North Cowichan council received a presentation from its Senior Engineering Manager during the Oct. 21 regular council meeting on the progress of the Joint Utilities Board Sewage Treatment Plant Outfall Relocation Project, which seeks to move the current treated effluent outfall from the Cowichan River to a deep-water location.
In 2015, North Cowichan worked with Cowichan Valley Regional District staff to undertake a Stage One Environmental Impact Study, consultation with First Nations and public and stakeholder engagement which contemplated many routing options. The process ultimately proposed a new outfall location in Cowichan Bay.
Between 2018 and 2020, North Cowichan staff undertook a Stage Two Environmental Impact Study and conducted further consultations with First Nations, some stakeholders and environmental groups. Through that work and the removal of some anchorages, a slightly different outfall location was proposed, closer to the mouth of Cowichan Bay.
“Currently, there is agreement, in principle, with the new proposed outfall location, but there are still discussions that have to take place with some First Nations,” North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring pointed out. “While that occurs, there is an agreement that the project can proceed to the next step, which involves deciding the appropriate marine or land routes for the pipe that will carry treated effluent from the treatment plant to the new proposed outfall location. Further studies, community and stakeholder engagement and First Nations consultation will all factor in selecting the final pipe route.”
Another round of public engagement will begin in November.
Council then adopted the Council Remuneration Amendment and Respectful Spaces Bylaws. The Council Remuneration Amendment proposes a reduction in compensation for Councillors who are found to breach the Standards of Conduct Policy, with the garnished remuneration contributing to the costs of engaging a third-party investigator. The purpose of the Respectful Spaces Bylaw is to address inappropriate behaviours by all persons using municipal facilities, including staff and the public.
An application to extend a Temporary Use Permit for a wedding venue at the Oak and Vine Estate on Lakes Road in Duncan to October 31, 2021 was considered by council. TUPs allow local governments to permit the temporary uses of land on a trial basis to see how compatible they are with surrounding land uses before considering them on a more permanent basis through a zoning amendment.
Since the TUP for the property was issued in August 2018, there have been neighbourhood complaints about disturbances and building safety issues with the wedding venue’s operation, council was told.
After some discussion, council approved the TUP until Oct. 31, 2021, under the condition that the applicant obtains an occupancy permit for an assembly use by Jan. 31, 2021. Council also limited the number of allowable weddings during the extension to only four.
The venue was used by the Chemainus Secondary School 2020 grads for a belated prom.
The first round of engagement on the Climate Action and Energy Plan Update was facilitated through an online session, held on July 27, 2020. A council-endorsed list of approximately 30 stakeholders and other local governments, including local First Nations, were invited to participate directly in the session.
A recording of the session, resources, and a question and answer document were posted to the North Cowichan website and PlaceSpeak for the community to continue providing feedback. Once that round of engagement wrapped up, an engagement report from the consultant explaining what was heard and how feedback was incorporated to update the emissions modelling went to council during a Committee of the Whole Meeting on Sept. 16, 2020.
Several suggestions from the public were incorporated in the model to improve assumptions, including: aligning the population growth projections to better work with the Official Community Plan; highlighting carbon sequestration options better; and ensuring modelling be more explicit about land use policies that may arise from the emissions analysis.
The public engagement and feedback from council demonstrated lingering concerns over emissions reductions sectors and targets. As a result, staff brought forward some options to move forward with the project, and council considered whether the emissions reductions targets should be changed from the current goal (80 per cent reduction of 2007 baseline emissions by 2050) to net zero emissions by 2050.
Staff and the consultant determined actions suggested by modelling for the current emissions reduction target would not change if more aggressive targets are developed in the future. As such, the net-zero target could be used in other policy discussions without compromising the value of information derived using the current CAEP modelling project.
Council decided not to change the emissions reduction target and directed staff to proceed with modelling the costs and benefits of the various GHG emissions reductions identified to date and report back to council with the results.
Two Committee of the Whole recommendations were considered by council.
In response to a notice of motion brought forward by Councillor Christopher Justice, The Committee of the Whole met virtually on Oct. 13, 2020 and participated in an Inclusion Workshop to clarify council’s vision for an inclusive community. As a result, the committee recommended that staff include, in the Council Strategic Plan quarterly reports, how the municipality is promoting diversity and inclusion. Council endorsed the recommendation.
The administration of the public input portion of the agenda during online council meetings was discussed Oct. 13.
The committee recommended council only take formal public input on agenda items up until noon on the day before each meeting for the duration of virtual meetings. Council changed the recommendation to allow correspondence to be accepted until 5 p.m. on the day before council meetings.
The committee also recommended continuing the current public input practice in which it is assumed council has read the public input and no staff summary is read out during the agenda’s public input portion. Council endorsed the recommendation but added an additional caveat that staff must post an aggregate of the public input as a separate addendum to the council meeting agenda on the municipal website.
Council decided to reinstate the Environmental Advisory Committee to help develop and integrate practical CAEP policies and programs through both the pending CAEP and Official Community Plan processes. The Committee will also provide council with advice on other environmental issues, such as natural areas, watershed protection, air quality and climate adaptation. Staff will come back to council with draft terms of reference for the committee at an upcoming meeting.
Staff was directed by council to amend the current emissions reductions targets (80 per cent reduction of 2007 baseline emissions by 2050) previously set to a target of achieving net-zero by 2050. While the decision won’t affect the CAEP Update, council instructed staff to reflect the target in the development of policies in the Official Community Plan. The CAEP will work toward the previously agreed upon 80 per cent reduction.
Siebring was directed by council to write a letter to Jennifer Woike of Farmer Ben’s Eggs in response to correspondence received asking that council share information about how North Cowichan will continue supporting its business, agriculture, contractors, and developers in the future in light of the economic challenges precipitated by COVID-19.
The next meeting will take place electronically on Wednesday, Nov. 4 at 1:30 p.m.