Meeting decorum was terrible Jan. 20
Dear North Cowichan mayor and council:
I respect council’s patience and commitment to listening to feedback about issues affecting our great municipality.
I attended the Jan. 20 special council meeting when Coun. Christopher Justice’s prudent motion to gain a pause in development applications, in some parts of North Cowichan, during our official community plan review and urban-containment boundary review.
I was appalled at the lack of manners by some folks in attendance, and mayor and council’s tolerance of rude, intimidating, offensive language by at least two attendees.
I was also shocked at intimidating tactics by some driving dump trucks and other rigs, honking outside chambers while folks were headed in to our municipal hall during a dark and stormy night.
These childish and ignorant tactics should not tolerated by mayor and council, and security staff should have stopped them.
Our chambers are for everyone to be heard in a constructive, considerate manner. Such was sadly not the case Jan. 20.
I sincerely hope such outbursts and boorish behaviour will be banned during future meetings where taxpayers and other visitors can be heard in a fair and civilized manner.
I also hope council and staff consider larger venues — such as our 731-seat Cowichan Theatre if necessary — for municipal issues causing a potentially larger attendance.
On Jan. 20 folks were crammed into chambers and into our board-meeting room overflow area.
This was not a comfortable nor constructive way for people to be heard and get to their points across to mayor and council, and to their fellow citizens.
To the issue of Coun. Justice’s brave motion, I was disappointed some folks who opposed his motion believed he sought a “moratorium” on municipal growth.
Such was not the case, as clearly explained in the agenda and in other documents.
And unfortunately, Coun. Justice nor our staff took time to clear misunderstandings and misinformation cornering a proposed pause vis a vis a moratorium during that Jan. 20 meeting.
Perhaps imparting clear understanding is our staff’s job.
In any case, I was sorely disappointed Coun. Justice’s constructive, proactive motion was defeated 5-2.
I believe a growth pause is needed while our OCP and urban-containment boundaries are reviewed and revamped considering North Cowichan’s future growth in the face of potential sprawl, climate change, aging infrastructures, water needs and much more.
Without such a pause, more developments, potentially delivering unwanted sprawl, will continue, pending staff and council approvals.
I now urge council to consider a sweeping limits-to-growth study to determine how many residents and businesses North Cowichan can accommodate regarding water, lifestyle, sewage treatment, recreational values, ecosystem and tree preservation, health care, food supplies, farmland, cultural values, climate-change impacts, costly infrastructure maintenance and more.
Hypothetically, North Cowichan council, armed with such factual growth data and population projections, could indeed temporarily close the door to folks and businesses wanting to move to North Cowichan in light of those growth limits.
New thinking and planning — as proposed by Coun. Justice — are certainly needed as part of a new model of controlled growth in North Cowichan, and elsewhere.
I also look forward to council debate Feb. 19 about Coun. Rob Douglas’ proposed, timely environmental protection bylaws to complement growth proposals such as Coun. Justice’s.
How many people can our municipality support: 150,000 people? 200,000? 500,000?
We simply don’t know. Council should take steps now — along with such considerations being mulled by our Cowichan Valley Regional District board — to find logical, realistic answers to these complex growth questions, far beyond community input about our future OCP.
That’s also why I implore our mayor and councillors to continue formulating and introducing motions, such as Justice’s and Douglas’s, for council debate and community discussion in a calm, polite setting.
Without such planning foresight, council simply remains tied to case-by-case proposals that can usher and promote more unwanted sprawl and higher taxes.
Peter W. Rusland