A District of Kent councillor who is not running for re-election is taking a very vocal stand against some comments made at an all candidates meeting.
Holger Schwichtenberg spoke out during Monday’s council meeting, in his councillor’s report.
“I’d like to make a couple of comments,” he started. “I want to say to all the candidates running, good for you. It’s not easy.”
But after that, Schwichtenberg highlighted some points made in the all candidates meeting, held Nov. 4 at the Ag Hall by some of the candidates.
“The comment made by Mr. Jack Van Dongen using the Canucks analogy and stating that council is ‘inefficient, tired, stale, and worn’. I find it rather insulting based on the projects that council has achieved in the last three years,” he said. He then listed some of the projects achieved, including the addition to the recreation centre, a relaxing of the home occupation bylaws, and improvements to roadways.
“That does not sound like a group of people sitting around being inefficient or stale,” he said.
Van Dongen contacted the Observer following the meeting to say that he stands by what he said in the all candidates meeting, and was referring to the District not being “business friendly.”
“After going around campaigning, I’m more convinced than ever that people are frustrated,” Van Dongen said.
Schwichtenberg also pointed to a growing list of businesses opening in the area.
In 2009, 379 business licenses were approved. That number grew to 441 in 2011. So far in 2014, the District has issued 546 business licenses.
Van Dongen is questioning whether Schwichtenberg can use his councillor’s report to talk about an all candidates meeting prior to an election. He claims Schwichtenberg is “campaigning for the incumbents.” But Clair Lee , deputy elections officer for the District told the Observer that she and Chief Electoral Officer Bev Kennedy have discussed the issue and found that Schwichtenberg did nothing wrong. Lee said Schwichtenberg was reporting on a meeting he attended just as he would report on any meeting, and using his time to clear up misconceptions.
Schwichtenberg is not running for re-election, after nine years on council. But he did attend the all candidates meeting as a resident.
“I was in the audience,” he said. “I just felt some things needed to be cleared up, and if the candidates are going to be making statements, I just rebutted them.
“I stand by my word, and I don’t care if I offended someone,” Schwichtenberg added.
He also noted that many negative comments were made about the new expansion at the recreation centre, particularly due to the cost. He believes the $150,000 raised by a fundraising committee “demonstrates a lot of interest and participation in building this facility for the community.”
Schwichtenberg also noted that candidate and former councillor Ken Schwaerzle has made statements about “red tape” in the District, particularly around signs, that are pushing people away from setting up shop in Agassiz. He noted that the sign bylaw was brought in during Schwaerzle’s time in council, and was adopted unanimously.
“I’m not saying I wasn’t in council when it was done,” Schwaerzle told the Observer. “They need to be changed and updated.”
At the same Monday night council meeting, council approved development variance permits for three long-standing Agassiz businesses. They have been trying to bring non-complaint, established businesses into compliance for some time now.
Sam’s Construcation and Bobcat Services has been operating here for 23 years. Council approved a number of variances, although with some hesitation. Councillor Lorne Fisher was opposed to the variance.
“It’s far above the original intent of our bylaws,” Fisher said.
Councillor Duane Post left the room as council discussed variances for a setback reduction and a flood construction level, for a barn addition at Woodside Farms. Council voted unanimously in favour, adding that if it were an entirely new barn, they wouldn’t allow it. A flood covenant must be in place, as well, council noted.
Finally, Steve Dunn’s marine company gained a development variance permit to allow him to continue operating on Tranmer Road.
Schwichtenberg’s full comments are public record and will be on the minutes to be approved at a future council meeting, District staff confirmed.