A new citizens group in Qualicum Beach has filed a complaint with the B.C. ombudsman alleging town council has ignored the wishes of the public in regards to a downtown development.
More than 150 people packed a public meeting at the civic centre Monday night, an open house hosted by the fledgling Concerned Citizens of Qualicum Beach. They heard the group has filed the complaint with the ombudsman and they were also asked to sign a petition asking for council to re-open for public input the design of The Clarion, and rescind the development cost charges exemption the project received.
“From the day of the new council, December 2011, The Clarion was a fait accompli,” said one of the group’s organizers, Graham Riches.
When contacted by The NEWS, the provincial ombudsman’s office said it is their policy not to confirm they have received a complaint.
A few panelists and a long list of residents took to the microphone Monday night at the civic centre to voice complaints about the current town council, comments voiced many times in many venues the past few months.
A couple of speakers spoke in favour of The Clarion and when one asked for a show of hands of people who were of a like mind, less than 10 people responded.
Many of the speakers voiced concerns about the process involving The Clarion and contended it was pushed through council much too quickly for such a major development in the village neighbourhood.
Some of the speakers also said the current council does not respect the work the community did to develop the town’s Official Community Plan.
The Clarion is a 50-unit, five-storey condo complex slated for the long-vacant lot beside town hall facing First Avenue. It has received all the approvals it needs from the town, including a development permit that does not expire until July of 2015. The project still requires a building permit that ensures the construction follows B.C. building codes.
“No further approvals are required, essentially,” said the town’s Director of Planning Luke Sales.
It’s unclear when any construction would start on the project. Attempts by The NEWS to reach representatives of the development for comment have been unsuccessful.
It’s also unclear what, if anything, the ombudsman can compel a municipality to do regarding a complaint like the one the CCQB said it filed.
“When we receive a complaint we first determine if it’s within the office’s jurisdiction to investigate, if it’s a matter of administrative unfairness and if the person has exhausted other processes for resolution,” the ombudsman’s office spokesperson, Alexis Lang Lunn wrote in an e-mail to The NEWS. “As far as outcomes, it’s pretty compelling for public agencies to accept our findings due to the impartiality of our investigations, based on facts. If you are referring to enforcement powers, no.”
The targets of most of the comments Monday night, town councillors, were not in attendance — they are in Vancouver for the annual convention of the Union of B.C. Municipalities.
Here are some of the comments voiced at the meeting Monday night:
• Bruce Fleming-Smith: “Three members of council have supported directions that every one of you in this room do not support. We need to get intelligent on how we vote.”
• Sweitse DeWit: “Many grave injustices were done during that process (the last OCP review). Perhaps that’s why you have some changes in council.”
• Ruth Adler: “I don’t think anyone here objects to development on that empty lot. I think the problem here is process.”
• Court Brooker: “I think this (The Clarion) will be an asset to the community.”
• Nancy McMillan: “I’m very unhappy with certain people who want to change the atmosphere of the village.”
• Cameron Eaton: “It’s not all of council. Mayor Westbroek and Councillor Tanner were against this development and I think we should give them credit for that.”
• Kevin Monahan: “This proposal (The Clarion) was rammed through in record time without meaningful consultation with the public. Those not opposed to The Clarion should be concerned about the process.”
• Sylvia Buttner-Schnirer: “We don’t want planning that favours profit over the wishes of the residents.”