Waterfront big at Craig Bay forum
It was a casual atmosphere at Craig Bay last Thursday when a couple dozen residents turned out for the latest Parksville all-candidates forum.
Each of the candidates — four running for mayor and 12 of the 13 running for council — gave an opening statement and then faced the audience for questions, which were slow in coming.
Candidate Jim Banks, who was hospitalized for stomach issues last week was not present.
After a brief pause to consider changing the format to an informal meet-and-greet, a question was asked, launching the forum.
There was some discussion about the proposed health centre, but the two questions that got the most response were about big developments and housing.
A Craig Bay resident explained that a fellow resident had moved to the Beach Club in town because of driving issues and the lack of transportation. She said there is a lack of high-quality housing options and asked if council was afraid to move ahead on higher end developments.
Incumbent councillor Marc Lefebvre said they were not afraid, they just hadn’t received any proposals that fit. He pointed out the Beach Club generates $300,000 a year in taxes for the city.
“We haven’t had much variety to chose from,” added fellow incumbent Al Greir.
Bill Neufeld said it was the uproar over the waterfront that got him involved in politics.
“I am very much against residential on the beach,” he told the waterfront residents, adding there is very little hotel space in the Beach Club, that it’s mostly residential.
Incumbent Teresa Patterson said she works at the Beach Club — as though admitting a dark secret.
“It’s out there now, I knew it would have to come out,” she said before defending the development and pointing out it has been open nearly four years, employs over 100 people and brings a lot of people, tourists and tax revenue to the city.
Candidate Jesse Schroeder turned the question around, as he often does, and pointed out that, according to the woman’s story, her friend moved downtown due to a lack of transportation.
“There has been a lot of focus on that one property,” he said, suggesting that efficient public transportation would solve a lot of issues, making cheaper accommodation in the regional district accessible to downtown low income workers for example.
“We actually want people to come with proposals that differ from the OCP (official community plan),” suggested Peter Morrison, who explained that’s when council has some power to require other things from developers.
Mayoral candidate Rick Honaizer had spoken of his waterfront vision in his opening and jumped on the opportunity to promote his idea of a grand plaza development, with tourist and commercial space underneath, cascading from downtown to the waterfront, opening up views and increasing the amount of public parkland.
Paul Reitsma, running for mayor, said Craig Bay was a great example of what can be done when the developers, city and region all work together and stick to the OCP.
He said he cast the deciding vote against a big development on the Parksville flats, where Surfside RV is now, because it went against the OCP, which council violated in allowing the Beach Club.
Acting mayor Chris Burger said they didn’t violate the OCP, they granted a height variance, which they are allowed to consider. He also corrected that most of the Beach Club, except for one building, is tourist commercial.