• Nick Zacharias

Sudden upheaval in mayorship of Hudson


THE JOURNAL FILE PHOTO/JOHN JANTAK

Hudson Mayor Jamie Nicholl's (shown here earlier this year) letter to council announcing his temporary step back from his mayoralty duties was read aloud by Director General Philip Toone at the December 2 council meeting.

Mayor Jamie Nicholls, in a surprise move, has decided to “step back temporarily” from his role as mayor of Hudson. It was a tumultuous start for the December meeting of council, already charged as it was with an oversized crowd looking for answers on divisive draft by-law 526.8 concerning wetlands. Councillor Austin Rikley-Krindle, the designated Pro-Mayor, stood from his usual seat to fill the centre position at the podium and call the meeting to order, and Director-General Philip Toone read a prepared letter (currently available in full on the town’s website) from Mayor Nicholls explaining his absence.

Specifically citing the wetland by-law, which has now been scrapped, Nicholls wrote that his public support for it has caused stress to the community: “I see that my attachment to my personal vision and values … have increased divisions in the town and caused harm. A mayor should remain above the fray when making decisions in the public interest of the Town.”

Future uncertain

“It was a shock, that’s for sure” said Pro-Mayor Rikley-Krindle, who has now been thrust into a leadership role. Neither he, Director-General Toone, nor any councillors The Journal reached said they’d had any direct contact from Nicholls regarding his sudden withdrawal or its duration, and he has asked that citizens and the media respect the privacy of his family.

According to article 317 of the provincial act respecting elections and referendums in municipalities, the term of a member of the council (including the mayor) is ended it they fail to attend council sittings for 90 consecutive days, but council has the discretion to grant an extra 30 days’ grace.

Director-General Toone confirms that Nicholls can continue to receive his salary during this time. He further affirmed that Nicholls is at his own discretion for coming back within the 3-month window. “Really, we won’t know anything unless he communicates with us about returning.”

Division to overcome

The draft by-law brought division in the town, and on the town council, as many voiced concerns that it would adversely affect existing property values, while others placed more value on protecting wetlands from new construction. While there was talk at public consultations and meetings of adding grandfather clauses to the draft by-law to make it more palatable for owners of existing homes, ultimately a majority of council decided in caucus to remove the draft from the December meeting agenda, thus exceeding its expiry date and allowing it to die completely.

Once it was made clear at the meeting that the issue was off the table, council endeavoured to get on with the agenda at hand, though the aftershocks of the draft by-law continued to be felt during the opening question period.

Resident Heather Short stood to decry the loss of the draft by-law, saying that developing in wetlands has “a permanent and cumulative effect that will only worsen flooding … as a community we need to take a step back and consider what it is that we’re leaving for our old age and for our children.” Resident Louise Craig (spouse of District 5 councillor and outspoken 526.8 opponent Jim Duff) questioned the methods of original mover Rikley-Krindle, and the motives of Mayor Nicholls, and asked that they both resign.

Council will go on

On the day following the bombshell meeting, Pro-Mayor Rikley-Krindle said he is ready to move forward with town business, including the upcoming budget, and had been in discussions with the other councillors and the Director-General all day. In the absence of communication from the mayor, he said “We’re not looking backwards. The by-law is dead. We don’t know what is going to happen with the mayor, but for now we are just getting on with business and dealing with what’s in front of us.”

The sentiment of looking forward and getting on with business was echoed by Councillor Duff, and by Director-General Toone. “We have a council,” said Toone, “and they are going to continue.” With Nicholls absent for now, it will mean that council is a six-member body that has lost the seventh, “tie-breaking” vote should they find themselves evenly divided on issues to come, and they will all be aware of that as they face upcoming decisions.

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