Lake Cowichan CAO Joe Fernandez has been kept hopping with a variety of projects lately. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette file)

Lake Cowichan council briefs: Straw poll on pot shops, muni hall update, more on Gill duplexes

Town slowly moving forward on getting ABG land, too

Lake Cowichan residents will be polled on the Town’s Facebook page to find out what they think about locating pot shops in the community.

Where? Who? What kind of location? Get ready to give your opinion when the poll shows up.

***

The Town of Lake Cowichan will add its name to the list of groups calling for a declaration of a climate change emergency.

In a three to two vote, councillors made the decision July 9 following a brief discussion about a letter from One Cowichan and 49 other agencies.

“Unfortunately our policy is not to do declarations,” said Coun. Tim McGonigle. “Most municipal governments do not do declarations or proclamations.

“But, municipal governments are quite focussed on climate change and how it impacts us. I think we are doing the best that we can with the funds that we have available to us and we are constantly thinking of ways to reduce our GHG. We will be looking at some in the retrofit of this building, for instance, and we’ll continue to do our part.”

Coun. Kristine Sandhu asked what the protocol is about declarations or proclamations.

McGonigle said it was simply a council policy.

Sandhu said she thought council should do something.

“People fear that we’re in a climate emergency and I think we need to keep saying that more and more because that’s the only way individuals can make changes in their own lives. We can only do so much for our community. It’s going to be up to everyone else, the residents, to make those changes. We can’t tell them what changes to make but we must tell them we are in a climate emergency and embrace that with: what are we going to do? The federal government has done that but they didn’t give much feedback to it. We look to them as leadership to guide us. I like the fact that they took that first step. I would like to add our signature [to the letter].”

Coun. Carolyne Austin said, “I noticed all the signatories here that there are no communities,” said Coun. Carolyne Austin. “They are all groups like the watershed board, the garden club.”

Sandhu replied, “Then we will be the first. We are leaders, not followers.”

The motion passed, by a vote of three to two, to include the Town of Lake Cowichan to the signatories of the letter but no declaration was issued.

***

Lake Cowichan CAO Joe Fernandez said work on the municipal hall, which should be underway by now, will be delayed a bit longer.

“I have met with the architect, basically on why there have been some delays and issues to be resolved. The architect and the structural engineer and I are meeting next week to finalize the tender packages and they should be going out soon.“

Fernandez said work would hopefully start between August and September, and then councillors burst in, saying, “Don’t give us a date!”

Coun. Lorna Vomacka asked, “Is this because it was a different design to the other town hall?”

Fernandez replied, “No. Originally we were just looking at doing the roof on this side, not the future council chambers [the old fire truck bays] but we’ve decided to do it entirely. But there have to be some structural modifications made on that other side, the tower needs to be taken off. So they are doing the total roof. The work on the back bay will be done in conjunction with the roofing.”

***

The process of seeing the Town of Lake Cowichan acquire part of the old A.B. Greenwell School site is grinding slowly forward. A public hearing was held recently.

After problems with mould closed the school, the Cowichan Valley school board finally got around in 2013 to declaring the site surplus to their requirements.

According to Town CAO Joe Fernandez who spoke at a public hearing on the subject, “At the end of 2015, the Town of Lake Cowichan expressed an interest in acquiring that piece of property. We made application to the school district and the school district decided it was in the best interest of the community to transfer it to the Town. We made application, and everything was going smoothly until December of 2018 when it was discovered that that property was in the ALR and so everything came to a full stop.

“We had to then make application to have it removed from the agricultural land reserve and so that process is occurring as we speak. They wanted a public hearing to give the public a chance for input, and it is being held at this point and the report will being forwarded to the ALR,” he said.

Resident Darlene Ector asked for clarification that the piece of land in question is the one on which the school building stands and that the property has not been used for agriculture since 1968.

Fernandez said “yes” to both of those.

***

On the subject of Lot 24 Plan 5580: which concerns the Gill’s duplexes land, council is still pushing hard to get at least one of the derelict buildings on the bend of Neva Road taken down. A demolition order final date has long passed.

Representatives from the Gill family told council they’ve had an engineer look at the buildings and say some might still be structurally sound. But, although they promised to send those assessments to the Town, they have not all arrived.

Fernandez said July 9 that, “I sent them a letter, and they’ve come back with an assessment on two buildings, not the rest of them. I did send them another email asking them why we did not get the balance of the assessments for the other properties. I’ve had no reply. At least the one property, which is structurally unsound; we should be looking to begin [demolition].”

Peters said, “I read that report in its entirety and looked at the studies and it’s obvious by its absence that they didn’t have the ones that were unsound and unsafe. You can see it on the plan. They are just trying to say it’s OK. This has sort of been a game back and forth for quite a while. I think we should go ahead with that. I’ve already said that several times.”

Coun. Kristine Sandhu moved that the Town move on with its original intent of demolition.

Coun. Austin asked, “Two of the properties seem to be not too bad. Would we just be demolishing the ones that are?”

Fernandez replied, “the one for sure.”

Coun. Vomacka asked, “Is that the building that’s bulging?”

Coun. Tim McGonigle asked, “Could we ask for the reports that are missing as well?”

Coun. Sandhu asked, “Do we need a deadline?”

The CAO said, “It’s long past. We can just tell them that we are proceeding with tenders on the demolition proposal. The deadline would be on that proposal.”

Vomacka asked, “Would that be 30 days?”

No, Not even that, Fernandez told her. “It’ll be 21 days.”

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