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Downtown goes public

Village plan will continue seeking feedback on June 25
Mayor Teunis Westbroek

Apart from an opening question on why the town allowed a small group of developers  to respond to a downtown growth survey, most attending an evening round table session in Qualicum Beach agreed it was a good process.

The Town of Qualicum Beach took the results of their recent developer’s survey to a public open house Monday night, seeking feedback from other segments of the population. While they didn’t get all of the representation they would have liked this week, councillors agreed to hold at least one more public meeting.

“There was a great atmosphere, said mayor Teunis Westbroek, adding council as a whole made a great decision at the end of the evening to add another public open house to get more input form the community.

“There was an attitude out there that this process was specifically targeted to the development community,” he continued.

Westbroek added, however, that local builders and professionals are obviously frustrated with the town on a few levels, and agreed the town can do more. How much more, however, will be balanced by public feedback.

Monday’s session saw tables of people discuss topics such as building height limits, taxes and fees, infrastructure and commercial space requirements. These were identified by developers as some of the barriers to growth in the town’s village neighbourhood zone (downtown core). Various recommendations were made and will be compiled for council debate as they decide on a strategy for the downtown.

Town planner Luke Sales said the discussion going on right now is to look for ways to reduce barriers to development, balanced with the desires of the public.

“All of the people’s comments will be included in the staff report to council on June 11,” he said at the start of the meeting.

Council later voted to add another public session, meaning the staff report will have to wait. He noted that the town has made no decisions regarding the downtown core — only the issues that have been brought to the fore.

“Our goal is to seek out what the community wants.”

In the round table discussions, many people and politicians talked about the ability to be flexible when it comes to developer requests and processing time. Others wanted to make sure there was a balance between what developers want, and what the people want for their community in the long term.

“I want to make sure, in this rush for flexibility, that if there’s something in print, it doesn’t mean a public meeting every time,” said Bill Critch. “I’m afraid of the loss of public input.”

“We’re right into the nitty gritty of issues to spark development,” added Andrew Brown “We need a better relationship between council and the development community.”

Luigi Sposato added he didn’t want to see too much flexibility, resulting in wildly varying buildings.

Councillor Dave Willie added parking issues need to be addressed, with the possibility of allowing street parking for residential units. Westbroek pointed out the town already allows this.

Coun. Scott Tanner said he wanted to make sure the town’s development cost charges (DCCs) are competitive.

“The last thing I want to see is a race to the bottom.”

Coun. Bill Luchmeijer said DCCs are a big issue for developers and, for him, the number one reason the council is doing this review, suggesting not doing anything will keep development away.

All of council voted to have another session June 25 (and possibly more), and use their June 11 regular meeting to compile information from the first round tables.