Regional District of Nanaimo directors seek legal advice

Changes to Qualicum Beach's Growth Containment Boundary are in a holding pattern.

At Tuesday night's standing-room-only  Regional District of Nanaimo board meeting, directors decided to seek legal counsel before proceeding through the process of approving a minor amendment to the town's Regional Growth Strategy.

Looming changes to the RGS have spurred contention within the town, as some allege residents were not properly informed by the town about changes they fear could lead to overdevelopment and overpopulation.

"They (the RDN board) made the right decision," said Scott Tanner, a Qualicum Beach town councillor who is trying to stop the changes that his own council recently endorsed.

"I certainly tip my hat to those members of the public who spent their time doing their homework and asking questions — that is democracy at its best," said Tanner, one of 10 people who spoke at the meeting Tuesday.

Fellow Qualicum Beach Coun. Dave Willie, the town's representative on the RDN board, said the decision was "disappointing."

"We have a (RDN) board here that wants to participate in land-use decisions in Qualicum Beach," he said after the meeting.

"If everyone in Qualicum Beach thought the new place to have public meetings was at the RDN, perhaps there would have been other people at (Tuesday night's) meeting rather than the 10 we hear from on a regular basis."

Bruce Fleming-Smith, a Qualicum Beach resident who has been vocal on the issue, said Tuesday it's a question of interpretation.

“Whether this application qualifies as a minor amendment or not is a serious question in my mind,” he said, before citing the town’s criteria for a minor amendment.

“The important part is if the application contains land in the ALR, then it is not considered a minor amendment,” he said. “It is clear Qualicum Beach’s application involves a lot of ALR land — 59 per cent is ALR, 515 hectares.”

After hearing all the delegations, Nanaimo Coun. Dianne Brennan said directors were in an “awkward position.”

“I think we have a lot of different values to weigh out here,” she said, adding the board needs to take the duly elected representatives of Qualicum Beach into consideration along with the legal implications for the RDN and potential liability.

Brennen ultimately made a motion of referral for legal opinion, which was carried by the majority of directors. RDN staff will seek legal opinion at the request of the board and the motion will be brought back to the board at the next regular RDN meeting slated for June 24.

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