North Cowichan council met for about four hours during its regular council meeting on Feb. 21. Here are some highlights from the meeting.
During the Mayor’s Report, Rob Douglas provided the following updates:
* Today many of us are wearing a pink shirt. This is in recognition of Pink Shirt Day, which is on Feb. 22. Pink Shirt Day is an opportunity to create a more kind, inclusive world by raising awareness of inclusion and anti-bullying. North Cowichan values inclusion as one of our key organizational pillars and we aim to foster an environment where everyone feels accepted, welcome and safe. This year’s theme is Lift Each Other Up! and I encourage all of us to model respectful behaviours – and to remember that we all have a role in making our workplaces and communities positive and respectful, and, lastly, that kindness and compassion go a long way.
* Council recently had an opportunity to tour the Crofton mill, which is one of the region’s most important employers. The mill has faced a number of challenges over the past decade, however, the recent announcements of federal and provincial funding and new investments from Paper Excellence, are hopefully the start of a brighter future for our largest taxpayer. The provincial community transition team, which was providing support for 150 workers who received layoff notices, has wrapped up its meetings, in part due to the positive news and that workers will be hired back.
* Last week, council participated in the Local Government Leadership Academy at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre in Nanaimo, which provides new and returning elected officials with training on how to carry out their roles and responsibilities. The event included a wide range of topics from budgeting, land use planning, and codes of conduct. It was also an opportunity to meet with other elected leaders from across Vancouver Island, who are facing many similar challenges as North Cowichan.
* I had the pleasure of attending the Islands Agricultural Show, which took place at Cowichan Exhibition Park. The two-day event included educational workshops on current topics in the agricultural sector, plus a trade show featuring over 60 exhibitors, including the latest in farm equipment and professional services and programs for farmers of every size and sector. North Cowichan’s character and identity are defined in part by the agricultural landscape and reputation for producing good quality food and other agricultural products. Supporting agriculture has been – and continues to be – a strategic priority for the municipality.
* This past weekend I was invited to the 100th anniversary celebration for Vimy Hall. The hall is owned by the Municipality of North Cowichan, but is managed by volunteers of the Vimy Community Club, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting use of the hall for the benefit of local community. The celebration included live music, dancing and food and was attended by many local residents.
Council considered five zoning amendment applications that are not consistent with the new Official Community Plan and were in-stream when the OCP was adopted in 2022.
* 1771 Robert St. (34-40 single family, duplex, and multi-family housing units) and 6409 Wicks Rd. (4-5 lot bare land strata subdivision) will be presented at a future meeting to initiate an amendment to the OCP.
* 2083 Indian Cres. (15 single family units on strata lots), Lot 2 Moose Road (eight single family, eight townhomes with secondary suites, 22 apartment units, and 200 square metres of commercial space), and 7022 Bell McKinnon Rd. (rezone to facilitate commercial development) were denied.
Amendments to the Zoning and Building bylaws were given third reading. The amendments provide regulations for retaining walls and fences.
The Five-Year Financial Plan bylaw was given first three readings. The plan sets out North Cowichan’s objectives and policies for 2023 to 2027, and includes a proposed property tax increase of 4.82% for 2023. The Sewer and Water Parcel Tax amendment bylaw also received first three readings. The Financial Plan bylaw will be considered for adoption at the next council meeting on March 1.
The Fees and Charges Amendment Bylaw also received first three readings. The bylaw sets schedules of fees charged by the municipality and includes fee updates to development permit applications, water, sewer, curbside collection and moorage at municipal wharves.
Council considered a draft North Cowichan Investment Policy and directed staff to report back on options that reflect the OCP over-arching goals related to environmental, climate action and social justice.
Three notices of motions were introduced by members of council and will be considered at the next meeting on March 1:
* Councillor Debra Toporowski introduced a motion to direct the mayor to write a letter requesting that the Province amend the 1987 Cowichan Estuary Environmental Management Plan to reflect the current scientific knowledge of the role of estuaries in the ecosystem, land ownership and uses, and climate change; and to request support from Cowichan Tribes, Cowichan Valley Regional District, City of Duncan and the Cowichan Estuary Restoration and Conservation Association.
* Councillor Christopher Justice introduced a motion to consider amending the Council Conference Attendance Policy to allow all members of council to attend the annual Federation of Canadian Municipalities convention.
* Councillor Chris Istace introduced a motion to refer the matter of sport tourism to the Economic Development Committee and ask that they further investigate the proposal submitted by the Cowichan Trails Stewardship Society to develop Mount Richards for mountain biking.
The next council meeting is Wednesday, March 1 at 5 p.m.