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Boundary debate heats up in Qualicum Beach

Bruce Fleming-Smith made a presentation to the Qualicum Beach Residents’ Association Friday afternoon regarding the possible change of the town’s growth containment boundary, which requires an amendment to the OCP. - LISSA ALEXANDER PHOTO
Bruce Fleming-Smith made a presentation to the Qualicum Beach Residents’ Association Friday afternoon regarding the possible change of the town’s growth containment boundary, which requires an amendment to the OCP.
— image credit: LISSA ALEXANDER PHOTO

Bruce Fleming-Smith said he doesn't think changing Qualicum Beach's Growth Containment Boundary would necessarily mean fundamental changes to the outlying "green zone" areas, but he said he's still not happy about how the process at the town is unfolding.

Fleming-Smith made a presentation at a public information meeting hosted by the Qualicum Beach Residents' Association Friday afternoon to about 70 people. The meeting was meant to provide residents with information to the current Official Community Plan review and amendment process that could lead to an amendment to the Regional Growth Strategy.

This surrounds the proposal to align the town's Growth Containment Boundary (GCB) with the town's Municipal Boundary, instead of with the town's Urban Containment Boundary (UCB), with which it is currently aligned. The GCB is a feature of RDN's Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) and pushing back the GCB would mean Qualicum town council would have complete autonomy over land-use decisions within town boundaries (other than land in the Agricultural Land Reserve). The town would therefore no longer have to get approval from the RDN for development and servicing within the town boundaries.

Fleming-Smith said many residents are concerned about the changes that could occur to the outlying areas he calls the green zone (which are not currently in the GCB), which include ALR Land, the Pheasant Glen property, the land where the new fire hall will be built and the estate area around Judges Row, among other areas. But if the current proposed amendment goes through, that green zone's security will not be challenged, he said.

However to make this minor amendment (as the town is calling it) to the RGS, a full OCP review is meant to take place and meetings held by the town to date have not been adequate, he said.

"In the eyes of the RDN (the town) has to have actually gone through a full OCP review and to anybody who has lived in Qualicum for any amount of time and taken part in previous OCP reviews, anyone who's been through that, knows (this) doesn't look like it, it doesn't smell like it, it doesn't walk like it — it hasn't lived up to the spirit of former OCP reviews."

First reading of the Growth Containment Boundary Bylaw amendment was slated to take place at a Qualicum Beach council meeting last night, April 7 (after press time).

The town's director of planning, Luke Sales, was at the meeting on Friday and answered some questions. Mayor Teunis Westbroek, and councillors Scott Tanner and Mary Brouilette were also in attendance. QBRA spokesman and vice-president, Dave Golson asked Sales about whether the town had planned for the possibility of the population doubling due to the changes.

"Dave has implied that this is a significant increase in development potential in the Official Community Plan but just for clarification, it's the Growth Containment Boundary that we're talking about here," Sales said. This will change how land-use decisions are made within the town, he said, and not increase or decrease development potential at this step.

Former Qualicum Beach town councillor and NDP candidate in last year’s provincial election, Barry Avis, argued that the proposal the town was looking at was major and not minor, and by removing involvement by the RDN it would give control of all the town’s lands to a few town councillors.

“Now if that’s not a major change to the OCP then tell me what is?” he said to a loud applause from the crowd.

Michael Jessen, a representative to the Arrowsmith Parks and Land-Use Council, said that the issue in his eyes is a matter of good planning, rather than a battle of governments as some local media have reported.

“Are we to follow a path based on good land-use planning or one of reacting to the flavour of the day?” he said.

Jessen was referring to the development proposal by the owners of the Pheasant Glen Golf Resort, who want to build 100 vacation homes, 60 resort cabins, a clubhouse and pavilion on their land adjacent to their golf course. It was that proposal that fuelled the discussion around changing the GCB.

Currently, if the town wants to make changes to its own UCB (which is in its OCP) to allow proposals like Pheasant Glen’s to move forward, it has to first apply to the RDN to amend its RGS. That process alone may take one to two years currently.

This the first time the RDN has received a minor amendment application to its RGS, Sales said.

During a question period, Neil Horner asked if town council was to pass the bylaw amendment, could the decision be reversed by a new council? Sales affirmed that it could. Horner then suggested residents write a letter to the RDN to make this a major amendment and delay the whole process until after the next election.

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