The future use of the town-owned old school bus garage in Qualicum Beach is a point of discussion during this election.

ELECTION ISSUE: What to do with the Qualicum Beach old school bus garage

The town owns the property - we asked the candidates for their views

The old school bus garage, located at the corner of Fern Road and Memorial Avenue in Qualicum Beach, hasn’t seen much action in the past couple years. It’s likely to be a hot topic for a new town council next year.

As reported in The NEWS, the town bought the site for $1.5 million in August 2011. While there was talk of building an arts or cultural centre on the property, the council of the day decided to tackle other issues. A report from Coriolis Consulting in March 2012 casted doubt on the future of using the property for large public space projects, mainly indicating trouble with the town recovering the cost of the property and limited parking in the area. Council then voted in April 2012 to close the building to the public and turn the property into a parking lot, again citing lack of priority for the site. Since then, the most exciting thing to happen to the former garage was a facelift in the form of a salmon mural, painted by David E. Blackmore, in 2013.

We asked Qualicum Beach’s 2014 election candidates what they think should become of the old school bus garage. Here are the responses we received:

Teunis Westbroek (mayoral candidate): “It’s a strategic property that has potential for accessible residential, commercial and community use, as well as tourist accommodation. I could also see the space becoming like a village square: giving a sense of place and a space for galleries, markets, educational events and fairs. People have also asked for a neighbourhood pub and a place for outdoor cinemas, and there has been suggestion that the seniors activity centre could be relocated there. I also think the adjacent field would be a great place for a band shell, especially with the Old School House Arts Centre close by.”

Denyse Widdifield (mayoral candidate): “The bus garage property is part of the gateway to Qualicum Beach. Whatever we do on this property will set the tone for future development of the downtown core. The site has the potential for a public gathering space, arts and culture, educational, commercial and residential use. However, the use of the bus garage property is entirely dependent upon what happens with the elementary school site and existing building on that property. This site will need comprehensive planning and community discussion, and it must be an economically-sound plan.”

Barry Avis (council candidate): “The old bus garage is a special entrance area to the town. It is important that it is arranged to provide pleasing site lines. I do believe we will need to seek opinions from our community groups, residents and businesses to determine the best and most wanted use for this area. We have previously had input ranging from community entrance park and community square to pub, stores and condominiums.”

Mary Brouilette (council): “Quality of life surveys over the past number of years are consistent with the residents desire for open space for casual gatherings, a band shelter and outside art. We also know an English-style pub is high on the residents list of like-to-haves. In order to achieve any or all of these goals, I believe we must look to partnerships, similar to the building of the Town Hall, or perhaps even sponsorships. Exciting prospects.”

Dolores Fraser (council): “The residents deserve an opportunity for input so this strategic, central property with a beautiful view of Mt. Arrowsmith could be enjoyed by all and act as an attractant to visitors. The space could have an outdoor use such as park benches, a bandstand and a green space where people could relax together between errands. A pub could provide everyone with a meeting place when it is nicer to be indoors.”

Neil Horner (council): “What I think should happen to the bus garage, in my view, is relatively unimportant. My preference would be to have the garage act as a world-class palaeontology museum. I am aware this won’t be in the cards. Instead, the public should come to a consensus as to what should happen to the building through public process.”

Bill Luchtmeijer (council): “Considering the recent closure of the elementary school, the future of the bus garage site should be the subject of a comprehensive community review that includes the Qualicum Beach Elementary School and The Old School House sites. The community dialogue on that area should focus on a long-term vision and not be just about the bus garage property.”

Anne Skipsey (council): “I would like to know what ideas the citizens of Qualicum Beach have and what is their vision for the old bus garage and surrounding property. I do have some thoughts relating to creating a ‘centrum’ or central gathering place and will be happy to share these as part of a meaningful public consultation process.”

Dave Willie (council): “The residents have invested well over a million dollars into this key piece of property which adjoins two other important landmarks, being the community school and the Old School House. This will require a well laid out review that recognizes all the interests of our town and will need to include a long-term vision for the site.”

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