Bam! …just like that — rookie North Cowichan Councillor Christopher Justice has jeopardized the jobs and futures of thousands of Cowichan families.

Justice wants his council colleagues to approve a policy motion that would have the effect of freezing all new real estate development in the municipality while an Official Community Plan (OCP) review is undertaken, which will take two years or more. His motion will be debated at the January 15 council meeting.

The impact of that destructive policy motion is already having a chilling effect through massive uncertainty. Businesses and workers cannot prosper in an atmosphere of government uncertainty, which Justice’s motion creates — in spades.

The existing OCP is barely nine years old and is intended to guide development over 20 years or more. But, these guys want to remake North Cowichan in their own image; like yesterday, if they could.

This move to freeze all development is a major departure from how the transition from an older OCP to a newer version normally takes place. Previous councils did not want to disrupt such a major employment generator and continued to accept and consider new zoning proposals while the community was consulted on a revised OCP.

There is some doubt whether North Cowichan can implement such a policy without going through a formal bylaw procedure that would involve consulting the community. Let’s see what staff have to say about that.

The most recent Stats Canada statistics on employment in Cowichan revealed that there are more than 4,400 people working in the construction and real estate fields. Economists commonly suggest a multiplier effect of two related to construction jobs, which means that potentially almost 12,000 jobs could be impacted by the freeze on new development.

According to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation there are currently almost 240 dwelling units under construction in Cowichan. That’s a lot of work for area residents getting pay cheques to support families.

Justice and his One Cowichan supported council majority seems ready to pull an “I’m alright Jack” move that cavalierly ignores the lives of thousands of people as they pursue a progressive agenda.

This isn’t about sticking it to the developer, this is about rubbing the noses of thousands of people who rely on profitable businesses providing employment.

The knock-on effect of a thriving housing market has impacts all across the economy. Service industries, hardware stores, paint outlets, interior design advisers, trades contractors, furniture and appliance stores all thrive when developers can work in a stable and welcoming political environment.

This all grinds to a halt when politicians stake out an anti-development position.

This council made a big deal of the so-called climate emergency. What we should be talking about is declaring a financial emergency. Costs will inevitably rise and taxes will have to follow, …and ordinary citizens will have been robbed of the employment they need to pay taxes.

The majority on North Cowichan’s council seems hell-bent on turning everything upside-down.

They had hardly been sworn in when they moved to disrupt and abandon decades of successful operation of the North Cowichan community forests. Long seen as a representative of excellence in community forest management, the concept is now fighting for its survival as this council majority and its One Cowichan backers seem determined to turn these valuable assets into viewscapes for the exclusive use of the mountain biking crowd.

For decades these forest lands have generated significant funds for the community, thereby keeping taxes lower, and providing employment.

But, hey, when you’ve got a progressive agenda to follow, who cares about rising taxes and falling employment. Maybe they are convinced about all the Green jobs that are supposed to materialize under their agenda.

On a side note, I can almost guarantee that by the time this One Cowichan supported council majority is finished with the OCP review, housing costs will rise substantially as they move to severely restrict any new housing development. Its hard for young people to get affordable housing now; it will be even more difficult when this crowd is done. More on that in a future column.

20 COMMENTS

  1. I guess the 10 acres beside Justice won’t be devoted under this rule. Well played sir,especially since you don’t want the land developed because it may impact your life. By the way, how’s the construction of your home going right now Mr. Justice?

  2. Here are some FACTS behind the motion put forward by Christopher Justice – its worth a read to fully understand what he is proposing. ——

    Intent of the proposed motion Pausing Consideration of Development Applications in Some Parts of North Cowichan During the OCP Process While the Urban Containment Boundary is Being Reconsidered

    Christopher Justice

    There has been some misunderstanding about the intent underlying the motion. The following is an attempt to clarify the intentions in the form of answers to questions being asked

    Is this motion aimed at halting development in North Cowichan?

    Not at all. North Cowichan has been growing at about 1% per year and is forecast to continue doing so at least through 2050. We will need to continue to develop housing to accommodate that population growth. On top of this we currently have a shortage of housing, particularly low income and rental housing, which we need to catch up on. We would like to see even faster development of this type of housing and will be looking for ways to encourage that.

    The motion proposes only a partial and temporary pause in processing some applications in some areas of the community while we consider how we want to grow in the future.

    Why is a pause necessary?

    While the community is reviewing the Official Community Plan, it important to pause the consideration of development applications for lands that the community might need to take out of the urban containment boundary. This is necessary because these lands are currently facing development pressure, pressure which will likely increase during the anticipated two year OCP review process. A pause will also allow planning staff to participate in the OCP and not be overwhelmed by a rush of new applications in areas we may not want to develop in the future.

    Will this motion stop or slow construction?

    This motion should have no effect on construction activity. The motion aims to pause or slow new applications only to certain areas of the community and only temporarily. Work on any legally subdivided properties would be unaffected by the motion, as would applications for zoning changes or subdivisions in areas outside the designated zone. Further, the motion will have no effect on commercial or industrial development – it will have no effect on the building of the new hospital, new RCMP building etc.

    North Cowichan currently has many years of residential supply, that is properties that are ready to go or in process development, based on our current growth rate.

    What is the area that will be affected by the proposed temporary stop to new applications?

    Though there is more to it than just walking distance, in simplified terms the motion differentiates three classifications of area in North Cowichan: 1) areas outside the urban containment boundary, 2) areas within the UCB and within a walkable distance from a commercial centre and 3) areas outside walkable distance from a commercial centre but which are inside the urban containment boundary.

    Because North Cowichan’s Official Community Plan already discourages growth outside the urban containment boundary, it is the 3rd category that is primarily affected by the motion; areas outside a walkable distance from a commercial centre but which are inside the current urban containment boundary

    Why might we need to change the way we are growing?

    Spread out development far from commercial cores has proven over the long run to cost more than it brings in. Over the long term it is subsidised by taxpayers and makes no ‘business sense’. Maintenance and repair of infrastructure related to past sprawl is now seriously impacting our budgets and tax rates. In the future, we will be facing ever increases costs to maintain our large sprawling infrastructure and need to be looking at ways to make our investments more cost effective.

    Suburban development sprawl also contributes to, and is less resilient to, climate change. Like other communities, North Cowichan Council has recently acknowledged that we are facing a climate emergency requiring immediate action. Our North Cowichan’s Climate Action and Energy Plan acknowledged the relationship between suburban development sprawl, increased demands for energy, and increased greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and also acknowledges the need to develop compact communities that can adapt to a changing climate.

    We need to continue developing, but we need to do it according to the principles of smart growth. This smart development vision is already in the 2011 OCP but we have not taken all the action necessary to make that vision a reality.

    How will the OCP process deal with this?

    The 2011 OCP, identifies the reduction of suburban development sprawl, the preservation of rural character, smart growth, densifying our commercial cores, and mitigating and adapting to climate change as major policy objectives. However, experience over the last decade has shown that the major policy tool – the urban containment boundary – needs to be adjusted to achieve these objectives.

    The review of the OCP will include the consideration of: i) stronger policies related to climate change; ii) amendments to the Urban Containment Boundary (UCB) to reduce suburban development sprawl and automobile dependency; and iii) denser development around North Cowichan’s existing commercial cores to create complete and resilient communities. Ultimately the OCP is the citizens’ vision for the community.

    What is the timeline around the proposed temporary stop to new applications?

    The idea is that the pause will be in effect until the community has decided, as part of the OCP process, where it wants a revised urban containment boundary to be located. This should take roughly between 1 and a half and two years. The last OCP began in 2009 and was adopted in spring 2011. This OCP should be as fast or faster.

    Does taking a temporary pause somehow undermine the OCP process?

    No, quite the opposite. It is a temporary measure to allow the OCP process, and specifically community consideration about where the urban containment boundary should be placed, to unfold unfettered. This motion does not define a new Urban Containment Boundary, nor does it remove any lands that are currently in the Growth Centre. By pausing development applications during the process it allows the community the choice of how to proceed

    Why did this motion have a misleading title?

    The motion was first floated about a year ago at which time it was specific to the location of the urban containment boundary in the Quamichan watershed. Upon further consideration, it was determined that there were other areas of North Cowichan where it would also apply. However, the revised motion somehow got stuck with the old title.

    Is it legal to do this?

    The motion has been through two rounds of legal oversight.

    • I guess though, since it has little effect on development according to your comment, one could simply spend the time and political capital fast-tracking a revised OCP. After all, you describe that most development would not be happening far outside the commercial zones, at least not commercial development, and if the development is residential, that’s pretty low impact. Not to mention that if 1% is all the growth we are seeing then, well, what is this mad rush to halt development?

      And will this undermine the OCP process (and by the way, our current OCP is 8 years old)? Of course it will, since politically, the very notion of a ‘pause’ will inform the OCP through public opinion shaping to make that ‘pause’ permanent. After all, why would the public suddenly “unprotect’ areas that are “protected’, even if only recently by this drastic motion to only ‘pause’. The political maneuvering is a clear attempt at manipulating and shaping public opinion, as the moratorium then becomes the straw man that must be knocked down to get back any development.

      This proposal reeks more of ideology than reasonable and good local governance. After all, nothing has really changed since the last OCP so why would we need to suddenly take this drastic ‘pause’ if it’s not all about making a point rather than good governance? Reading the motion, it’s all about ideology and very little about facts.

      Did we pause development between 2009-2011 during the last OCP review? Nope, because it wasn’t, and isn’t now, necessary.

      We need our elected representatives to work for everyone’s interests, not just their own ideology. Christopher Justice fails on this.

    • Those are not facts, it is the ‘appendix’ that Justice added to try and justify his very poorly thought out motion. As one other person said, if you need to explain a joke it isn’t a joke and the same applies to a motion. The more pertinent document is the staff report that says, among other relevant things, “The proposed motion would essentially table any rezoning or subdivision of the Bell McKinnon area north of Norcross Road until completion of the OCP. This could impact the new hospital in that other development projects would not be participating in the funding and construction of the extension of sewer and other required infrastructure. It may also impact the ability to further Council’s strategic priority of developing specialty services in and around the new Cowichan District Hospital.” So do you want to jeopardize the hospital? This will also sack the ability of new home buyers to enter the market as it will prevent home buyers from moving up, it will reduce supply (as stated in the staff report) thereby increasing prices and property taxes will go up considerably. Still think its a good idea?

  3. I keep hearing affordable housing missing out with Chris Justice’s proposal. What I want to see is developers actually proposing affordable housing. Even affordable housing maintains a workforce. But it doesn’t provide unrestricted profits. So sorry.

  4. This is part of a larger picture and problem we have in Canada. I think Mr. Justice has good intentions but his environmental zeal overtakes his common sense. Just as those who oppose the expansion of our primary resource industries,this motion fails to take into account that there needs to be a good balance between economic stimulus and preserving the environment. Usually the green community supports government intervention in every social aspect of our lives,ie: social welfare,low income housing, tax breaks for the poor,expanded health care etc. But what they fail to factor in to the equation is that stopping economic development shrinks the tax base and governments lose revenue to actually do the the things that the so called “progressives” demand they do. Strange reasoning to me!

  5. I don’t think there are multiple sides to this issue. There is an obligation to provide development services as part of the core mandate of a local government.

    Not providing these services for an unreasonable period of time could be regulatory negligence.

  6. A complete halt of all development?

    Hey here’s an idea!. Why not as well incorporate a hwy toll booth system through NC to subsidize the OCP study. “Welcome, your entering the dead zone”.

    NC is not Qualicum with an OCP potentially designed around retirement, rather we have working class people with families that rely on the construction industry and growth and we all know development supports the tax base which helps fund and maintain hospitals, schools, community developments and social programs, parks etc. I’m not opposed to a new OCP study but to “freeze” all construction is radical and extremely short sighted as well economically unviable. Lets use a little common sense here.

  7. Let’s try and see both sides of this issue. There are certain areas in North Cowichan where development of new housing is putting a real squeeze on traffic and where there is concern about the resulting run-off into watersheds. Infrastructure and protection of the environment certainly play a large role in development planning. Council needs to take those concerns seriously before it approves more development within North Cowichan. The trend is to build closer to the core to enable people to walk and bike to their destination, resulting in fewer cars on the road.

  8. Just to clarify, Christopher Justice has a motion in play proposing development moratoriums to:
    -West and South Chemainus: North Chemainus is CVRD and East Chemainus is the ocean, so Chemainus will effectively be closed for business.
    -West Crofton: North Crofton is the mill and East Crofton is the ocean so we still have South Crofton for the time being.
    -Maple Bay corridor and Quamichan Lake watershed: So, you not going to have a Quamichan watershed without having a Somenos watershed, that effectively locks up everything from Genoa Bay through Richards Trail to the Bonsal Creek/Chemainus river watersheds.
    -Some areas of the South End: I’m guessing the Cowichan River watershed. That could potentially cover the southern municipal border to the Avrill Creek watershed. And that folks is your municipality being closed for business.

    My question to Councilors that are supporting this: Do “YOU” live within a 10 minute walk of one of the cores you talk about, or did you buy in one of the ares you now intend to protect from people like yourselves? After all, those evil “profiteers” will only develop where there is a demand for housing (profiteering 101). Maybe the Council should work on educating and changing public sentiment so the “profiteers” will start building those condos and high-rises with-in that 10 minute walk to the core.

    Little irony to this quest to contain “suburban sprawl”. The housing market won’t stop, it will just spread to the “suburban” areas beyond municipal borders! Might want to rethink this one!

  9. Development keeps people working and generates income in the valley, by bringing in more housing and subdivisions keeps people working and creates a larger tax base , witch in turn helps pay for the services and parks we all enjoy and can possibly keep tax increases down .

    North Cowichan is not a retirement community, there are plenty of young and middle age family’s that depend on the spin offs from development in the valley .

    Give your head a shake councillor Justice , your not there to look out for your personal interests , your there for the taxpayers best interests in North Cowichan.

  10. The “writer” of this article obviously needs to learn some basic multiplication. He talks about 4,400 jobs in construction and real estate with a multiplier of two and then comes up with a figure of 12000 jobs being jeopardized. He also forgets one other thing: this Council was voted in by the residents
    of North Cowichan and if the residents of North Cowichan want this agenda, that’s democracy. I’m not taking sides but if this is what the people chose then this is what they’re going to get.

    • Nothing wrong with his math. If there are 4400 jobs in the direct construction industry and each one generates another 2 jobs that is 8800 more jobs .That adds up to way over 12,000 jobs here in the Cowichan Valley that owe their existence to the construction industry.

  11. A rational man would propose that the OCP be reviewed while maintaining the status quo in the interim.

    Only a zealot attempting to halt all home building and infrastructure development permanently would suggest an immediate freeze to be made permanent by a rigged and sham OCP review.

    Clearly Justice is not a rational man. And to all the let’s-stop-development-now-that-I’m-here people, your blatant self-interest is showing and I can only say, grow up and join the rest of us in the normal world.

  12. Thank you Chris Justice for having the sense to see that over development is destroying our community and the courage to stand up and do something about it.
    You have my full support.

    • A proper balance between environmental sustainability and economic growth is what is needed here. Banning construction completely does not achieve the balance. It will just bring more poverty to the Valley and hurt our standard of living. Justice’s ideas are just out of touch with reality!

  13. Cheers and kudos to councilor Justice for showing great courage in the face of profiteers who would pave over our beautiful valley. Should have been done years ago but better late than never. Thank you councilor Justice for your wisdom and courage!

    • Maybe you missed the “12000” jobs lost or affected part…….
      Hope your financially stable enough to withstand an economic downturn in the valley but most aren’t.

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