Several recent developments in Area G deserve an update; before I get to those, I want to send my heartfelt condolences to the Hope Family. Dave Hope tragically passed away in May and will be sorely missed by everyone who knew him. I’ve known about Dave for over two decades through his epic Halloween displays. I recently got to know Dave personally through our interactions at the Saltair Community Center. Dave was honest and true, a man of integrity, character, and sharp wit. I will miss our conversations. My heart goes out to the entire Hope family.
While this is not an easy transition, my wife and I are excited to share that we will add to our family this fall. We’re having a boy. The due date is exactly one year to the day after last year’s election. I’m still deciding if that’s a good or bad sign. Nevertheless, we’re thrilled and wanted to share the news with you.
The Stocking Lake Dam is showing its age, and everyone agrees it needs replacing. The Dam, separate from the water rights, is a shared asset between the CVRD and the Town of Ladysmith. Securing funding is paramount for both parties. The infrastructure funding program that was applied to is over-subscribed, and the application was unsuccessful. The CVRD is now exploring alternative funding options in partnership with the Town of Ladysmith and the Stz’uminus First Nation. A joint letter has been sent requesting a meeting with Minister Wilson, Mayor Stone, Chief John Elliott, and myself to discuss options for moving forward with this critical infrastructure project. The Province has yet to indicate they won’t fund the project, so we’re optimistic the dam replacement will move forward promptly.
At minute 4:28, I asked for more information about why the application wasn’t successful.
Last term, the Saltair Water Filtration project was awarded through a formal procurement process by the CVRD; staff have been actively reviewing the project and have encountered some challenges with procurement relating to design options. These issues have required conversations with the contractor associated with the scope of work. Currently, staff are working with the proponent and reviewing options for proceeding. The CVRD Board has been assured that staff will return to us with more information when it’s available soon.
As your Area Director, I recognize the importance of ensuring our community’s long-term sustainable water supply. Your water is the same water my parents and children drink, and I want to assure you that this is a priority for me and the CVRD. Respectfully, I request your patience as we await a forthcoming update.
It’s worth mentioning that a very productive aquifer has been identified within Area G near Stocking Lake. While there is no immediate plan to develop the asset, it’s nice to have this in our backyard as a growing region.
Saltair Water Pipes
We’re halfway through a 15-year replacement plan, lengthened by several years, while the CVRD formulated an adequate water filtration plan as mandated by Island Health. I know many residents have been waiting over a decade for their pipes to be replaced, and I will work to speed up this process.
First, this is a significant issue for many residents and with even moderate development, our topography has changed. It will continue to change as we evolve. Again, because all public ditches in area G are under the preview of the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure (MOTI), this is a challenging issue. In terms of implementation, the easiest solution would be to bring in a sewer system. Still, I’ve been here long enough to know that sewer has been voted down thrice since 1995 and is not feasible. Unfortunately, a nuanced, Area Wide stormwater management plan in consultation with MOTI (Basically making our ditches work properly) will take time. Nevertheless, this is a priority simply because I know how many people have been impacted by the horror stories I’ve heard of ruined homes. We need to do better.
As you know, slope stability was one of the key issues I campaigned on. For some, slope stability is why many of you voted for me. This issue is difficult for me to update you on as I can only speak particulars once they’re brought before the Board. I will ensure that the staff continues to hear your concerns. I am working closely with staff to figure out how to deal with the Stantec Report and the uncertainties expressed in the report. It’s doubtful that the initially constructed bylaw will move forward. Several alternatives and actions are being considered.
Three Stream Curbside Collection
In the southern region of the CVRD, a private company has been collecting Organic waste for some time. The ￼directors of those areas wanted to see a private-public hybrid model implemented for collection.
At the Electoral Area Service (ESA) committee on June 21, we had a lengthy debate about a fully public or private-public hybrid model for curbside collection. We were up against a timeline crunch as CVRD staff needed direction on purchasing additional trucks, for which the cost would have increased if not ordered before July 1. The motion to purchase the trucks needed for a fully public model was passed 6-3. It was sent to the June 28 Board meeting for ratification.
These were the arguments I made at the ESA committee.
To listen to the full discussion, go to minute 52.
On June 28, I turned 43. While driving to the CVRD for my Board meeting and contemplating my “middle-agedness,” discussing who takes out the garbage seemed entirely appropriate. Ultimately the Board passed a motion that the three-stream service, to be implemented in 2025, will be fully public.
The new service will see garbage, recycling and organics collection in all corners of the regional district, including currently underserved residents. As the Cowichan population grows, this decision will significantly reduce organic waste in our landfills and reduce contamination of curbside recycling.
CVRD staff will present a report to the CVRD Board on the public consultation for the curbside service option. The CVRD Board also directed staff to continue discussions with Pan Disposal—a private waste collection service company operating in the South end of the Cowichan region for many years.
Public Transit & Saltair
As I previously shared at my last community meeting, BC Transit, at my request, is including Area G in its regional feasibility study, which should be completed soon. I have received many emails and phone calls both equally for and against public transit in Area G.
The cons are concerned about tax increases and a minimum 5-year commitment. At the same time, the pros want to support our teens and seniors lacking mobility options. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and connecting Area G to the rest of the region and island are also arguments. I am keeping a very open mind, and before any decision is made one way or the other, I will hold a community meeting to make sure you have the opportunity to speak with me. I will listen to everyone who wishes to discuss this issue.
As many of you know, I grew up on Thetis Island, and now living in Saltair, I have a great view of Thetis from my dining room window, and it’s true, it’s always just a little more excellent over on Thetis Island. The secret is out.
Picture taken at the bottom of Bazan Rd. on June 11th.
Thetis Island Community Dock
Thetis does not have a doctor, and with over 60 medical emergencies every year, the community dock is the lifeline for help. Just after I was elected, it was quickly brought to my attention by Thetis Island First Responders that there were serious concerns with the community dock. A barricade was placed at the entrance because the dock is very old and not structurally sound for vehicles, preventing First Responders from pulling onto the dock, off the narrow road, and out of harm’s way. Thetis has limited traffic, but when the ferry unloads in the winter during bad weather, it creates a dangerous situation.
I am so happy to report that funding improvements for the dock have been approved, allowing First Responders to pull off the road and onto the upper portion of the dock out of harm’s way.
Fibre Optics is Coming to Thetis
The CVRD will be a crucial player in the rollout of connectivity infrastructure for Thetis and Penelakut Islands, Cowichan Station, Ditidaht First Nation, and the Cowichan Lake Region. Focussing on advocacy, affordability, access, and infrastructure for cellular coverage, the CVRD Community Connectivity Plan outlines specific technologies, network plans and funding models to improve service. More information will be made available in the coming months.
Saltair Community Center
Firstly, the Saltair Community Centre Society deserves a big thank you for awarding three $500 bursaries to Saltair students Danika Wright, Taylor Laronde and Quinten Demeter. All the best on your next journey in post-secondary education!
The CVRD has a Recreation Service Agreement with the Saltair Community Center Society and a Board Directive 2017 that the CVRD will take a phased approach to improve the building over time. The Society has committed to assume the operation and maintenance of the building as its capacity allows.
I have been extremely pleased with the net benefit the Society and the community center add. The community center houses the daycare, Little Inquiring Minds, serving dozens of families throughout the region; it’s where our Advisory Planning Commission and Parks Advisory Committee meet to discuss critical local issues; it’s where small business get their start; it’s where we can easily vote in our Federal and Provincial elections (ironically not our local election, which I hope to change). Still, most importantly, it’s a place where we can gather as a community.
At the July 12th Board meeting, The Saltair Community Centre Society was unanimously granted a 20-year lease renewal. ￼We are all very fortunate to have a dedicated group of volunteers who run and maintain our community center. Please check out the community centre website at www.SaltairCommunityCentre.ca, also the home of Inquiring Little Minds Daycare, for upcoming programs, events and fun groups to join.
Saltair Centennial Park
Baseball is back, and it’s been great to hear the crack of the bat. It’s good to know that the Centennial Park Ball fields continue to be used as our grandparents intended. I was honoured to throw out the first pitch at this Dave Hope Memorial year-end tournament. By all accounts, it was a fantastic, fun weekend.
Saltair Centennial Park Revitalization Plan
Pickleball, Basketball, & Tennis
Last winter, after discussions with the outgoing and incoming Parks Advisory Committee and CVRD staff, I approved a short-term loan to speed up a seven-year revitalization plan, which is now underway and scheduled to be completed this coming September.
When I was a young teen, my friends and I had nowhere to play roller hockey. We tried playing on the tennis courts, but the tennis players didn’t take kindly to errant slapshots. Magically one day, a rollerblade court appeared, and we could not have been happier. The roles are now reversed, and despite learning firsthand that infrastructure projects don’t just magically happen, retired and retiring residents will now have beautiful facilities to play pickleball, tennis and just maybe a game of pickup basketball with the teens.
My colleague Director Acton and I proposed food trucks in our parks for special events. While we’re likely to see them sometime soon, CVRD staff said they would come to the Board with more information regarding the feasibility. At next year’s end baseball tournament, you can enjoy a pretzel or a taco in the beer gardens.
Advisory Planning Commission
Members of the Advisory Planning Commission (APC) who were able to attend orientation received formal training. APCs are mandated legal bodies by the province for all regional districts. Important land use issues are usually referred to the APC for discussion and comment. They provide the director of the area and the Board with valuable local Insight into potential land use decisions. Despite being new to the role, as there wasn’t an official APC last term, the volunteers are thoughtful, intelligent, and long-residing community members who want to make recommendations that are in the interests of our community.
Parks Advisory Committee
Like the APC, the Parks Advisory Committee attended their orientation and training. Today no issues have been referred to the PAC for comment, but several pending matters will soon be referred. Some of these issues include: whether to keep the trails in Princess Diana Park natural or to upgrade with crushed gravel; additional improvements for Saltair Centennial Park like the addition of a skate park or upgrades to the playground or both; a dedicated dog off-leash area, expansion of the Stocking Creek trail network; improvement to beach access infrastructure and food trucks. These are all critical priorities that deserve careful consideration and conversation.
After being elected, I only had a few weeks to review and consider the local Area G parks budget, which is a sizable portion of your tax requisition. This year the PAC and I will have several months to review the 2024 budget to consider more closely line items such as invasive species removal and student programs. Like the APC, the PAC comprises nine volunteers dedicated to the best interest of our community.
I want to give a special shout-out to the CanCo convenience store. I’ve spoken with Irene (staff) several times, and she’s asked me to thank you for your ongoing support. It’s not easy to run a small business in a rural community, and with your continued support, it’s possible. They’ve taken extra steps to improve your shopping experience by renovating and opening the consignment store. For those of you who have lived here for a while, the consignment store is where the pet food store and the video store used to be. If you have any gently used items you want to sell on consignment, don’t hesitate to contact Sanjay, the store manager, at 250-846-7929.
Val Irwin Finally Gets Her Permit
While deciding if I should run as a candidate in last fall’s election, I was lucky enough to meet Val Irwin. A few years ago, Val applied to the CVRD to update a legal non-conforming secondary dwelling to make it more livable for her disabled daughter. The two dwellings on her property had been there for many years and pre-dated the CVRD. The previous Board denied her application for a variance permit, meaning she couldn’t make necessary improvements to her secondary dwelling. The decision did not sit well with me and greatly motivated me to throw my hat in the ring.
I’m very happy to announce that Val’s application has been approved. Supporting families as they work to care for each other is a great perk that comes with this role.
Official Community Plan (OCP)
Over the past several years, the CVRD has harmonized the nine official Community plans with electoral service areas. Harmonization means that the names for different zoning will be standardized and consistent across the nine areas, significantly improving administration and implementation. The next step, which is already underway, is to modernize our official community plan. This process is already well underway, and it’s an exciting time to be an elected official, as OCPs are typically updated once a generation. Our new OCP will be referred to for land use planning decisions for decades.
Thank you to everyone who attended the Ideas Fairs in February. Area G had one of the largest turnouts in the CVRD, and the community response was fantastic. CVRD Staff is now incorporating your feedback into the preliminary draft of our Official Community Plan. Hence, a strong turnout was vital to its legitimacy. One of the key messages that we heard over and over is that families want to have more flexibility with their properties. Retiring and younger folks wish to care for their loved ones better while staying on their property. The updated OCP and its bylaws will better reflect the wishes of everyone in our community for years to come while maintaining the rule charm we all know and love. As previously mentioned, portions of the preliminary OCP were referred to the APC for comments, and their remarks affirmed the communities sentiments.
Cowichan Trail Parking Lot at North Watts Road?
The new North Watts Road parking lot, which provides access to the Cowichan Valley Trail, is a regional asset (i.e. not controlled locally like the Saltair Centennial Park) brought in under the previous Board. It is a positive net asset, but I’ve certainly heard concerns. Several weeks ago, I created a post on Facebook asking for comments, and it was by far my most read and commented post of the year. Comments picked up again when the gates were installed, which aligns with dawn-to-dark park usage throughout the CVRD. I expect more words to pick up again when the bathrooms are installed.
Some other consistent critiques include the ditch depth and placement of the sidewalk. Unfortunately, these concerns are utterly and entirely outside my influence as roads and ditches are managed, maintained and implemented by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI). I’ve only had a few interactions with MOTI. When done haggling, I usually feel like a 3-year-old without a nap trying to negotiate for an extra scoop of ice cream before bed. Interfacing with MOTI is frustrating, but I will persevere. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely you’ll see changes soon regarding the road or ditch near the parking lot; this includes flashing lights at the crosswalk.
Despite all the challenges and imperfect design, the parking lot makes the trail much more accessible and significantly safer. I’ve heard from a few business owners that many people park at that spot and then ride the Saltair coffee shop and onto Chemainus for the afternoon for sightseeing. These visitors are great for the local tourism economy.
Despite our taxes increasing by a double-digit percentage last year, in 2023, Area G became the lowest tax jurisdiction in the CVRD. After an initial recommendation of 6% from staff, the Board passed a mandate for staff to present a 2024 budget with a 3.5% increase in core regional services, which is less than the inflation rate for the year. A few services, like Region Recreation and the Vancouver Island Regional Library, are exempt from the mandate, so the initial budget will probably come closer to 4.5% before supplementals. These are very early and preliminary estimates. I will keep you updated as more information is available in the fall.
Community Works Fund (Gas Tax Money)
In June 2019, a report was brought to the EAS committee detailing the amount coming to the CVRD provincial Community Works Fund. This amount was $10,064,743. Since that report, the CVRD received a one-time extra payment in 2021 of $1,628,092. Staff brought a report to the July 19 EAS committee meeting detailing the breakdown of this additional funding to the agreed-upon formula from the June 2019 meeting.
The extra payment will be allocated using the formula below and must be administered by March 31, 2024.
- 60% distributed out to the Electoral Area Directors based on the 2021 population
- 30% distributed to Asset Management Infrastructure Investment projects
- 10% allocated to Asset Management Capacity Building projects
Growing Communities Fund
In addition to the Gas Tax Money, the Province awarded the Regional Distinct more than five million dollars through the Growing Communities Fund. The Province expects the Regional District Board and Staff will make decisions to allocate these funds in a way that best serves the growing communities in our region, regardless of location. In the fall, staff will present a list of suitable projects and priorities for the Board to consider. All Growing Communities Funds must be allocated by December 31, 2023, and spent within five years of receipt. I will be advocating for projects in Area G.
Next Community Meeting
I’m planning to hold my next community meeting in September. Recently, a few residents mentioned that they would like the opportunity to hear from me in person on a more regular basis even if I don’t have a significant update to provide. I’m considering implementing a monthly “Community Conversation” meeting where you can ask me questions in an informal but public setting. If this is a good idea, please let me know.
Cowichan takes its name from “Quw’utsun.” It is rooted in the Hul’q’umi’num word “shquw’utsun” which directly translates “to warm one’s back in the sun.” The Regional District sits on the traditional, unseated territories of the Cowichan tribes and the Ditidaht, Penelakut, Halalt, Stz’uminus, Lake Cowichan, Lyackson, and Malahat First Nations. The region covers over 3,400 km2 on Vancouver Island and the Southern Gulf Islands, between Malahat, Mill Bay and North Oyster. With Western Edge touching the Pacific Ocean and the Eastern Edge, the Salish Sea, more than 90,000 people live in the region’s four municipalities and nine electoral areas.
I hope you have a wonderful summer. If you can’t get a hold of me you can usually find me here.