Four members of Grimsby Heritage Advisory Committee resigned last week a after pattern of abuse, bullying and discrediting became too much.
Kate Sharrow, Mark Radey, Olia Jurychuk and Anne Brabant all resigned after council rejected their concerns to force the committee – which routinely has had five-hour meetings – to reduce its monthly schedule to quarterly for 2022.
All said there was a long list of reasons for their resignations.
“I came to the conclusion that while the Committee exists on paper, it doesn’t in reality. Key recommendations are completely overturned by Council, and the information flow is designed so that Committee is playing with only half the card deck,” said Jurychuk, after noting staff pressure forced her to change her vote on the change to quarterly, creating a tie vote. Council decided 5-4 to implement quarterly meetings
Council reinforced its disregard for the findings of GHAC again on Monday when it voted 5-3 (Coun. Lianne Vardy was absent) to remove Coun. Dorothy Bothwell as the chair voted in by the board. Coun. John Dunstall offered to accept the position and five councillors voted at council on Monday to make that happen.
Coun. Dave Kadwell made the motion to oust Bothwell.
“I have some grave concerns that the chair voted against that (quarterly meetings),” said Kadwell.
“I don’t have any confidence in the chair right now. This was the last straw, so if we could vote another chair.”
Councillors Kevin Ritchie, Randy Vaine, Dave Sharpe, Kadwell and Dunstall voted to make Dunstall chair, while Mayor Jeff Jordan and Councillors Reg Freake and Bothwell rejected the notion.
Heritage resignations come
for a litany of reasons
Comments from Olia Jurychuk
(Regarding the Main St. East Heritage Conservation District): It’s difficult to reconcile the accordion playing of staff with respect to the study boundary. When Committee recommended the initial Robinson St. to Beamsville border boundary to council, it was met with vehement and adamant opposition by staff, indicating that the area was too large. For the same staff to turn about-face and instruct the Consultant to pull downtown into the study boundary, without any justification or explanation given, despite repeated questioning from the public, begs the question, does that blind faith “trust the professionals” still apply?
Given the pattern of behaviours, the tone from the top, and the chain of events, the only explanation that makes sense is that it seems there are players that are still sorely upset with the Secondary Plan having been reversed by this council and are willing to do anything to force it on this neighbourhood, even if that means derailing the HCD study, and wasting taxpayers’ dollars in the process.
Reducing meeting frequency from monthly to quarterly: “Workload” that has become so burdensome, was self-created. On the subject of workload, I will also point out that on at least two occasions, and as recently as the January 2021 meeting, I had floated the idea of outsourcing the property designations, to free up some of the workload from staff, by budgeting for it.
That never took flight for reasons unknown. If workload is the real concern, staffing is the solution, not reduced work and transparency.
Comments from Mark Radey
I moved to Grimsby six years ago to settle into the wonderful community of Grimsby Beach as my retirement haven. I have been an avid history buff all my life. I enjoy reading and understanding the history of our world. I am a proud Canadian who has spent many hours reading about the history of our great country.
Frankly, I was surprised at the sheer amount of pre-reading provided mere days before the meetings where we were expected to ‘advise’. In my business career, we produced ‘draft documents’ repeatedly to stakeholders. This was not always the case in dealing with the town planners. We would suddenly be presented with recommendations made by staff and asked to agree/disagree.
For me, having to approve proposals that would likely be produced at LPAT hearings saying that ‘GHAC support this proposal’ was disingenuous. I supported all the heritage side of proposals, but I felt like I was being backed into a corner of a no-win situation. The final straw for me was watching the committee elect our Chair and Vice-Chair (the first time), only to have a group of councillors decide that they didn’t agree with our decision and attempted to overrule the vote. It is my opinion that this council does not appear to be interested in anything anyone has to say except themselves and their own agenda regarding heritage. This is sad and I don’t think it likely that a lot of people would volunteer their time and effort to be treated in such a manner. That is one way to have a core group steering their own agenda. Eliminate anyone who objects.
Comments from Anne Brabant
I joined the Grimsby Heritage Advisory Committee under the last Town Council. I am a big believer in volunteerism. I am on the Advisory Board at the Grimsby Museum, and Chair of Parent Council at my son’s school, Nelles. My husband coaches house league hockey and is a Rotarian and a member of the Community Fund.
I thought by joining the GHAC I would be able to give something back and put my Bachelor’s Degree in History to good use.
I understand that we were only advising council on heritage matters. They are the elected officials, and we were simply giving them input on different issues. They have called us self-important, ridiculed us and mockingly referred to us as a bunch of soccer moms. That was when there were only women on the committee, of course not including Coun. Dunstall. With the exceptions of Councillors Freake, Vardy, Bothwell and Mayor Jordan, this town council has ignored our input, and treated us with distain.
They do not want us to even elect our own Chair, or decide how many meetings we should have. Our last Heritage meeting was pretty awful. It was over 4.5 hours long and included the committee being berated by staff. A few days later council overturned our decision to not do focus groups and continue on as we are. With less than a year left in our term, the planning staff wanted to lower the number of meetings we would be having so that we could work in small groups instead of as one committee. Focus groups would have wasted even more of our time. It has turned into one of my worst experiences ever.
Comments from Kate Sharrow
Over the last three years, I felt honoured to represent my community in preserving our heritage as the Town embraces responsible growth.
I also had a particular interest because I knew we were close to advancing a 2016 Town proposed Heritage Preservation Study for Grimsby Beach. Although I had hoped to participate in an effective team-building atmosphere, I continually felt that we were not supported by staff transparency. It was akin to a chess game where I waded through incomplete information and anticipated surprise moves.
At the same time, some council members publicly ridiculed our efforts and created an intimidating environment. It made no sense to me because we are merely a volunteer advisory committee aiming to offer our unique insight to the council. They always have the final vote, not us!
It continually felt that they were trying to shut down our voice. I believe this was the goal in the recent restructuring of Grimsby Heritage Committee meetings to be “as needed” with a suggestion of quarterly meetings.
The Town of Grimsby has experienced significant growth over the past decade. Still, our Town’s growth is limited by the natural boundaries of Lake Ontario and the Niagara Escarpment. This has placed significant pressure on our historical communities as developers and real estate agents have purchased many of our heritage properties for redevelopment.
If there has ever been a time when residents need to link arms to protect our community’s fundamental values and assets, it is now!