Election talk begins in Parksville

What's to be done with city-owned vacant land in a high-profile location is expected to become an election issue in November

Parksville council has rejected a plan from staff and its advisory council that would have created an urban space dubbed the city’s “heart and soul” on taxpayer-owned property at the corner of Jensen Avenue and Alberni Highway.

The majority of council said they believed this could be the start of a conversation on what to do with the high-profile, city-owned parcel, a discussion that could be part of the civic elections in November.

Coun. Bill Neufeld wanted to act on the recommendations put in front of him by staff on Monday night.

“This could be a defining park in Parksville . . . a tremendous addition to the city . . . akin to Stanley Park in Vancouver,” said Neufeld, which prompted some giggles and murmurs from the gallery.

The city spent about $2 million acquiring and clearing the land and some councillors suggested some of the plans Neufeld had for the space could cost another $2 million. Coun. Al Greir said he was concerned about the cost of maintaining another city park.

“I think the last thing we need in Parksville is another park to maintain,” said Greir. “We certainly have more than we can handle now.”

Coun. Marc Lefebvre suggested this will be a topic for discussion in November.

“It’s not in the budget and we don’t know what it will cost,” said Lefebvre. “Let’s not kid ourselves — there’s an election coming up. We have to ask the good citizens of Parksville what they want.”

Coun. Carrie Powell-Davidson agreed.

“I think it gets the conversation going and it’s time to have that conversation,” she said.

Coun. Peter Morrison, the chairman of council’s advisory committee, said the project could be done in “small portions over time.”

“There’s obviously several stages (over which) this can be done,” said Morrison. “The thought (from the advisory committee) was to spur the idea.”

In the end, council voted 5-2 against accepting the recommendations of staff and the committee, with Morrison and Neufeld being in the minority.

• Despite some unanswered questions, council passed a motion Monday night to allow the Kingsley Low Rental Housing Society to continue through the process of bylaw amendments for a 28-unit seniors’ housing complex.

The units will replace six units currently at the facility on Hirst Avenue.

See future editions of The NEWS for more about this project.

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