North Cowichan council met for about 3 1/2 hours during its regular meeting and for another hour during a public hearing on Oct. 20.
During the mayor’s report, Al Siebring discussed the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance Wood Industries Forum held in Port Alberni. This was his first in-person conference since early 2020. The forum showcased a number of forest industry solutions and issues. A highlight for Siebring was a discussion around the Indigenous forestry partnership between Huu-ay-aht First Nation and Western Forest Products, and how the principles of that partnership could serve as a model for the North Cowichan Municipal Forest Reserve review.
At the bi-monthly Vancouver Island Mayors’ conference call, with Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne, Siebring raised the issue of the Province’s Bill 10 that outlines how council meetings can be held electronically, but how that bill does not provide the same ability for advisory committees. Right now, advisory committees – unless their membership includes at least one member of council – need to be held in-person. The minister promised to look into this.
Councillor Rosalie Sawrie attended the Sept. 24 Cowichan Valley Earth Guardians Youth Climate Strike event as a keynote listener. The event was hosted by area youth and included a call for urgent action on climate change featuring presentations, speeches and poetry. Councillor Sawrie encouraged the youth to participate in local government processes, including the OCP engagement process, so their voices could be heard.
The Permissive Tax Exemption Bylaw passed. It provides property tax exemptions for five properties: land and improvements at 2359 Calais Rd. and Wicks Road owned by the Vancouver Island Vipassana Association; all land and improvements at 3776 Gibbins Rd. owned by the Nature Trust of BC; and a full exemption for improvements leased by Duncan Dynamics Gymnastics Club and the Cowichan Valley Arts Council located within the Cowichan Community Centre.
A Development Variance Permit application and the accompanying Zoning Amendment Bylaw for 8921 Chemainus Rd. passed first and second readings and will proceed to a public hearing. The variance permit is to increase the height of an accessory building, to allow the construction of a high-bay garage and permit a second detached dwelling unit on the rural property.
Amendments to the Fire Protection, Municipal Ticket Information System and Bylaw Offence Notice Enforcement Bylaws received the first three readings. These bylaws were originally presented Sept. 21, but due to a number of amendments, all came back with revisions. Final adoption of all three bylaws is slated for the next meeting.
The 2022 Community Resiliency Investment program Funding Application and 2021 Project Update was endorsed and an update on the current 2021 project was presented. Conor Corbett, project lead with Diamond Head Consulting Ltd., presented the North Cowichan Wildfire Risk Mitigation program, and some of the key work that’s been the focus.
A new webpage at northcowichan.ca/wildfire serves as a one-stop shop for all the work undertaken and planned, including fuel management prescriptions for identified high-risk areas. A grant funding application will be submitted through the Union of British Columbia Municipalities’ CRI program under the FireSmart Community Funding and Supports Stream Program so North Cowichan can continue to implement the activities outlined in the fuel management plan on Mount Tzouhalem and continue working towards reducing the risk and impact of wildfire within the community.
An Agricultural Land Commission subdivision application for 7649/7657 Somenos Rd. was approved. The application will now be forwarded to the Agricultural Land Commission for its recommendation.
An amendment to the Notice of Motion Policy was carried and will permit members of council to provide presentations as part of its introductory remarks and speaking in reply to the motion. The presentation as well as any speaking time must be no more than 10 minutes.
Councillor Debra Toporowski was granted a leave of absence in order to run for re-election to Cowichan Tribes council.
A public hearing was held for a Zoning Amendment Bylaw at 2431 Beverly St. This is a piece of municipally-owned property that is currently under long-term lease to the Cowichan Green Community. To further support local and regional food, its production, and producers, the CGC wants to develop the property for a Food Processing and Innovation Hub which will include education and training and a community gathering space. After the public hearing, council gave third reading – and then adopted – the Zoning Amendment.
The next council meeting is Wednesday, Nov. 3 at 1:30 p.m.