North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring. (File photo)

North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring. (File photo)

Water and sewer rates increasing

North Cowichan council pored through a busy agenda met for about six and a half hours during its regular meeting on Feb. 2.

Council adopted the 2021 water and sewer rates, per the Jan. 20 Committee of the Whole recommendation by increasing the following: Chemainus water metered minimum and parcel tax by five per cent; Crofton water metered minimum and parcel tax by five per cent; South End water metered minimum and parcel tax by three per cent; metered water rates by three per cent; Chemainus sewer parcel tax and user fees by two per cent; Crofton sewer parcel tax and user fee by three per cent; South End sewer parcel tax and user fee by three per cent; and Maple Bay sewer treatment plant user fee by three per cent.

Mayor Al Siebring opened the meeting with his report and took the opportunity to share that on Jan. 22 council attended a full day of training, entitled Working Effectively with Indigenous Peoples.

“This valuable session offered new perspectives and insights I had never considered,” he noted.

Councillor Debra Toporowski was a proponent of the training.

Siebring also joined other Island mayors and regional district chairs to meet virtually with Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne last week.

“I used the opportunity to advocate for expedited vaccine access for our front line municipal employees, particularly first responders and our employees who engage in specialized services such as the maintenance of our essential infrastructure such as water and sewer,” Siebring indicated. “As I told the minister, it’s not like we can just plug other employees into some of those specialized positions if some of those essential workers fall ill. I also had the opportunity to ask whether the province would again extend the payment deadline for commercial and industrial taxpayers, as they did last year. We are currently waiting to hear back on both of these requests.”

On Oct. 2, 2019 council authorized the Cowichan Valley Regional District to apply for and administer grant funding from the Union of BC Municipalities to prepare a regional housing needs report, including a component specific to North Cowichan.

MODUS Planning, Engagement, and Design was awarded the contract by the CVRD to complete the assessments and the Cowichan Housing Association was sub-contracted to undertake engagement with hard to reach communities. The project has now concluded, resulting in a Regional Housing Needs Assessment Report applicable to the entire CVRD and individual sub-regional reports applicable to individual municipalities and electoral areas within the CVRD.

Council received a presentation from George Parker of G.P. Rollo and Associates, a sub-consultant of MODUS, and John Horn of the Cowichan Housing Association. Overall, the assessment determined the supply of housing in the Cowichan Valley is not keeping pace with demand, especially in rental housing. There is also a misalignment in housing costs and regional wages.

Council received an update from Jeremy Murphy of Sustainability Solutions Group on the Climate Action Energy Plan update. He also presented a list of potential actions, opportunities and measures to meet council’s emissions reductions targets of 80 per cent by 2050, along with the associated costs and benefits of each action.

In summer 2020, municipal staff and SSG completed the first round of community and stakeholder engagement on assumptions, parameters and emissions forecasts of the CAEP model. SSG has now completed the economic modelling and low carbon scenario measures and is preparing to carry out a second round of community and stakeholder engagement to inform the implementation strategy for the updated CAEP. Council directed staff and SSG to carry out this further engagement, and once complete, present a final engagement summary and recommendations for the CAEP update to council.

Council received a proposal and presentation from SitePath Consulting Ltd., on behalf of Rogers Communications Inc., to increase its cell service coverage by installing two new cell towers in North Cowichan – one in Evans Park and one on Mount Tzouhalem.

Rogers is looking to enter into a license agreement with North Cowichan to enable the tower installations. In order to move forward, Rogers needs council’s support and would proceed with community engagement before beginning installation. Council directed staff to negotiate the License of Occupation. Once the terms are agreed upon, Rogers will conduct community engagement at its own expense for the proposed towers.

At the December 16, 2020 regular meeting, council directed staff to provide a report to review options for short and long-term solutions to address concerns stemming from the increased use of the Kaspa Road parking lot for Mount Tzouhalem access.

The following traffic mitigation solutions have already been implemented: traffic flagging services on weekends and statutory holidays when weather is conducive to high usage; restricting commercial and user group from accessing the Kaspa Road parking between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on weekends and statutory holidays, with times possibly being adjusted by the parks and recreation department based on actual usage; and engineering staff completed traffic studies in 2020 for Kaspa, Chippewa and Sansum showing volumes to be below the traffic calming thresholds, and, as a result, a more thorough traffic study was not recommended. Council and residents received the study in December 2020.

Parks and Recreation staff put forward some proposed solutions, as well as community ideas, to address the high volume of use and congestion challenges at the Kaspa Road parking lot. Actions planned for 2021 include: a new parking lot by the Kingsview/Nevilane roundabout; expanding the Nevilane parking lot, sanctioning and wayfinding of the trails near the Maple Bay Fire Hall; and sanctioning the Mount Prevost downhill biking trail network.

Additional items presented for discussion included: resident only on-street parking, paid parking, a shuttle, booking time slots and more.

To provide short-term relief, council directed staff to install signage to remind users they cannot park within two metres of residential driveways and for bylaw staff to periodically enforce these rules.

In connection with the construction of the new RCMP station, council decided not to accept a staff recommendation to allow – during the construction phase – heavy truck traffic along Drinkwater Road from Ford Road west to the municipal gravel pit adjacent to Duncan Paving.

That road is a ‘No Heavy Truck Traffic’ route, but there would have been some financial savings in using that most direct access route to transport soils and gravel that have to be moved as part of the construction project. However, in recognition of community concerns about the increased heavy truck traffic along that very narrow and scenic road, council voted to maintain the status quo, which means trucks will have to use the more conventional and slightly longer route to access the gravel pit, traveling via Highway 1, Highway 18 and North Road.

In order to increase participation in regular council meetings, staff was directed to utilize a different meeting platform that would allow for public input and questions directly, as opposed to providing written submissions via email. The limit of five speakers during the public input portion of each meeting will be implemented once again and there will be no need to take a 10-minute recess to allow for email submissions during question period.

Council authorized Siebring to write three letters to provide support for the B.C. Hockey League which seeks to apply for funding under British Columbia’s COVID-19 Recovery Fund, describing the importance of amateur hockey in our communities; to provide support to John M. Wilson of The Wilson Group’s request to Transportation Minister Rob Fleming for a short-term emergency COVID-19 recovery contract to continue this essential service until ridership is restored; and to BC Hydro and the BC Utilities Commission not supporting BC Hydro’s request to the commission to increase the costs of street lights for municipalities upgrading HPS fixtures to LED luminaires.

The next meeting takes place electronically on Wednesday, Feb. 17 at 1:30 pm.

Municipal Government

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