The Town Of Lake Cowichan is set to be aligned closer to the Cowichan Valley Regional District in the future as the two work together to improve common local issues that are also scattered across the district.
It is all part of the CVRD’s Regional Environment Strategic Plan as well as the Regional Sustainability and Climate Action Strategy.
Kate Miller, manager of environmental initiatives at the CVRD, came out to the town’s Sustainable Planning and Development Committee meeting on March 18, outlining both plans and CVRD hopes of working closely with council and staff.
“The Regional Environment Strategic Plan came about a year ago,” Miller explained to council at the meeting. “We’re doing a major background study looking at big issues across the region. We’ve spoken to a lot of environmental organizations and mayors including Lake Cowichan’s and we’re in the process of the strategy being developed.”
Five key priority areas of the strategy are climate change, environmental stewardship, human settlement, pollution prevention and leadership.
In terms of the Regional Sustainability and Climate Action Strategy, the CVRD wants to create a higher level plan for municipalities to look up to and take advice from when making decisions.
“It’s incredibly important to have a long-term vision with larger infrastructure such as water systems, heat and power utilities. We need to work together to produce long-term,” said Miller. “It’s not a single issue plan about the environment, economy or social issues. It’s about integration of a lot of things.”
The strategy will look at a variety of issues including climate change, land use, transportation, housing, employment, affordable housing and public safety.
“So how can you be involved? Consider what you like and how often you’d like to participate. Be honest with what your needs are now. Dream wildly but realistically. My hope is that this provides you with additional tools you want to invest in.”
The strategy is being funded from the gas tax and has three phases.
“We’re in phase one right now,” said Miller. “It’s the homework phase and we’re collecting data. We’ll launch into phase two in the summer, interacting dynamically with the community. Phase three is the implementation and we hope this will be by mid 2015 at the latest.”
Coun. Tim McGonigle sees affordable housing as a big issue that needs to be rectified.
“Not all of my colleagues at the CVRD embrace this plan as much as I do. It’s a very worthwhile process. Affordable housing is a regional concern,” he said.
Mayor Ross Forrest is hoping town officials and CVRD staff will “feed off each other” in rectifying the issues across the district.
“I’d like to see all the elected officials in the CVRD get around a table in a room somewhere for the day,” said Forrest. “It would be nice to feed off North Cowichan council, or Duncan council or Ladysmith council. A day session might save a few of the steps.”
Details of each plan can be viewed on the CVRD’s website.