Mayor Rod Peters was to meet with Catalyst manager, Chuck Walls, to talk about weir-related issues. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)

Around the council table at Lake Cowichan: cannabis, Catalyst and Canada geese

Lake Cowichan town council is still awaiting the final tally on its straw poll of local attitudes about possible cannabis shops in town. All forms must be in by Sept. 30.

Lake Cowichan CAO Joe Fernandez told council, “[Responses] are coming in fast and furious. On the same issue, I have advised Kerry Marshall from the province as to what council thinks about the application we received.

Coun. Tim McGonigle said, “I think there’s a little misperception on some of the forms — I’ve been perusing them — as to whether it’s medical or retail. I think we have to be quite clear it’s going to be retail cannabis. Doing the social media round, there is some angst as to why we are even proceeding with this.

“It’s a possible entity granted to us by the province to gauge public interest. Inevitably, at the end of the day, it’s our responsibility to decide whether retail cannabis resides within this area’s boundaries, regardless of whether or not they have provincial licensing from the government. We have a say in that.

“In my opinion, by gauging the public interest we are doing what a lot of people ask us to but on the other hand we are being chastised for doing public engagement. You win some and you lose some.”

***

Mayor Rod Peters is still bullish on chasing down the folks who haven’t finished work on the water treatment plant upgrade.

“I want this on all agendas going forward,” he said at the Sept. 3 council meeting. “I want to keep track of what’s going on there. We have to stay on these guys and keep track of it going forward. We were supposed to get a report last Friday from Stantech and is hasn’t arrived. At this time, I would like to direct staff to phone them and say, ‘Where’s the report? You know we want a report on what’s going on.’ He made these promises and we want to make sure he keeps them. Just let him know that I’m not happy and I’d like to hear from him post haste.

“They said they were getting it prepped for paving, and I haven’t seen anything up there. Maybe I’m missing something but the world is full of empty promises. It’s been a few months since we’ve heard anything.”

***

Lake Cowichan CAO Joe Fernandez gave a brief report on Catalyst pumping water over the weir for the first time in the facility’s history.

“The pumping has begun and it’s working, maybe not 100 per cent. They have a few issues,” he said.

Coun. Tim McGonigle, concerned about Lake Cowichan’s drinking water, asked, “There’s no mention of any turbidity?”

Fernandez replied, “Very, very little.”

***

Lake Cowichan town council is going to start working on an official policy for cannabis operations in the community and town CAO Joe Fernandez said Sept. 3 that he thought the mayor and councillors might want to look at North Cowichan’s policy with an eye to writing something similar.

“It would be a lot easier to deal with a policy rather than to attach it to the bylaw, which would make it a complicated process to amend,” he said.

Mayor Rod Peters asked if they could also look at a policy for Sooke.

“They’re a community that’s a little closer to our size. The distances to the schools and the medical [facilities] would be closer to ours. With North Cowichan we’re basically dealing with more of an urban area, and I know that the mayor of Sooke spent a lot of time on this. They changed theirs four or five times. They have three year temporary use permits that are renewable once, and after that you basically have to start all over again. ”

McGonigle asked for Duncan’s policy as well, so that council could compare them all, and “decide what’s best for our community. You might want to look at Sooke’s because their temporary use [cannabis operation] was just closed down. So, let’s try out three or four different policies. And, also on that, we had committed to contacting the school board if we did have an application so perhaps we ought to forward that correspondence to them, too.”

Fernandez said that council had also discussed limiting the hours of operation.

“I’m not sure that that one would be easy for council to deal with. If you look at the liquor store, they change their hours around quite a bit. I think it would be tougher to manage that.”

McGonigle said, “I agree.”

Coun. Carolyne Austin suggested council could also look at what the Town of Cumberland is doing, as it close to the same size as Lake Cowichan, if they have a policy.

***

After Mayor Rod Peters said he had a meeting coming up with Catalyst manager Chuck Walls, with one of the items up for discussion a possible set day for closing the weir every year, Coun. Carolyne Austin said she’s been fielding questions asking why the weir is ever opened at all.

Coun. Tim McGonigle said, “Part of the concern [of leaving it closed all year] is the possibility of flooding” but added that there’s “a lot besides having to raise the weir” in dealing with the effects of increasing summer droughts in the Lake area.

“It’s not just deforestation, it’s not just construction. There’s a lot involved.”

***

A combination of requests from dog walkers and concern about proliferating poop from Canada geese led Mayor Rod Peters to suggest the gates at Centennial Park might be left open once the ball season is done.

The caustic droppings are hard on the field, he said, and dog walkers have suggested their animals could scare off the geese and make them less likely to return, Peters said.

Coun. Kristine Sandhu said the town could also consider installing some piece of equipment that makes a sound when geese are nearby, hopefully scaring them away.

Town staff will investigate what might happen if the gates are left open, and report back to council.

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