Height of proposed home in Qualicum Beach is an issue for town council

Council denies a development variance; Coun. Anne Skipsey owns a property nearby

Qualicum Beach council rejected a development variance permit to build a house 0.5 meters (1.6 feet) over-height and 3.5 meters (11.5 feet) closer to Hoylake Road West than the required setback.

The staff report recommended that council advance the request to the public input stage. Director of Planning Luke Sales said the property is surrounded by the railway, an empty lot and the real estate agent listing the property, so there didn’t appear to be much opposition.

He added that because the road is curved, the variance would actually aline the neighbouring houses.

Coun. Anne Skipsey, who owns a property across the lane, said “my concern is more about the process,” suggesting it was a slight to the town’s Advisory Design Committee, which had recommended against the variance.

She was responding to Coun. Bill Luchtmeijer’s request to ask the neighbours. She said as a neighbour “I don’t know if I’m supposed (comment) or not, but I will eventually.”

Luchtmeijer argued that on a small lot like that, “to accommodate a reasonable building style and structure, requires some small variances.”

“We can create policies that are cut and dry, without any flexibility, but I think that isn’t good for the community,” he said.

Councillors Neil Horner and Barry Avis spoke against, suggesting there is room on the property without the variances, according to the developer at the APC meeting, and it would set a bad precedence.

Avis said surveying the neighbours would send the wrong message “that everyone can come forward, on every property they’re building, and ask for variances.”

Horner said his main concern was with the process and asked whether they could do the public input stage before the APC reviews projects, which Sales said was possible.

• Qualicum Beach council unanimously passed first reading to allow two downtown duplexes under their new Commercial Residential (CR1) zone.

The proposal calls for two, two story duplexes, with four 185 sq.m. (2,000 sq.ft.) units, called Thistle Dew Cottages on a narrow lot along the lane at 184 First Avenue West.

It requires a zoning amendment from standard commercial (C1) to the new CR1, which allows residential use on the ground floor within the village centre.

At staff’s recommendation, council passed first reading with a list of required information before it advances further. These include things like landscaping and floor plans that are part of the process anyway, Director of Planning Luke Sales said.

The staff report says the lot is undersized but, “the applicant will achieve a density bonus for energy efficiency… It is a reasonable density for a small-lot infill development without underground parking,” noting it will cover 51.5 per cent of the site, well below the 75 per cent zone limit.

“I think it’s attractive and it’ll be a benefit to the downtown core,” said Coun. Neil Horner, adding “quite frankly we have more than enough retail space at this time, so in my opinion Thistle Dew.”

• Echo Players hopes to add a mural to the large exposed wall on the side of their theatre in downtown Qualicum Beach. Arts and culture liaison Coun. Barry Avis mentioned the plan to council, expecting it was almost a done deal, but Mayor Teunis Westbroek and Director of Planning Luke Sales said that actually requires council approval of a development permit.

“They’re constantly having trouble with graffiti, it’s such a big wall and I think it would be a great addition to the town. It would really freshen up the side of the wall,” Avis said, adding he didn’t think people needed permission to paint their building and there appears to be some miscommunication going on. Sales said he has been in discussions with the group and council appeared supportive but agreed they have to be in on the process.

• The report on phase one of Qualicum Beach’s Waterfront Master Plan is available for review, detailing the current coastal conditions and expected effects of sea level rise, and council directed staff to start phase two, which will look at how to deal with that reality. Director of Planning Luke Sales updated council and described the detailed decision making process. The 350 page report is available at town hall and work on phase two — budgeted at $25,000 plus staff time — will start by setting the scope at the beginning of the new year.

• Coun. Neil Horner asked that the Qualicum Beach representative to the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) listens to the letter from Snaw-naw-as (Nanoose) First Nation Chief David Bob expressing strong opposition to a rezoning application to expand the Beachcomber Marina. “This entire area is a sacred site to the Snaw-naw-as First Nation and extends beyond the foreshore, out into the waters where you are proposing your rezoning,” reads the Oct. 26 letter. The application isn’t yet before the board, but Horner urged Qualicum Beach to keep the opposition “top of mind” when it does come up.

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