With only two Council meetings during the summer, agendas get crowded and the August 22nd combined Committee of the Whole/Council meeting was no exception. We adjourned at about 11:30 p.m. but still had to defer agenda items to subsequent meetings. We also had strong public attendance for mainly two topics, a presentation on BC Hydro's Smart Meters and the Sidney/North Saanich Yacht Club application asking to amend their liquor licence.

HIGHLIGHTS of Committee of the Whole:

  • Smart Meters are controversial it seems, reflected in two presentations, one by BC Hydro and one by private citizens representing a citizen's coalition advocating for a moratorium on installation. As you know, BC Hydro began mandatory Smart Meter installation in early July, despite public concerns about implications for human health, privacy and increased utility costs. In my view, Hydro's position on this is not well defined and when asked why this initiative is being forced on the public, Hydro says it is because the provincial government has mandated these meters. In response, six private citizens provided detailed information about the potential for health impacts, privacy concerns and increased costs to customers for electricity. Two citizens gave compelling personal stories about what radiation and electromagnetic emissions can do to human health. Councilor Ruby Commandeur also stated that her disabled daughter suffers seizures, some triggered by electromagnetic activity. I later brought a motion for a Council resolution (which passed unanimously) to join 11 other jurisdictions and send a letter to the Minister of Health, requesting a moratorium on installation until the public has input, heath and privacy concerns are further researched and other alternatives are explored, which I believe should include an "opting out" clause for those who do not want these meters installed in their homes.
  • An independent report by Opus Consulting to review the 2005 Deep Cove/Pat Bay/McDonald Park sewer project was presented to Council for information. The report made eleven significant recommendations to guide future projects of this magnitude. The report was originally commissioned based on expressed public concern about how the project was executed and why at the time it went three times over budget. Yes, hindsight is 20/20 but lessons learned from such a review are invaluable, especially to our taxpayers. The report will be available on the District website.
  • A development permit application for a seawall on Lochside Dr. created a lengthy debate based on concern about the foreshore and about the length of time it took staff to process the application. I agree that 5 months to process an application of this type seems unduly long. When I asked how the delay happened, staff admitted an oversight and took full responsibility. We all agreed that the municipality needs to streamline, review and look for improvements to the process to avoid unnecessary delays. The application was approved.
  • An item on the Provincial government's proposal to establish a municipal auditor general's office was deferred for discussion to the next meeting.

HIGHLIGHTS of the Council Meeting:

  • Most of the items on the agenda were deferred to the next meeting, with the exception of the Sandown proposal and the Sidney North Saanich Yacht Club's application to amend their liquor licence to include dancing, which would enable an entertainment licence that would mean operating hours of 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m. daily.
  • Sandown Raceway: At my request for a deferral to the next Committee of the Whole meeting and following good points about the need for further communication with the public made by a North Saanich resident and other Council members, Council voted to defer the staff report and item to the next Committee of the Whole meeting. I agree with the staff recommendations in the July 13 report and realize that, to begin the process of wide consultation with other authorities and the CRD, we need to move forward. I have also just learned that the Agricultural Land Commission holds only one more meeting this year so timing is critical to move this ahead. But the deferral enables the public to have more time for input at the next Committee of the Whole meeting and reflects Council's concern that in the summer, many residents are away on holiday and not available to attend a meeting. I am completely supportive of this proposal and believe more timely communication with the public will serve the proposal well.
  • Sidney/North Saanich Yacht Club: The Commodore attended to explain and support the Yacht Club's request of the Provincial Liquor Control and Licencing Branch to amend its liquor licence to allow dancing at the Clubhouse. Local government is asked for its comments on such applications. I understand that the request involves a change in the category to Patron Participation Entertainment which would also extend operating hours to 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m. A group of concerned residents, many of whom reside on Marina Way, attended and spoke to noise and traffic concerns, indicating that they had not been fully consulted by the Club about this application. I am aware of a history of traffic concerns in this area and that residents have appealed before to the municipality to implement traffic control measures. As residents pointed out, Marina Way is a dead end street so what comes in must also go out the same way. As a former Sidney/North Saanich Yacht Club member, I know that the members are responsible and that the Club to my knowledge is well run. But the concerns of adjacent residents must be considered in any application of this type. I moved and Council agreed, to refer this item back to staff for more information and to give the Yacht Club an opportunity to canvas adjacent neighbours about their concerns.