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North Cowichan seeks Cowichan Tribes meet to discuss Official Community Plan

Council wants clarity on letter from lands director

A letter from a Cowichan Tribes senior staffer urging North Cowichan to control development sprawl has prompted council to seek a meeting with the First Nation.

The Sept. 7 letter from Larry George, Director of Lands and Self-Governance, to Mayor Al Siebring reads: “We see uncontained development throughout the municipality as a barrier to protecting our community’s wellbeing and access to natural resources.”

Cowichan Tribes “supports zoning that contains growth in already populated areas, and provides services within those areas to curtail increases in vehicular traffic and carbon emissions,” George wrote. “Contained growth areas would also result in reduced development into natural environments and watersheds.”

At the Oct. 20 council meeting, Siebring said he contacted tribes’ Acting Chief Cindy Daniels and was told that the George letter had not been approved by tribal council.

Siebring also said he wanted clarity on the implications in the letter of North Cowichan adopting a policy “to send referrals to Cowichan Tribes for changes to municipal zoning, as well as all new development initiatives.”

Said Siebring: “On the face of it, I guess our concern would be what does this add to the process in terms of time and capacity….”

Councillor Christopher Justice said he would also like clarity on whether the general concerns raised by George apply specifically to the Bell McKinnon area.

Bell McKinnon is proposed site of a new hospital and thousands of new residential housing units and has been the subject of considerable council debate, George does not mention the area by name in his letter.

North Cowichan has asked local First Nations for input on an updated Official Community Plan.

Debra Toporowski, who sits on both North Cowichan and Cowichan Tribes councils, said George wrote his letter with “good intentions.”

She added: “We need another government-to-government meeting. Some of these questions could be hashed out. We can be frank with each other during those discussions.”

George could not be reached for comment by on Friday.

His letter begins on page 39:

Chief Administrative Officer Ted Swabey recommended that council debate the issue behind closed doors, but the debate continued in public.

North Cowichan and local First Nations are also involved in closed Working Group talks on the 5,000-hectare Municipal Forest Reserve.

A Memorandum of Understanding signed by the parties states: “All communications at the Working Group meetings, including any written materials which are produced for the purposes of a meeting or are otherwise created at the request of Principals, are to remain confidential” subject to provisions of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Further details:

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— Larry Pynn, Oct. 22, 2021


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