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Let’s celebrate the people of Cowichan Valley stepping up for community.

This is from our weekly Cowichan newsletter. You can sign up for it right here

Everywhere I look, people in the Cowichan Valley are coming together to get stuff done and make our community a better place. This week, let’s celebrate a few of them.

Over the past week, the Stand Up Cowichan community of volunteers led by Sarah Ward raised more than $1,000 to buy two pallets of food for local food banks for the annual event Stuff the Truck and started an account at Island Return It in Duncan to collect donations for families in need. Go Sarah and all of the volunteers who made this happen! 🙌

On Friday, the Cowichan Women Against Violence Society will host a work party to get the newly approved winter women’s shelter into shape before the expected opening on Dec. 20. After the overwhelming show of public support at last week’s North Cowichan council meeting, I expect no less than an army of volunteers to show up and make sure the place is warm and cozy.

On Saturday, a self-organized group of volunteers will clean up the banks of the Cowichan River between the Silver Bridge and the Allenby Bridge in Duncan. This is at least the third impromptu clean-up effort in the last few months, as the downtown community responds to illegal dumping as well as a crisis of homelessness and addiction.

And on Wednesday next week, a loose coalition of groups and individuals will appear before North Cowichan council to ask for a pause on logging in the municipal forests of Mount Prevost, Mount Sicker, Mount Tzouhalem, Mount Richards and Maple Mountain until a public consultation takes place on the future of those lands. The municipality actually owns these trees, which is a pretty amazing and unique situation. North Cowichan has a mandate to manage the forest to the benefit of its residents, so good on these residents for demanding a say! How do you think this land should be used? Reply to this email and let me know.

Let’s gather

Dec. 15: 🎄 Duncan United Church will host a live reading of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Christmas ghosts are welcome to attend in spirit.

Dec. 15: 🍺 Cowichan Valley Green Drinks, a networking group for people with environmental inclinations, will host a holiday gathering at Small Block Brewery.

Dec. 16: 🎉 The HUB at Cowichan Station, a community arts and recreation centre, will officially welcome the public into its upstairs community space, after extensive renovations.

Meet a local developer

David Messier stands among the float homes at Maple Bay Marina.

Last week I published a story about how Cowichan community groups got exactly what they asked for after pushing North Cowichan council for more input on development projects close to home. The proposed new rules will affect how developments get approved, so I set out to talk to a local developer with insights on the bylaw.

Meet David Messier, a local developer and a community leader. He owns and operates the Maple Bay Marina and is the vice president of the Maple Bay Community Association. North Cowichan consulted him and other developers on new rules it plans to put in place that will require more communication between developers and interested neighbours early on in the application process.

It’s a worthwhile effort to encourage better and more effective communication between two groups of people who at times find themselves at odds, David says. But the effectiveness of the rules will ultimately depend on the willingness of developers, neighbours and the municipality to really listen to each other and work together. “That’s when you’re going to see really cool stuff happen,” he says.

David’s been on his neighbours’ good side and their bad side with changes he’s proposed in and around the marina. Better communication can ease some of the conflict, but ultimately it’s impossible to make everyone happy, he says. Putting in a sewage treatment plant to serve the float home community was a popular move—except among some long-term float home residents who saw their service costs go up and their neighbourhood gentrify, ultimately pushing some out from what had been a very affordable living situation.

“We’re talking about people’s lives and how they feel about where they live,” David says. “It’s complicated.”

Ultimately, for David, navigating those complicated relationships in an attempt to maintain his life and business at the marina is worth it. “It’s a very, very cool place to be living and to be able to do business,” he says. “I’m very lucky to be able to be here.”

News of the week

  • Vancouver Island University’s Cowichan campus will have room for 15 more students in the Indigenous teacher education program in 2019 thanks to a funding boost from the B.C. government, the Cowichan Valley Citizen reports.

  • Beginning in 2019, public hearings for North Cowichan development permits and land use applications will take place in the evenings, rather than during regular council meetings Wednesday afternoons, the Cowichan Valley Citizen reports. The hope is that the change will make it easier for members of the public to attend.

  • The board of Cowichan Valley’s school district voted unanimously to support the construction of a brand new Cowichan Secondary School, the Cowichan Valley Citizen reports. Funding for the project will depend on approval from the B.C. Ministry of Education. [end]

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