Core concern in Qualicum Beach

Residents give their views on what's needed to revitalize the downtown core

The look of the Qualicum Beach downtown core could change in future.

The look of the Qualicum Beach downtown core could change in future.

When Qualicum Beach residents gathered in the Community Hall on Monday night, they had a big issue to tackle — one that stretches for blocks and blocks.

That issue, said Luke Sales, the town’s director of planning, is to determine how the town can encourage development infill in the uptown core.

That question however, had several components, some of which were deemed good enough to go on to the next level and several that were not.

“We are here to explore the barriers and incentives to development in the village neighbourhood,” Sales said, noting the Village Neighbourhood Planning Project had its origins in the town’s official community plan. He said development of the Village Neighbourhood — which could be described as the downtown core of the downtown core — forms a key initiative for the economic recovery of Qualicum Beach.

“The whole project is based on the goal that we want to densify, rather than continue to grow outwards” Sales said.

Monday night’s consultation meeting, he added, was a continuation of an earlier meeting held on May 28.

At issue was a series of questions about the village neighbourhood area, including whether height restrictions should be retained, whether the requirement for commercial development on the ground floor level should be scrapped, whether the town should purchase land in the area for development, get rid of development cost charges or scrap taxes for new developments.

Sales said the town had a maximum height allowance on buildings of three storeys — if the third storey is hidden in a peaked roof line.

The key, he said, was to determine whether allowing taller buildings would make developments more economically viable.

Issues to be considered in this regard, he said, include potential obstruction of views and potential impacts on the small town character of Qualicum Beach.

As well, he said the town is wrestling with the need to have a commercial ground floor for residential buildings in the core. Issues there, he said, include the difficulty in adapting to market conditions when commercial demand returns, loss of commercial continuity and potential loss of tax revenue for the town.

The issue of land consolidation, he continued, is nothing new, with the latest example being the purchase of the old school bus garage property. Potential problems with this idea include significant financial investment and the perception of interference in the market economy.

Lowering or eliminating development cost charges in the area, said financial manager John Marsh, could be seen as a way to encourage development, although he noted the lack of DCCs in the Nanaimo core doesn’t appear to have worked very well.

Also, he said while there would be no obvious immediate impact to town coffers, there would likely be one in the longer term.

There was no shortage of comment on the ideas, both positive and otherwise.

Luella Hollington kicked things off with a blistering critique of the process used to get to this point.

“The survey that went out was sent to a select group,” she said. “I was on a council for 11 years and we did a lot of surveys and never once do I recall sending a survey to only a select group. We always did a blind survey of a cross section of our population. I almost feel insulted by being ignored.”

On the question of DCCs, she stressed the need to be fair to everyone in the community, not just developers.

She said DCCs were first implemented in the 1990s in many communities because municipalities found they couldn’t afford to build and maintain infrastructure and needed another source of revenue.

The charges are levied on new development with the goal of paying for the municipal services to which they will be attached, such as water and sewer.

“If you eliminate them you will be going backwards and will be faced with the same problems we were faced with in the 1990s,” she said.

Bill Kritch stressed that council already has all the flexibility it needs.

“If a project comes forward that adds value to the town and is in the interest of the majority of the citizens, then council can approve a height variance right now,” he said. “That’s how The Gardens got built.”

Ed Hollington said getting rid of DCCs won’t revitalize the downtown as long as the real issues are ignored.

“The reason we have empty storefronts is because people shop in other places, like Wal-Mart and Costco,” he said. “They vote with their wallets and if you offer incentives, you will still have shut-up commercial space. The problem is that people do not shop locally. Fix that and you will fix everything else.”

Other comments called on council to stop being at war with developers, but rather, treat them with respect, as without developers, everyone would be living in tents.

Developer Dean Draeger, who built the structure that now houses Naked Naturals, put his case simply.

“I’m hoping we can come to a solution and work together,” he said. “It has to be fair to the community, the taxpayers and everybody, but if you give us some incentives, we are going to give you something you will be very proud of.”

Developer Dave Bryant went further, arguing that taking away the DCCS would mean a loss to the town of about $7,000 on a 1,000-square foot apartment.

“It’s really inconsequential at the end of the day,” he said. “If the market was booming, nobody would care.”

He said what developers are looking for is  clarity.

“We are looking to know how much it is going to really cost us if we build,” he said.

Developer Zweitse de Witt said the town should stay out of the land base and avoid purchasing property for development.

“If you start competing with free enterprise, you don’t compete,” he said. “You’re dealing with taxpayers’ money.”

Passions were high on all sides of the debate, with the mayor having to call for calm and decorum on two occasions.




Just Posted

Morningstar Golf Club in Parksville will host the 2021 B.C. Junior Golf Championships. (PQB News file photo)
Morningstar Golf Club in Parksville to host 150 of B.C’s top junior golfers

Provincial boys and girls championship begins June 28

Hannes Grosse, left, and Iris Steigemann, right, as they prepared for their 'Moments of Silence' exhibit. The father-daughter duo are showing at The Old School House Arts Centre in Qualicum Beach until June 26. (Submitted photo)
Cortes Island artists exhibit at Qualicum Beach’s TOSH in first father-daughter show

Both artists will be present at shows on Friday, June 25 and Saturday, June 26

The Lighthouse Country Marine Rescue Society will get more funding from the Regional District of Nanaimo. (Submitted Photo)
More PQB communities to fund Lighthouse Country Marine Rescue Society

RDN to introduce amendment to service bylaw contribution

A slide on best practices when reporting a suspected impaired driver that was presented to Parksville city council on June 7 by Margarita Bernard, a volunteer with MADD. The organization’s Report Impaired Drivers campaign involves the installation of informative signs within the City of Parksville. (Mandy Moraes photo)
MADD brings campaign to report impaired drivers to Parksville

Aim is to raise awareness that 911 should be called

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

Two ambulances and a medevac helicopter are on scene at Taylor River Flats rest area on Highway 4 due to a serious motor vehicle incident. (PHOTO COURTESY MAGGIE BROWN)
Highway 4 reopens between Port Alberni and Tofino

Multi-vehicle accident temporarily closed highway in both directions

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.-Alberta’s Indigenous languages, art and culture

Advisor says initiative supports the urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact he recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

Most Read