The proposed new operations facility at the public yards on Jones Road and Rupert Road, would result in some trees to be removed. (Submitted photo)

The proposed new operations facility at the public yards on Jones Road and Rupert Road, would result in some trees to be removed. (Submitted photo)

Enviromental impact report sought for Qualicum Beach’s proposed operation facility

Proposal has drawn criticism from residents

Qualicum Beach’s town planner has laid out the pros and cons of alternative sites being considered for a proposed centralized operations facility.

Luke Sales, explained at the committee of the whole meeting on Dec. 1, why the town should consolidate its parks and public works operations under one roof.

At present, Sales said both are operating at different locations throughout the town, in dated buildings with insufficient and below standard environmental conditions.

“Building one centralized hub for town operations would eliminate a number of challenges the town currently faces for the benefit of every resident,” said Sales. “It would allow the town to provide essential services more efficiently to co-ordinate critical responses more quickly, streamline resources and equipment currently shared among multiple sites, to allow space for expansion of services as the town’s population grows.”

READ MORE: Qualicum Nature Preservation Society protests plans to cut trees at proposed public yards location

Sales added the town needs to provide a safe working environment for its 33 outside staff members, the majority of the town’s work force.

Potential locations were identified by staff in 2019 that include Qualicum Beach Airport – Ravensbourne Lane East, View Road & Sandpit, Jones Street Parks Yard and Garden Road East Dog Park. The land south of the fire hall was discussed but not included as it is within the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Staff favoured the Jones Street parks yard located in the community forest.

Sales said the five-acre location is cost-effective as it is already fully serviced with water and sanitary sewer infrastructure, and fibre optic data link to the town hall and several locations.

Building a facility in the site, however, will require trees to be cut down and a trail rerouted, which has garnered strong protest from residents and from some members of council. Sales indicated if these concerns rank high in the criteria above all others, staff asked council to inform them so they can prioritize and make an appropriate recommendation for the best location.

Coun. Scott Harrison acknowledged a large number of emails have been received regarding the potential loss of trees and the impact it will have on the environment. He said more information is needed. He made a motion staff be directed to come up with a report that looks at the environmental impacts from both tree removal and operations of the sites listed.

Mayor Brian Wiese agreed with Harrison’s recommendation.

“I am very much supportive of this motion,” said Wiese. “I think that’s going to really send us in the right direction.”

Manager of operations Arnold Schwabe understands removal of trees is an issue.

“In three of the sites, some amount of trees are going to be removed, whether it’s the airport site, whether it’s the site near the old dump, or whether it’s the parks yard,” said Schwabe. “I think it’s going to be a reality of wherever we put it.”

Schwabe also pointed out if a new site is selected for the proposed public works facility, the current parks yard will not be relocated.

“That will never be decommissioned,” said Schwabe. “Not in any of our lifetimes. It’s a major component of our water system. So the water storage facilities that are there, the water pump that are there will always be there until we find a new site for them or until we change our water system.”

Schwabe also added that in the near future, council will have to direct staff to remove trees from the parks yard area as the Qualicum Beach Cemetery is rapidly reaching capacity.

Residents were given a chance to provide their feedback. There was a suggestion the town maintain the status quo and to just modernized the current facilities to make it a safer working environment.

Coun. Teunis Westbroek suggested the town look at the possiblity of expanding or renovating the current public works site.

“I think we’re rushing into this without looking at some other options, perhaps a little more innovation,” said Westbroek. “At this point I would not support moving to the community park area. I would look at some other options.”

Sales pointed out that maintaining both sites will results in building two facilities instead of just one, which will cost the town more.

Council unanimously voted to direct staff to prepare a report looking at the environmental and impacts from tree removal, operational emissions, numbers of hours lost through travel time, cost impacts for servicing the sites and input from public works and parks staff for the various sites proposed for the relocation of the operational facilities.

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