Thank you for voting for community. I’m excited to put my experience to work over the next four years!
These last few weeks have been intense but the definite highlight has been reconnecting and meeting new community members. This community is diverse but shares one commonality: KINDNESS. Highlights from door knocking include, but are not limited to: being offered to come in for pie by Stan and Maria, given a handmade ornament by Stefan and being invited to see Randy’s extensive train set (I hope I have your names correct.) You were all so gracious and it was very clear to me that “you love it here” and enjoy everything Shawnigan has to offer. Cheers to Community! Thank you all for your continued support.
Board Inauguration November 9th at the CVRD Boardroom at 1:30pm
First Community Meet & Greet of the term - Monday November 28th 7pm-8pm at the Shawnigan Lake Community Centre. Let’s chat about emerging topics that are important to the community.
Save the Date Feb 4th 10am – 1pm South Cowichan Volunteers Fair
On a less positive note, just days before the election, a piece of illegal advertising was circulated by Canada Post in Cobble Hill. It was published anonymously by one or more individuals in this community. The Elections BC investigation into this is ongoing, but as I have previously stated, I will not be intimidated by bullies or special interest groups, especially those who won’t even sign their name to a letter. However, there were several accusations and half-truths in that letter that should be properly addressed so that the community has accurate information;
If you are concerned about any of the projects happening in Area B or you wish to get involved, please reach out and connect. I am very grateful for my team of volunteers and the community for supporting my re-election. I am looking forward to another great four years.
Love it! Share it! Protect it!
I will be running for re-election as Area B Director in October. Regardless of the outcome of this election, I want to thank all the volunteers that have supported me for the past 5.5 years. The role of a CVRD Director is very complex and one can only be successful when surrounded by great volunteers. THANK YOU to all of you who have volunteered to be on advisory committees and commissions over the past 5.5 years. You give to the community and myself in so many ways, often unbeknownst to most. I hope you know you are appreciated, I am so grateful!!
I would be remiss if I didn't make a special mention of my alternates: David Proctor, Heidi Goddard and Amber Champ. I am very grateful for your help, support and willingness to always be available to myself and the community. Thank you! There are a few other roles that are key supports for me and the other volunteers: Chair to the APC Bruce Stevens, Chair to the Parks Commission Matthuw Ronald-Jones and chair to the Community Centre Commission Netta Bos and Jennifer Edwards. Thank you! To all the commission and APC members in Area B thank you for all you do.
The concerns that I hear most often from the community centre around affordability, water protection and retaining our small town charm. The CVRD’s only “super power” is land use, so I will continue to support initiatives and projects that strengthen our vision for community and preserve the character and charm that make us unique and one of the best places to live.
If re-elected, I intend to continue my focus in a few key areas;
Fiscal responsibility and affordability; I continue to do my best to address rising taxes in area B. There is a Regional Recreation Referendum that, if approved, will significantly increase taxes in Area B. We already pay more than our fair share due to our higher than average home values (as I have previously written about.) Everyone needs to get out and vote on the referendum question (information link below).
Sustainable Development; growth will happen but it must be on our terms and we must have the services to support it. There have been some previous developments that were approved that were not properly designed or supported by services and we, as a community, continue to pay for those errors. Development must be thoughtful and REALISTIC.
Lake access and outdoor spaces; I continue to focus on the communities enjoyment of our beautiful lake and outdoor recreation. Key examples of this effort are the Rail Trail, the pickle ball courts, the enhancements to Old Mill Park and the parking at Masons Beach. Many of these improvements were paid for with grants and had little to no impact on taxes.
I always have and will continue to stand for this community. I will not be bullied by special interest groups or those who insist on focusing on one item of opposition. As an electoral area, the other area directors also have a say in what happens in Area B, so building consensus and strong working relationships is key to accomplishing the communities goals at the CVRD Board table. I believe I am a strong advocate for this community at the CVRD Board and the results speak for themselves. If you would like to continue what we have started here in Shawnigan, please support my re-election on Oct 15th.
Thank you again to all the people who have given their time to community and ensuring we make sound CVRD decisions for the whole community and the region. I would love to connect, Sierra.
Regional Recreation Referendum
Mail in Voting
The last few years have been really challenging for everyone, both here in Shawnigan and around the world; locally we have had flooding, heat domes and, of course, a continuous pandemic. These unexpected events are stressful on our community, the CVRD and all of us personally and professionally. Despite all these challenges, we as a community have accomplished a lot.
I would like to highlight a few of the more visible accomplishments:
There are several other projects that will continue into the future and provide great benefit to the community. These include:
Of course, there are countless volunteer groups who accomplish so much and help fill the gaps that the CVRD and Province cannot address. All contributions, big or small, are part of the collective effort that makes Shawnigan what it is. We are inclusive, caring and collaborative. I am grateful for everyone who helps make our community what it is.
Love it! Share it! Protect it!
Taxes may seem simple and straightforward, but as far as Area B taxes go, they are commonly misunderstood. The Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) is a complex government structure that arguably does not serve our local needs as well as it could, but I will leave that discussion for another day. I will cover the basics and should you wish more information, I would suggest the CVRD website be your next stop. Your “property taxes” are actually made up of multiple taxes, of which, the Area Directors can only influence (need a majority) the CVRD line item. The other taxes such as Fire Protection (Shawnigan Improvement District), Hospital, Education, Parcel, and Rural Tax are set out and managed by other jurisdictions.
The CVRD provides mandated and community requested services. If you have never been a developer or built a house you may not know this, but the CVRD has many departments including: planning, building inspection, legislative services (create bylaws, runs transparent meetings, etc), engineering services (approves and manages water-systems), finance, emergency services (responsible for 911 towers and response) and Environmental services (creating the plans for the Province, flood plain mapping, water quality testing, water quantity testing, etc.) just to name a few. Many of these services are paid for by everyone in the region. Sub-regional services such as Kerry Park Recreation and South Cowichan Liquid Waste Management are paid for by the Areas that are covered by the services in question. Local services such as Community Parks and the Community Centre are entirely payed for by Area B. Furthermore, you are only taxed for a service if you receive it (e.g. if you are connected to the Beach Estates Sewer.) Many of the regional services we may not actually notice locally, but they are mandated by the Province and must be part of our planning and legislation.
Assessments of a properties value are made by BC Assessment (which is managed provincially) every year and are based on sales in the local area. In Shawnigan Lake (Area B), assessments are generally much higher than anywhere else in the CVRD because we are closer to Victoria (among other things.) Since the average assessed value is higher, we do end up paying a higher percentage for a given service if it is regional or subregional. This is because the allocation of taxes is based on assessed value and are not “flat-rate” (e.g. by population.) Despite this, we still only have one vote at the table (that’s me).
On your property taxes you will also see a separate tax called Rural Tax, which is charged to unincorporated areas. The same rate is charged throughout the Province (with the exception of the Peace River Regional District) to all properties in a given property class. This means exactly what you think it means; every residential property in an unincorporated area pays this tax based on that individual properties assessed value, which means that if the assessed value is 3 times the value of a similar property in say northern BC, then that property pays 3 times the taxes. This Rural Tax is a general tax that goes into the Province’s general revenue. The Province determines how much revenue they need to raise for the year and sets the provincial rate in order to raise that amount of revenue. Because it goes into general revenue, it is impossible to say exactly how it will be allocated, but it does cover things like roads and the RCMP.
So why did our taxes go up so much this year? (1) there was a large increase in assessed values in Area B. In the 2022 tax budget the average home in Area B was $916,164 and the corresponding CVRD portion of the tax would be $1698.57. Area B CVRD Taxes increased on average by 7% but because the increase/total of our assessments were disproportionately higher we pay a larger portion for Regional Items than other areas. We also end up paying a larger portion of the Rural Taxes when compared to other properties in unincorporated areas all over BC! (2) The Provincial Government reduced taxes for forestry lands. In Area B we have lots of Forestry land so that reduction in tax revenue is being made up for by us, the local residents.
I have tried to reduce/limit spending as much as possible during my term, especially when it comes to services that are paid for exclusively by Area B (these have the largest impact.) I have been able to fund many of our local projects with grants and other sources of revenue (like gas taxes, which are federal and can only be spent in a certain way.) As a community we could decide to reduce our local parks budget or other items close to home like the community centre, but this would not be a popular choice, since these are the things that the community values most.
As always I'm available for a conversation, Sierra Acton.
Love it! Share it! Protect it!
The summer is coming are you prepared to reduce your fire risk?
The warm weather seems to be finally here. Everyone is excited to enjoy our outdoor and summer activities. As much as we look forward to enjoying long summer days, the prospect of warm weather also brings on an anxiety around forest fires near and afar. Firesmart is a program to educate home owners on protecting their property and reducing their fire risk. The Cowichan Valley Regional District Firesmart Team along with our local Fire department are working hard to help educate residents on Firesmart principles and practices. I have helped organize two meetings in June for the community to learn from the Firesmart team directly, with time for discussion and questions. I hope you will join us for this important information night.
Firesmart Information Townhalls; The presentation will be about making your homes and properties more resilient to the threat of fire.
Tuesday June 14th at the Shawnigan Lake Community Centre at 7pm
Wednesday June 22nd at the Hub in Cowichan Station at 7pm
What’s new at the CVRD;
The continuous dumping of soil in South Shawnigan results in erosion that contributes a significant amount of sediment into the lake during the rainy season. (On some days the southend of the lake can even be seen to turn chocolate brown.) All this sediment has an impact on water quality and increases the growth of vegetation in the lake, including the invasive Eurasian Water Milfoil (for information on Milfoil removal please refer to thesra.ca/milfoil.) This year at the CVRD Board table we were able to change the zoning to no longer permit soil dumping on forestry land. There are a few remaining permits in operation but moving forward we should be able to decrease the soil dumping activity considerably.
Currently the Shawnigan Basin Society receives $10k/year from the CVRD Watershed Protection Program for water testing and characterization. On going testing and collection of this data is important for the program and it is also a valuable resource in better understanding the impacts of the current soil dumping. (Unfortunately soil dumping can not be completely prohibited as it is a provincial matter, but the CVRD has tried to limit where it can occur.)
There was a recent referendum topic approved by the CVRD Board regarding a switch to a Regional Recreation funding model. This will be coming to the poles in the fall. The CVRD will be asking if you support a user based funding model. There will be more information on this coming soon.
Planyourcowichan.ca is the hub for all community input on CVRD topics. The CVRD is looking for input on many topics as we are a region that needs to be prepared to preserve, complement and sustain a viable future. (Expect community information to be mailed to your residence). Please connect if you would like help organizing a neighbourhood input session or if I can help in any way. Have a great summer Shawnigan Lake!
As always happy to connect, Sierra.Acton@cvrd.bc.ca
Rail with Trail gets Green Light
Two of our loudest requests are being realized through the Rail with Trail project that connects Government Wharf Park to Old Mill Park. This project moves the community towards our goal of getting people off our roads and onto safe walking and biking paths. Support for the project was strong across our schools, local businesses and the greater community, especially village residents. They are all concerned with safety and supporting our local economy and the walkability of our community. I’m so excited for our future as we share our lake in a very special way! I viewed this decision with 3 lenses: environment, economic and social. Environment is protected through the diligent work of qualified environmental professionals, monitoring/mitigation plans and our professional parks staff (who often work in sensitive areas.) Second, I know the community wants to support local business and showcase our area to friends, family and visitors of all abilities. And thirdly, the pandemic showed us that we valued walking and being outdoors more than ever. We can now connect safely right beside our gem Shawnigan Lake as we walk/bike from Mason’s to Old Mill Park. Congratulations community!
There is no place like home
Shawnigan Lake is home to many diverse groups and perspectives with many different values, all valid and all important. Where do we meet in regards to environment, economic and social issues? Through the CVRD’s Harmonized Official Community Plan and Modernization we can design our future for how we want to live, work and play. I have learned if we give lots of input we have better outcomes for our community and more strength at the CVRD Board table. I hope you will participate.
The Official Community Plan (OCP) for the Electoral Areas is being updated to envision a resilient future and to provide strategic land use policy for the nine electoral areas. Policies are being updated to plan for some of the most pressing questions the CVRD faces today, such as: How can we accommodate new housing? How can we ensure safe access to drinking water for current and future residents? How can we grow our local economy? How can we respond to climate change?
Area plans are the places in the OCP where area-specific policies emerge to capture and enhance the unique identities and characters of each community. Policies within the area plans will include: public realm policies, density for housing, identification of lands for future housing and area-specific design guidelines.
There are Four different ways to participate in May. Two virtual (CVRD led) and two in person sessions (Hosted by myself);
Just come ready to connect with your fellow Shawnigan residents and discuss our future. Go to https://bit.ly/3kpVniv for introduction video. I am also happy to help neighbourhoods host a Community Circle on any of the eight topics, please let me know. Sierra.email@example.com
Mark your calendar and dust off your business cards!
The Shawnigan Lake Community Association is hosting a meet and mingle for all local business owners (home based or brick and mortar) and associations.
SAVE THE DATE: Wednesday, June 8th from 5-7
Go to: ShawniganLakeCommunityAssociation.ca for more details
The Shawnigan Village Rail Trail (SVRT) has been part of the Parks Master Plan since its adoption in 2012. Further community input was gathered during the South Cowichan Official Community Plan (OCP) process and desire for the project was solidified during the ThinkShawnigan Village Plan consultation in 2019. In addition to these large community consultations, there were multiple smaller community engagements via both CVRD Parks and various Director’s Meetings. Phase 1 and 2 were completed in 2020. The SVRT is being built on the Island Corridor Foundation (ICF) right-of-way which is 100ft wide. Phase 3 of the trail will have no impact on our local property taxes as it is fully funded by gas taxes. Currently we are waiting for the final design document and the environmental assessment report for this phase of the trail.
Most common reasons why community members support the project;
As your Area Director it is my role to support the vision of the community and address the concerns of the residents. Unfortunately, many of the current concerns can not be properly addressed until the final two reports come forward (The Environmental Report and the Design Reports.) Once these reports are produced, the CVRD should be able to answer the detailed questions of those living near the ICF right-of-way. It is unfortunate that we don’t have all the details yet, however, I am confident that the final outcome will take into account the concerns of all of our community members.
Send me your thoughts at Sierra.Acton@cvrd.bc.ca
Love it, Share it, Protect it!
I hope you have been keeping well. The last year has been a roller coaster for many communities and the same is true here in Shawnigan. With the return of the sunshine this summer, we were able to get back outside and gather with our friends and family. Government Wharf Park was packed everyday and our new trail was being used by everyone, even my mom with a walker. The new parking lot was a boon for young families that are now able to enjoy Mason’s beach without crossing the roads with their floaties. All our communities parks and trails were used this year more than ever.
Santa, I’m wondering if you can put in a good word for us (the Community) with one of your friends in Ottawa? The community has put in for a number of Federal grants and we could sure use more seating areas in our parks, more real washrooms and an expanded beach. These improvements would be fabulous, since most of the children in Shawnigan live off the lake and enjoy our waterfront parks so much A grant for a new playground at Elsie Miles would also really help the pre-school and Community Centre. While you’re at it, please mention the Museum too; they could really use another $500,000 for their expansion. My Son also wanted me to ask you for a drum set. I know this is turning into a long wish list, so if it’s too much, forget the drum set (my neighbours will appreciate it anyway).
Thanks Santa and Happy Holidays Shawnigan Lake!
Stay Safe, take care of each other and enjoy your time with friends and family this holiday season. As always I’m available, your Area Director Sierra.
CVRD Director for Shawnigan Lake
Who decides if we have a trail? We do.
Who decides if we allow development or industry? We do.
Who decides to buy land for a park? We do.
As a community we have several guiding documents that help shape decisions that determine the future community we are creating. As an unincorporated area we have limited tools (when compared to an incorporated municipality), but we do have legislated and accepted documents such as the Official Community Plan, the Parks Master Plan and the ThinkShawnigan Village Plan. All are necessary and play different roles in helping drive daily decisions towards our desired future outcome.
The Official Community Plan (OCP) lays out goals, objectives and policies, including land designations, for the future land use and development (or preservation) of a given area. The OCP also helps guide the Regional District in developing and applying bylaws in the community. The OCP was created by community and approved by the community at the time of its adoption. This document usually lasts for around 20 years with only a few changes to it over time (despite rumours to the contrary the Board of the CVRD does not take amendments to any OCP lightly.) The OCP sets the stage and is basically the ‘over arching principles’ guiding the development in any given Area.
The Parks Master Plan sets the priorities for community parks and trails in and around Shawnigan Lake. This plan outlines key linkages and parkland opportunities within the area. This ensures our network of parks and trails are cohesive for residents and visitors into the future. This plan also enables the CVRD to act quickly when an opportunity arises, since sometimes it is hard to recognize an opportunity if you don't have a Plan. We have made great strides in Shawnigan over the past 9 years; our Masterplan was adopted in 2012 and much of it is complete.
The ThinkShawnigan Plan digs even deeper to create a more specific and detailed plan focused on a small but key area. The Plan encompasses the village and lakeshore from Government Wharf Park to Mason’s Beach and includes the large undeveloped space across from the community centre. Given this areas importance to the community, the ThinkShawnigan Plan has had more community input than any other community engagement to date. The extensive consultation process allowed the community to directly influence how we want the village core to develop over the next 10-20 years.
Many exciting changes have happened in the ThinkShawnigan zone recently. For example, the Community Centre upgraded their signage, allowing information to be shared more quickly and efficiently. This new sign is also safer for migrating birds as it is smaller and not as bright as the previous backlit board. There was also a major land acquisition between Dougan Park (SLCC) and Mason’s Beach. This new 2 acre parcel was originally zoned commercial and could have been anything from a mechanic’s shop to a boutique hotel, but now it belongs to the community and we can taylor this new park over time to best fit the communities requirements. I am grateful to the CVRD and the Area B Parks Commission for their support in helping our community preserve such a valuable waterfront green space.
This is an exciting time for the community of Shawnigan as we move forward on a number of key aspects of these various plans that will shape the future of our community. We have just taken another massive step towards creating a cohesive green space along the northeast shore of the Lake that will eventually have an accessible walking trail that stretches all the way from Mason’s Beach to Old Mill Park (and on the far side of Old Mill Park, there is another trail that continues all the way to the top of Old Baldy.) This wonderful network of waterfront parks and trails will provide lake access and recreation opportunities for everyone to enjoy now and into the future. Love it, Share it, Protect it!
Do you ever wonder who gets to decide how the community develops? Have you ever wondered how we acquire more parkland? Or have you ever asked yourself “how do we make sure the community grows in the direction we want to go?” If you have ever asked yourself anything like this, the answer is we follow a “pattern.” In Shawnigan Lake we have several documents that create the template/pattern for where we want to go. These documents include, among others, the Official Community Plan, The Parks Master Plan and the ThinkShawnigan Plan. All of these documents focus on a vision of the communities future and help chart the path to get there. These plans are important for direction, guidance and funding. Furthermore, all of these documents were developed by community for community. Where the community is on the path and even the end goals themselves may not always be apparent because parts of the plan have to be implemented when the opportunity presents itself. Just like a quilt, it’s hard to see the big picture until the blocks are sewn together.
The Shawnigan Community has just completed another “block of the quilt.” Just recently Shawnigan Lake purchased a 2 acre piece of land that connects Mason’s Beach to the Community Centre. This completes the “patchwork” of community parks from Mason’s all the way through to Government Wharf Beach. This parcel was zoned commercial and could have been anything from a mechanic’s shop to a boutique hotel. Now it belongs to the community. It provides views of the lake, parking for the trailhead/beach and will also help alleviate some of the congestion at Government Wharf Park and Heald Rd. As such, plans include creating a safer passage from this new greenspace to Mason’s Beach and the Rail with Trail. This is a wonderful new addition to Shawnigan’s public waterfront access that we can taylor over time to best fit the communities requirements.
This new park helps address a number of challenges that were identified through the ThinkShawnigan process; not enough parking at Government Wharf Park and the village, limited views of the lake and limited access to the lake for enjoyment (walking, swimming, kayaking). Eventually the accessible walking trail, as stated in the Parks Master Plan, will go all the way from Mason’s Beach to Old Mill Park (and on the far side of Old Mill Park, there is a trail that continues to the top of Old Baldy.) I am grateful to the CVRD and the Area B Parks Commission for their support in obtaining the funds so that our community could preserve such a valuable waterfront green space for future generations to enjoy.