Growth containment boundary bylaw change in Qualicum Beach is one reading from adoption

Peter Quily was one of the residents opposed to changing the Growth Containment Boundary to match the town’s municipal boundary. Quily spoke at a public hearing Tuesday night at the Qualicum Beach Civic Centre. - LISSA ALEXANDER PHOTO
Peter Quily was one of the residents opposed to changing the Growth Containment Boundary to match the town’s municipal boundary. Quily spoke at a public hearing Tuesday night at the Qualicum Beach Civic Centre.

Qualicum Beach council heard impassioned speeches from the public Tuesday night at a hearing centred around changes to the town's Growth Containment Boundary (GCB).

About 30 people got up to speak in the packed room of about 200 at the civic centre, the majority against the idea of extending the boundary to meet the municipal boundary, although there were a fair number that spoke in favour of the change.

The change requires a review of the Official Community Plan (OCP) to make a minor amendment to the Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) and would eliminate the need to consult with the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) over land-use issues.

After the public hearing, council passed third reading of a bylaw that would extend the GCB to meet the town boundary.

The vote Tuesday night on third reading of this contentious bylaw was the same as it has been for the first two readings, and the same for many votes facing this council since it took office in 2011: Councillors Mary Brouilette, Bill Luchtmeijer and Dave Willie were in favour; Coun. Scott Tanner and Mayor Teunis Westbroek were opposed.

Christina Brown was strongly opposed to the change and urged council to drop the issue.

“This is a paradigm shift from our OCP, from our sustainability plan, from and all that work we did as a community,” she said. “It’s a huge shift, it’s not a minor amendment or a housekeeping issue, it’s a major (amendment) and I feel it will impact future generations, the whole town, all of us here, irreversibly.”

Rusty Joerin said responsible investors should not be turned away or else the social and economic health of the town would suffer. He believes town affairs should be managed within the town.

“Are we not capable of making our own decisions about what goes on in our town? Do we really need to pay for duplicated efforts and staff time?” he said.

Peter Quily said he felt the town should slow down and take more time with the process.

“If we get it through real quick that doesn’t say very much, but if it’s properly done and you happen to be re-elected all of you, what have you lost?”

Kevin Monahan said there has been virtually no dialogue with residents on the issue, something echoed by many people at the hearing.

“One public meeting was held on March 4; the meeting was poorly advertised and it did it not make clear to anyone the complexities of the proposal.”

He said he thinks the consultations that have taken place do not meet the minimum requirements by law.

After the hearing, Brouilette said  she didin’t understand the comments about not having had enough opportunity to discuss the change.

“I’m at a loss to know what would be another method that would be in the municipal guidelines,” she said. “I know Kevin would like to have more of a debate but we don’t set the rules at this table.”

At a previous meeting, Luke Sales, the town’s director of planning, said the OCP review currently underway does meet provincial law requirements, and it is council that defines what the OCP review looks like.

Futhermore, a letter from the town’s attorney which was distributed at the meeting said the town could move forward with a policy that would give the Pheasant Glen proposal the green light (the catalyst for the current process) without having to go through the current process of amending the town’s regional context statement.

The letter was in response to a request from council to ascertain what implications the recent ruling by the B.C. Supreme Court and the Township of Langley, has on the town’s current process.

Lance Nater said that at the end of the attorney’s letter however, it is stated that there was another municipality that was undergoing a similar process. It was aware of the court decision and decided to refer its OCP amendment until Metro Vancouver’s appeal is complete, he said.

“It seems perfectly logical to me given what you’ve heard tonight that council would take a step back and make sure that everything is done accordingly and not open itself up to being challenged in courts.”

Wendy Maurer, a former councillor and the town’s 2013 Citizen of the Year, said she trusts council and future councils to follow guidelines and hold public consultation meetings on future developments and was in favour of the change. “I don’t see any purpose in delaying the decision on this question, it’s a sensitive question and you’re not going to make all of us happy.”

Following the hearing, Luchtmeijer moved to give third reading to the bylaw and send notification to the RDN, requesting the GCB be amended. He said any future development applications will still have to go through town approval processes.

Willie agreed and said, as a representative on the Regional District of Nanaimo’s board, he doesn’t approve land-use decisions in Nanaimo because its GCB already matches its municipal boundary.

“All we’re simply saying is in Nanaimo they don’t have to ask us for any changes outside the Urban Containment Boundary and inside their town boundaries. Parksville doesn’t. Lantzville doesn’t. But in Qualicum Beach we do and it’s fundamentally wrong.”

Coun. Tanner challenged the statement and said the GCB in Parksville doesn’t match its town boundary and neither does Lantzville’s.

Municipal officials in both Parksville and Lanztville told The NEWS their growth containment boundaries do match their municipal boundaries, with the exception of lands in the Agricultural Land Reserve (in Parksville, they are known as the Ermineskin lands and the Shelley Farm lands). Tanner said the elephant in the room sits with three councillors and future development proposals.

“If this is passed there is an opportunity for three of five councillor to approve any kind of development that they choose to that lies within the town boundary,” he said.

Mayor Teunis Westbroek echoed some of Tanner’s feelings, adding that the GCB was put in place in 1995 to control rapid growth in the region.

“I think this is something going back in time,” he said. “It seems like after one generation we have to learn all over again.”

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