Excellence, the total investment is putting 100 workers back on the job at Crofton.
Douglas recently met with Brodie Guy, the CEO of the Island Coastal Economic Trust, to discuss grant programs that could support some upcoming work, such as the Economic Development Committee and community development projects.
He also met with the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, the federal Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, to discuss ongoing issues in North Cowichan and the broader region related to the impact of the toxic drug and overdose crisis and the availability of mental health and substance use services.
Cowichan Tribes Chief Lydia Hwitsum, Duncan Mayor Michelle Staples, Member of Parliament Alistair MacGregor and North Cowichan CAO Ted Swabey also participated in the meeting and were able to provide their perspectives on these issues to the minister.
“We collectively stressed the importance of additional federal funding to assist us with addressing these growing challenges, and are hopeful our continued advocacy will have an impact at the senior government level,” Douglas indicated.
Councillor Debra Toporowski attended the Pacific Salmon Commission post season meetings in Vancouver. She noted it had been some time since the commission has sat in person.
The week started with the PSC First Nation Caucus meetings working with the First Nations Fisheries Council of BC, advancing the collective interests of the First Nations in BC within the Pacific Salmon Treaty. The FNFC supported the First Nations Caucus in developing a strategic plan to align regional governance structure to facilitate engagement with First Nations across B.C.
The PSC is a 16-person body with four commissioners and four alternates each from the United States and Canada, representing the interests of commercial and recreational fisheries as well as federal, state and First Nation/tribal governments.
“It is exciting to see the work roll out and the results of that work coming together,” Douglas noted.
Paul Gowland, president of Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society provided an update to council on its 2022 achievements under the service agreement with North Cowichan, and outlined what is ahead in 2023. The S’amunu/Somenos watershed includes Somenos and Quamichan Lakes and the surrounding creeks.
The service agreement ensures restoration and monitoring work is done effectively and efficiently. Volunteers from the community and schools help with much of the work. Cowichan Tribes is a partner and played a large role with tree planting last year.
Last year included the monitoring of water quality and recording of data in four creeks, which helps to track high levels of nutrients that can contribute to algae blooms.
Somenos Creek has invasive Parrot’s Feather, which has a significant impact on aquatic life including salmon migration.
Last year, more than 1,500 trees and shrubs were planted in stream riparian zones to improve water quality and to suppress Parrot’s Feather.
Trees were planted and gravel was added to Bings Creek to support spawning salmon. In 2023, an aquatic mowing tool will be used to control Parrot’s Feather.
Consideration to approve a Licence of Occupation with Cowichan Housing Association for ‘A Place to Be’ temporary daytime warming and cooling shelter for people experiencing homelessness was moved up on the agenda, as there were people present for this matter. Council referred the issue of the shelter location back to the Cowichan Housing Association and asked it to work with staff from North Cowichan and the City of Duncan to look for an alternate site location.
A Zoning Amendment Bylaw for 6478, 6494, 6493, 6489 & 6495 Paddle Road was adopted. The bylaw received third reading on Sept. 7, 2022. The bylaw permits high-density residential and commercial uses on the subject properties.
Daniel Healey and Cameron Rice-Gural of KPMG presented the planned scope and timing for the audit of the consolidated financial statements. KPMG will prepare the consolidated financial statements of North Cowichan and the Joint Utilities Board for the year ended Dec. 31, 2022.
Staff presented a report on electrifying the municipal light-duty fleet. A fleet replacement schedule for 2023-2025 supports the Climate Action and Energy Plan goal to electrify the municipal fleet by 2030 (Goal 7). North Cowichan’s fleet of more than 150 vehicles and equipment emits 735 tonnes of GHG each year.
Council approved the investment in 12 electric light-duty vehicles between 2023-2025, which will make North Cowichan’s fleet nine per cent electrified. Funds will be allocated from the Office Vehicle & the Machinery and Equipment Reserve Funds, ($493,870), the Climate Action and Energy Plan Corporate Reserve Fund as a corporate loan ($144,114) and the Local Government Climate Action Program grant ($75,276). Sixteen fleet electric vehicle charging stations are allocated from the Local Government Climate Action Program grant ($125,000).
Staff also presented an implementation plan for automation of curbside collection. The presentation noted the current garbage vehicles are in dire need of replacement, and a decision about automated collection is needed in order to begin the process of purchasing new trucks.
In 2021, North Cowichan surveyed residents with curbside service and found 66 per cent were in favour of automated collection, and 58 per cent indicated interest in the possibility of adding yard waste to organics collection. As well as being more efficient, automation will also address worker injuries: Since 2018, North Cowichan has had seven WorksafeBC claims and lost 400 days of worker time due to injuries incurred from collecting garbage.
The report also outlined a new opportunity to explore an electric collection truck, with funding from the CAEP Corporate Reserve Fund, and a further $250,000 on electrical upgrades and a level three charging station from the CAEP Corporate Reserve Fund and Local Government Climate Action Program grant.
Garbage fees would go from $125 per year to $183 during Phase 1 of the proposed program, with a cart size of 100 litres. Currently, residents supply their own carts and the maximum size is 77 litres. The program would provide an opportunity to use a cart up to 240 litres in size, for an additional fee.
After a discussion on cart sizes, council asked staff to report back on costs that consider smaller (80 litre) cart sizes. The report will be on the Feb. 1 meeting agenda.
Councillor Bruce Findlay introduced a motion which council will consider at the Feb. 1 regular council meeting:
“That Council provide a 24-month “amnesty” period for all owners whose properties were excluded from the revised Urban Containment Boundary included in the Official Community Plan, in order for those property owners to provide notice to North Cowichan staff of their intention to proceed with their property development options, which had been available to them prior to the UCB change.”
Council approved the disposition of land, jointly owned with the City of Duncan, to FortisBC via a statutory right of way agreement. This will allow for natural gas service to the new secondary school.
Council endorsed the Jan. 10, 2023 Committee of the Whole’s grant-in-aid recommendations. This includes directing staff to add the Chemainus Valley Historical Society and the Cowichan Historical Society as a yearly line item in the grant-in-aid budget.
Council also approved grant-in-aid amounts for a total of $224,400.
Council directed staff to make changes to the Consent Agenda Policy. This followed the receipt of an email from a North Cowichan resident requesting Council review the policy that redacts an author’s name from correspondence received from members of the public.
Council authorized the mayor to send a letter to Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure regarding the housing development at 9090 Trans Canada Highway, requesting that they authorize use of the Trans-Canada Highway as the only access to the site, eliminating the need to extend Henry Road.
Council agreed to defer the signage for Mount Richards to the 2024 capital plan.
The council meeting was adjourned at 7:30pm in order to hold two public hearings.
The next meeting is Wednesday, Feb. 1 at 5 p.m.