Digging the ditch of dissent

The issue has resulted in packed galleries for the past three Qualicum Beach town council meetings, and things got a little nasty on Monday

The discussion over what has to be the most debated ditch in the history of development turned decidedly demonstrative Monday night.

Residents of Trio Lane and Garrett Road took turns expressing their continued concerns about the town’s plan for a water detention basin behind their homes during Qualicum Beach town council’s regular meeting.

One resident, Alex Borthwick, received an admonishment of sorts from Mayor Teunis Westbroek after she, in the mayor’s estimation, went too far in her criticism of town staff.

“I, myself, would put more planning into a trip to the supermarket,” said Borthwick, adding that she believed town staff were being “insincere” and employing “bully-boy” tactics regarding the construction of the basin.

Borthwick said staff showed “a level of arrogance that does not seem to be matched by a level of competence.”

When she had finished her submission, Westbroek said he believed staff were being forthright with residents.

“I do not like the comments on the motives of our staff,” said the mayor. “I do think they (staff) are sincere and comments regarding their character are not acceptable.”

Henry Chamulak, the first resident to raise concerns about the basin, later added some levity to the proceedings while still expressing his frustrations over the process and his concerns regarding safety.

Chamulak said since the site has been stripped of vegetation in preparation for construction, rainwater has gathered in his yard more than what was the norm.

“This comes as no surprise,” said Chamulak, who was a home builder in Saskatchewan before retiring to Qualicum Beach with his wife Rose to their Trio Lane home about 10 years ago. “And it’s only an example of what’s to come.”

Chamulak said he doesn’t believe staff are following accepted minimum engineering standards and guidelines in regards to the construction of the basin.

“Any legitimate engineering firm would certainly frown upon this,” he said. “Why would we ignore all these bodies who study these things?”

Chamulak called the current plan a “Mickey-Mouse patch job” and he once again implored town staff to look for an alternative site.

“We will have to live with the long-term implications of this short-sighted thinking,” he said.

Engineer Bob Weir said Tuesday the town is waiting for geotechnical and other reports before setting another meeting date with residents. He also said safety is a concern and the town won’t accept plans for work on the basin until it is happy these concerns are addressed.

Weir also dismissed suggestions the ditch could be relocated.

“There is no other site where this can physically go.”

Weir said this site for the basin has been discussed for more than 10 years. “It’s been on the books for a long time,” said Weir. “Everyone wants progress but no one wants change.”

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