Priorities and Commitments

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Responsible land-use and growth management

Responsible land-use and growth management means accommodating growth and change in a way that meets our community goals - providing a diverse and affordable range of housing options which lead to social connections and well being, while building resiliency to the climate emergency and limiting environmental impacts.

Residents of North Cowichan highly value the rural feel, recreational attractions, and natural beauty of our communities. These are qualities highly valued by others too, and they will increasingly play a role in attracting new residents and investors to our community.

Growth is inevitable. It will allow us to meet housing needs and demands, and it will serve as an engine for prosperity. However, unplanned and unfocused development is wasteful of land, costly in the long term, and often results in the loss of qualities that are highly valued by residents and others in our community. It is essential to retain significant and connected land areas for agriculture and wildlife and to consider the long-term cost of infrastructure expansion and the carrying capacity of both built and natural environments.

 

After almost 4 years of community engagement, the Municipality has recently adopted a new Official Community Plan which provides a coherent framework for guiding growth over the coming decades to meet the community's goals. With the community's collective vision in hand, the task is now the implementation of that vision.

I am committed to:
  • Implementing the community vision as laid out in the newly adopted 2022 Official Community Plan

  • Developing a new zoning bylaw which harmonizes the community's vision with the regulations of how land can be used and developed

  • Advocating for the development of a regional growth management strategy that complements the growth management strategy of the new Official Community Plan and which brings a more thoughtful and coordinated approach to growth in our region as a whole

  • Developing a more rigorous and thorough process for analysing implications/ outcomes of large land development proposals/plans so the community has a better sense of how well these conform to the vision, objectives, and goals of the Official Community Plan

  • Focusing development in areas that can absorb growth efficiently near existing centres to meet social well-being and environmental goals

  • Maintaining the natural beauty and rural feel to all land whether inside or outside the urban containment boundary (e.g., preserving important rural viewscapes, rural-style roads with slow speeds, fewer driveway connections)

  • Ensuring that the community develops in a manner that reflects the impacts of climate change such as drinking water protection, firesmart development, green infrastructure / stormwater management

  • Supporting development which leads to village core growth and revitalization

  • Supporting development that leads to the creation of mixed-use walkable, complete communities with active transportation and transit options

  • Supporting development that does not impact sensitive environments or connectivity between habitats

  • Supporting development that does not impact current or potential farmable land or agricultural practices

  • Supporting development that does not burden the management and efficiency of municipal infrastructure assets and services (such as water, sewer, and recycling pickup) or add to our long-term infrastructure replacement debt

  • Supporting proposals that develop land in a low-impact, site-adapted manner, integrating natural features and ecological systems

  • Encouraging more compact and greenspace-preserving forms of development such as conservation subdivision

  • Working on a phasing and implementation plan for development in the Bell McKinnon growth centre to ensure that the urban design vision promised to the community is realized, that piecemeal growth is avoided, that social, economic, environmental and climate objectives are achieved, and that infrastructure costs are recovered

 
Affordable Housing in Thriving and Safe Neighbourhoods

While certain areas of the housing sector are well served, there is a well-documented need for much more inexpensive, subsidized, or social housing for low-income households in our community. There is a parallel imperative to keep our communities affordable for all, especially for young families and seniors who want to stay where they have lived or grown up. These are growing and widespread issues common to communities throughout BC, requiring action at all levels of government.

 

At the local level, the municipality of North Cowichan is currently developing a stand-alone affordable housing strategy to help us use the available policy tools. Certainly, a part of the solution is increasing supply of affordable housing units that meet the needs of current residents as documented in the recent regional Housing Needs Assessment.  There is increasing evidence, however, that supply alone will not solve the affordability crisis – for the lower to middle income sectors in particular.

 

Through thoughtful, well considered land use policy and regulation, development incentives, and revised development approval processes, North Cowichan can create conditions favourable for the development of more affordable forms of housing - the right kinds of housing in the right places.

 

Local governments also have significant potential to affect well-being of residents through policies and actions making communities vibrant, healthy, and safe, and by creating places and spaces that cultivate belonging, inclusion, connectedness, and engagement where all residents - no matter where they are in life - can thrive.

 

Ensuring reliable policing, fire services, and disaster response systems are key components of community safety, as are increased investment in substance use disorder treatment, recovery, and mental health services.

 

The municipality must also find ways to build resiliency into our community - resources and procedures to successfully respond to the multiple and shifting challenges we face as a community, such as the devastating effects of citizens with substance abuse issues and those who face homelessness, the crisis of housing affordability, as well as multiple environmental climate change impacts such as floods, heatwaves, and fires and current and future pandemics

I am committed to:
  • Completing and adopting a new affordable housing strategy which should provide the municipality with a variety of policy tools to increase the affordable housing supply and to keep our communities affordable for all residents 

  • Incentivizing a variety of housing types (by size, type, tenure, density) integrated into existing villages and neighbourhoods, that meet the anticipated needs of the whole community in quality and quantity. 

  • Assessing how proposals for new housing meet the needs identified in the most recent Housing Needs Assessment Report 

  • Directing residential development to Village Centres where full services are available within a walkable or rideable distance, and where transportation costs are potentially lower 

  • Considering ways to streamline development approval processes for projects that align with the Municipality's affordable housing and environmental policies  

  • Creating a Community Health & Social Well-Being Strategy that will serve as a guide for civic decision-making for relevant municipal initiatives, plans and projects  

  • Developing an updated and effective noise regulation bylaw

  • Supporting integrated planning for all ages and abilities

  • Advocating to senior levels of government to increase investment in substance use disorder treatment, recovery, and mental health services.

  • Supporting law enforcement initiatives, including crime reduction, traffic safety enforcement, and block watch and engaging with the RCMP in their Community Safety Plan and priority setting  

  • Supporting community policing to provide education and enforcement to keep our communities safe  

  • Ensuring fire services have the resources and facilities to protect the community  

  • Ensuring that the residents of our unique neighbourhoods are given meaningful voice and priority in determining their own futures and supporting neighbourhoods that wish to create a vision for their future in local neighbourhood plans

 
Protection and Restoration of our Natural Environments

North Cowichan's diverse and beautiful natural environments are often cited by both residents and visitors alike as among the most highly valued qualities of our community. Our land base is fortunate to still include large tracts of rare forest, lakes, wetlands, and rivers and a rich marine foreshore, supporting an unusually diverse range of habitats and life forms. 

 

These environments, while critical to sustaining ecosystem health and function, also play an important role in the health and well being of our citizens and are an important part of our local and regional identity. While highly valued and providing the community with a broad range of co-benefits, these environments continue to be under threat from agents of change such as urbanization and the impacts of climate change.

 

It's important we find ways to protect and regenerate these environments while still accommodating the growth and change anticipated in our community. I believe the Municipality can address this challenge through carefully crafted policies and strategies that will both protect and restore natural areas and systems and lead to development that is better integrated with its surrounding environments.

I am committed to:
  • Continuing the municipality’s efforts to improve the water quality and health of Quamichan and Somenos Lakes by eliminating algae blooms and fish kills

  • Advocating for efforts at cleaning up our bays and marine environments so our beaches do not close due to health concerns and our shellfish is once again edible

  • Working toward completion of a community-supported management plan for our municipal forest reserve

  • Continue working toward a municipal biodiversity protection strategy that provides a framework for preserving a network of connected ecologically sensitive lands and natural areas

  • Prioritizing the preservation of Garry oak ecosystems and other rare and sensitive habitats in our land use planning

  • Working with staff, farmers, and developers to explore ways to reduce phosphorus loading in our lakes resulting from agricultural practices and urban development

  • Working toward a sensible tree protection framework that achieves biodiversity and climate action objectives without unduly burdening property owners

  • Developing an urban forest strategy leading to increased canopy cover

  • Supporting discussions on new municipal regulations that better integrate development with environmental features, such as site adaptive planning

  • Implementing our newly completed (remodelled) Climate Action and Energy Plan to meet our GHG emissions reductions target

  • Integrating natural assets (e.g., wetlands) into the municipal asset management plan to ensure they are properly valued and cared for, and to explore how “green infrastructure” can help lower municipal infrastructure costs

  • Establishing a parkland acquisition fund and the identification of environmentally rare and / or sensitive areas meriting special management or protection

  • Considering developing an Invasive Species Management Plan

  • Protecting and restoring the natural values of our rivers and estuaries (e.g., Chemainus River estuary, Cowichan/Koksilah River estuary, and Cowichan Bay foreshore)

  • Seeking opportunities to mitigate historic industrial damage and restore natural tidal flows for Osborne Bay/Crofton Harbour through partnerships with provincial and federal governments

 
A Strong and diverse local economy

A sustainable and resilient future for our community requires a strong and diverse local economy. To support this, we must recruit and foster business, industry, and employment opportunities that both contribute to the prosperity of all community members and help achieve our environmental and climate protection and regeneration goals. 

 

We must work toward a strong and thriving local economy that will provide meaningful and well-paying jobs and that helps sustain a diverse range of businesses. A strong local economy provides residents of all ages and stages of life with a good standard of living and provides revenue for community services and amenities.  

 

I believe our municipality can play a significant part in creating a climate for retaining, nurturing, and attracting businesses through policies that support and encourage businesses and by planning for an attractive, livable, amenity-rich community. 

 

Our oceanfront, municipal forests, natural beauty, farms, and food production sectors provide opportunities to create a vibrant nature- and agri-based local tourism sector that is complementary to the values of our rural communities and natural setting.

I am committed to:
  • Supporting the establishment of an economic development community advisory group to advise Council on ways to diversify and grow our local economy

  • Supporting deeper collaboration with the CVRD’s Economic Development Cowichan and working toward a regional approach to economic prosperity that capitalises on our strategic location and natural bounty

  • Developing a municipal purchasing policy that reinvests municipal spending in the local economy – keeping both jobs and money in our community

  • Supporting the development of circular economy initiatives such as an eco-industrial park and business clusters geared towards innovation and sustainable technology

  • Supporting development of a healthcare related business district in the vicinity of the new hospital

  • Actively identifying and recruiting businesses that are a good fit with North Cowichan’s climate, environmental, and social equity goals

  • Supporting the idea of North Cowichan as a regional food hub and capitalising on associated agri-tourism opportunities – emphasizing the expansion of small scale, food and aquaculture production and processing

  • Supporting marketing of the excellent lifestyle opportunities that North Cowichan offers to encourage industrial and commercial enterprises and workers to locate here

  • Seeking ways to strengthen our local tourism sector by encouraging further development of nature-based tourism opportunities such as mountain and roadbiking, fishing, kayaking, nature viewing, and hiking

  • Continuing support for the Cowichan Trail Stewards and other community organisations whose efforts have helped build the infrastructure supporting development of our outdoor, nature-based tourism sector

  • Continuing support for Rowing Canada's entry into the community

 
Accountable Government Spending and Taxation

The downloading of costs and responsibilities by higher levels of local government has steadily increased the tax burden on residents in North Cowichan. This makes it imperative that both Council and the community pay close attention to ensure that spending priorities and the services provided by North Cowichan are consistent with the abilities and desires of the citizens who pay for them. I believe that residents are entitled to feel they are getting good value for the taxes they pay. 

 

Accountable local government finance must involve long-term thinking that links land-use decisions to their associated infrastructure costs – one of our community’s major financial liabilities. Other places - like Kelowna for example - have learned that sprawling development won’t pay for itself in the long term, despite an initial injection of new taxes into the economy. Their planning staff concluded that it's "a gift for Year One and an obligation for 200 years after that."  With this knowledge, they have moved to a more prudent and cost-effective approach toward land use and development that seeks to put the right kinds of development in the right kinds of places to minimize the potential long term tax burden of infrastructure costs to Kelowna’s taxpayers .

 

In the past, we have chosen a growth pattern that is largely focused on building large lot single family homes and commercial centres that are automobile dependent. Though developers may initially pay for the new roads, water mains, and sewer pipes that come with the development, these then become the municipality’s responsibility to operate, maintain, and eventually replace - expenses which continue in perpetuity. Recent municipal work on Asset Management has shown that we are typically not putting enough money away each year to maintain our existing infrastructure, let alone adding to it.  

 

Future developments need to be assessed on their private-to-public investment ratio to provide clarity to Municipal managers about whether it will pay for itself or will add to the growing infrastructure debt and burden future taxpayers. Fiscal responsibility means increasing the value of our properties relative to the costs of the infrastructure we have.  

 

It is important to note that different communities provide different levels of service to their residents. North Cowichan provides a very high level of service in areas such as policing, fire protection, road maintenance, community centre and sports programs, libraries, parks and trails, wharves, boat launches, and more. Residents value these higher levels of service, but these cost money to create, maintain, and expand as our population grows. To support these local services, the Municipality faces growing human resources, legal, communications, and administration costs.

I am committed to:
  • Ensuring that taxes are being used in a fiscally responsible and transparent manner

  • Ensuring that municipal priorities and spending consider the wishes of North Cowichan residents in a meaningful way

  • Ensuring that we have a robust asset management plan to maximize efficiency and save money in the operation and maintenance of the municipality’s expensive infrastructure

  • Ensuring accountability in delivery of services to residents to ensure cost effectiveness and efficiency

  • Evaluating the long-term infrastructure costs of proposed developments as part of the approval process

  • Focusing our infrastructure investment in areas that are designated village cores

  • Tweaking our zoning and other land use regulations to encourage developers to move to more efficient and affordable forms of development such as infill projects where there is existing sewer and street access and where we can avoid increasing our Municipal infrastructure costs

  • Tweaking our zoning to be able to increase our density in established centres to get higher returns on municipal infrastructure