The Parksville Beach Resort in a photo taken from the Island Highway in Oct.

Parksville beachfront property’s zoning creates hurdles

Beach Resort owner has what he describes as a ‘progressive’ meeting with mayor

The Parksville Beach Resort remains a boarded-up eyesore on what has to be one of the most prime pieces of property on Vancouver Island.

Owner Bernie Walsh has had the property for sale for years and he said last week he’s not exactly holding out for big money. Walsh said he and his brothers bought the property 12 years ago for $5 million, which happens to be the current asking price.

“It’s in a holding pattern because the current Official Community Plan makes it tough to do anything with it,” said Walsh. “We can’t do anything that would make it economically viable.”

OCP and zoning challenges related to height, setbacks and view lines are part of the problem for potential buyers, but it may be the ‘temporary stay’ provision of the tourist/commercial zoning that poses the biggest hurdle, said Walsh.

The property has won zoning changes in the past. Walsh was granted zoning in 2012 for 81 separate units — cottages of a sort — of about 1,400 square-feet each. However, the temporary-stay provision stands in the way of bank financing for any of the units.

“Banks these days won’t touch that,” said Walsh. He also said he has had some interest expressed in the property, even recently. However, any deal falls apart after a prospective buyer does the homework on the land’s allowable uses.

“We’ve had several offers,” said Walsh. “They do their due diligence and then walk away.”

The temporary-stay provision of tourist/commercial zoning is often called the 180-day stay rule, although there is no specific number like that in the zoning language. Tourist/commercial can house many uses, but it’s generally associated with a hotel or motel with rooms for the temporary use of the travelling public.

“There’s not a business model that works because of that 180-day stay thing,” said Walsh.

Tourist/commercial zoning also suggests the public can have some access to the land, perhaps by, using nearby examples, play mini-golf or have dinner on the patio. Along with the temporary-stay provision, that zoning kills the notion of a private, permanent-residence neighbourhood on this beachfront property.

Walsh said he had a meeting with Mayor Marc Lefebvre about the property late last week.

“Hopefully the current council will be more open about it, we’ll see,” Walsh said before the meeting. After the meeting with the mayor, Walsh called The NEWS and described his discussion with Lefebvre as “progressive. We are going to explore and see if we can come up with something we can say yes to and the city can say yes to.”

Changes to a property’s zoning and official community plan designation can be made by a vote of council in a process that includes public hearings.

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