A member of North Cowichan’s OCP advisory committee has quit, stating in a letter to council that he can’t support nor volunteer for a process that is “rife with cloak and dagger dynamics and has the effect of dividing our community.”
Chris Crowther, one of the 14 members of the advisory committee that was appointed to help and advise the municipality during the ongoing review of its official community plan, said it has become clear to him that the OCP process is a needlessly adversarial political game that is wasting precious municipal resources and will lead to further divisions throughout North Cowichan.
Crowther said the municipality has not provided a robust method of facilitating free and informed discussion among committee members, and their ability to communicate electronically and with council has been attacked by members of council and staff.
“This infringement on our rights as citizens has cast a chill over the committee,” he said.
“At the end of the day, we are spending over a quarter million dollars on a process that is leading to division within our town. I find this to be unacceptable. Hopefully we can find a way to use the OCP process to find common ground.”
The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, on top of a number of other factors, led the municipality to decide last month to extend the timelines of the completion of its ongoing review of the OCP to February, 2022, from its original deadline this spring.
But, as well as other issues and concerns with the process, including Crowther’s, many in the community believe they are still not being provided with enough opportunities to give input into the process under the schedule’s tight timelines.
At the council meeting on May 5, Coun. Christopher Justice thanked Crowther for participating in the committee.
Justice said Crowther brought an important perspective to the table in that he is young, has a family and works in the skilled trades as an industrial electrician.
“He was really analytical and brought a creative approach to the process,” Justice said.
“I regret that he chose to resign and I think the community is worse for it.”
Justice asked if staff had reached out to Crowther to discuss his issues.
Rob Conway, North Cowichan’s director of building and planning, said a thank-you letter will be sent, but the municipality has not, to date, asked Crowther to discuss the reasons for his resignation from the committee.
“Primarily, he has said the OCP process is divisive, and this is something council may want to reflect on,” Conway said.
“[The process] has been a bit divisive in terms of the priorities in trying to push the plan through. If council wants a less divisive process and more of a conciliatory one, we’d welcome direction on that. The direction taken to date is likely going to result in some level of community divide.”
Coun. Rosalie Sawrie asked if others on the OCP advisory committee feel the same way as Crowther.
Conway said he has heard a few comments from some of them that they share Crowther’s concerns in regards to the way meetings are run, and that their purpose is not made clear enough.
“Many want to see more structure and less opened-ended discussions among members at the meetings,” he said.
“We’re working with the committee’s chairman to address these concerns.”