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Economy, fees limit growth

Land owners, developers and other professionals who responded to a Town of Qualicum Beach development barriers survey, say market conditions and a lack of commercial tenants are limiting the potential for development in the municipality.

The survey, issued by the town last month, is now complete. While the main barrier noted to growth in Qualicum Beach appears to be the economy, respondents also pointed a finger at town hall, its policies and fees and political leadership.

The 16-question survey (not including comment sections) stems from town council’s plan to poll the development community with an eye to sparking growth in the downtown core. It’s part of the council’s latest approach to the official community plan — specifically downtown infill. The survey will go before town council on April 16 at their next public meeting.

The survey results show 40 per cent on those polled feel there’s a lack of suitable land in the Village Neighbourhood (downtown) in the first place. Another 57.8 per cent say there is a lack of alternative standards for mixed-use development, and 76.7 per cent say market conditions are limiting the town’s potential growth.

A whopping 82 per cent of respondents said the town’s development cost charges — fees on construction that pay for roads and other infrastructure — limit potential. Infrastructure, land prices and construction costs are also limiting at various levels, according to the survey.

Another 80.5 per cent of respondents indicated town administration — political leadership, processing time and communication — also limits downtown development potential.

The comments sections of the survey is peppered with concerns over political interference in development — as well as people pointing out the survey is skewed in favour of developers.

Yet, the majority of comments point to economic conditions as the big factor in stagnating the development community.

To help forward the cause of business growth in town, the survey respondents states reducing the development cost charges, eliminate required offsite servicing and speeding up the approvals process, would be of most benefit.

Mayor Teunis Westbroek said he supports reducing the burden of infrastructure costs on properties in the downtown area of town. He said flexibility is the key to meeting those needs for the future of the community.

If those changes were made, however, only 26.8 per cent of the survey respondents stated they would begin developing their property within one year.

The majority — or 36.6 per cent of those who answered the question — did not own land in the town, or were not developers.

Fifty-seven people answered the survey, which is now on the town’s website for public viewing.

 

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