How much development Qualicum Beach councillors want was a hot topic in a recent debate on how to allow ground-floor residential.
“I know some of council wants the world to stop,” Coun. Bill Luchtmeijer said at the July 13 council meeting. “I don’t think that’s a good message to give the world.”
Town director of planning Luke Sales said council has been using the development permit (DP) process to allow ground-floor residential, on top of requiring developers to go through a re-zoning process.
“One of the big complaints you hear about the town of Qualicum Beach is that — from a development point of view — we’re not a development-friendly community, at best,” said Luchtmeijer. “If anything, many developers avoid Qualicum Beach because of the hurdles that are placed in the way.”
Staff looked into “the manner in which council can permit residential use on the ground floor of properties in commercial areas, primarily the downtown,” Sales said, bringing back a recommendation that council not change the current process, which gives council more flexibility.
“Zoning is more permanent than a development permit, which expires after a number of years,” Sales said, adding that leaves “less chance of an outdated zoning change that no longer reflects the wishes of council.”
“The development permit process gives council more control in the long term, in that we’re not creating a permanent change to the way we do business per lot,” he said.
“I think the last council was creative enough with some of these re-zoning issues and I support this motion,” Coun. Neil Horner said of the motion to not change the process.
“We’re saying an amendment to the zoning of town, we want the people to be involved,” said Coun. Barry Avis, also supporting the motion, adding he’d like to see a lot of community discussion if someone wants to put residential on the ground floor in a commercial area.
Sales agreed with Luchtmeijer that “some smaller developers indicated that the process required for re-zoning was more expensive and required more time and was a barrier to redevelopment,” than the development permit.
But he also said that the re-zoning and DP processes “typically run in tandem, so at the time the zoning amendment is adopted, a development permit can be granted at the same time.”
Mayor Teunis Westbroek said that at $4,000, a zoning amendment can “significantly improve the value, or raise the value of the property… that doesn’t seem unreasonable.”
He pointed out the DP process also allows the developer more flexibility, including options like converting it back to commercial at some point.
“We’re working towards trying to be flexible, but still having control and allowing the public the input that I think we all want,” Westbroek said.
“Again, I think we’re making a change here that has a lot of strings attached,” said Coun. Bill Luchtmeijer, as the rest of council leaned to not changing the process.
He warned that developers “need the flexibility of a development permit… by forcing them into a re-zoning process, they’ll simply go elsewhere.”
Council passed the motion recommended by staff to leave the process the way it is, requiring a zoning amendment for ground floor residential in the downtown area. Only Luchtmeijer voted against.