Some residents in Cobble Hill are accusing Matteus Clement of excessive spending of taxpayer dollars.
But Clement, the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s director for Cobble Hill, said he’s just trying to do the best he can for his community, with the aim of protecting its character as growth occurs.
Darlene Davis said many Cobble Hill residents are “furious” with Clement over a number of issues, including the spending of $71,000 for a design charrette for the community, and the increase of local grants-in-aid from $6,000 to $86,000 per year.
Davis said Clement moved the design charrette project forward at great expense to the community, and without providing adequate information to residents.
She said the extra grant funding, at the expense of Cobble Hill taxpayers, is largely being used as a “slush fund” that Clement uses to assist non-profit groups who share his vision of the community.
She said one of the larger grant recipients is the Cobble Hill Events Society, which she claims Clement started himself.
Davis said Cobble Hill residents already pay $400,000 each year for grants-in-aid through the CVRD.
“Clement seems to have forgotten that he works for us,” Davis said.
Clement said the Vancouver-based Dialog Design has been hired to facilitate the design charrette, and he doesn’t see the expense as excessive.
He said a request for proposals was put out, and Dialog Design provided the winning bid.
“We’re trying to plan ahead over the next 20 years in Cobble Hill, and it’s a good investment as we attempt to keep the rural feel and heritage values in the community as development occurs over time,” Clement said.
“Having a basic design in place will help protect the things that people want preserved and allow for some agreement on how development occurs.”
As for raising local grants-in-aid from $6,000 to $86,000 per year, Clements said one major challenge he has faced since he was elected was the few functions in the community directly benefiting Cobble Hill.
He acknowledged that he helped in the formation of the Cobble Hill Events Society, but it’s not true that he started it himself to help support causes he’s sympathetic to.
“I’m just a volunteer there, but a lot of people see what the society is doing and approve of it,” Clement said.
“A lot more people are approaching society members looking for funding for new cooking workshops, garden clubs and that sort of thing in Cobble Hill, and that’s what the society is meant to do.”
Clement also said some federal grants for arts are expected to be announced this year, and most of those projects require matching funding from successful applicants.
“We need to have some money in the bank so we can quickly adapt and be successful in these applications,” he said.
Clement said the next meetings on the design charrette will be held on April 6-7 at the Cobble Hill Community Hall, 3550 Watson Ave., beginning at 6 p.m.