Following four committee of the whole meetings to discuss five core priorities for Parksville, council will now work towards key actions to address public safety, housing, health care, recreation and economic development.
Topics were drawn from public input during the mayor’s roundtable event in January and a community survey seeking input from citizens on their priorities for the city.
An in-depth summary of the five core priorities, with options for direct and indirect city actions and cost estimates are available on the City of Parksville’s website.
Working towards the priority of affordable housing, council will work with senior governments and community partners to provide diverse housing options to meet the needs of residents in all stages of life. Council will also explore the donation of city-owned land to facilitate affordable and cooperative housing developments.
During a July 3 committee of the whole meeting, Coun. Doug O’Brien said he believes are is currently enough affordable housing options in Parksville and that adding more could negatively impact current affordable facilities, churches and non-profit organizations who receive Development Cost Charge (DCC) waivers and property tax exemptions.
“Parksville already has a large amount of… modular mobile home parks within the city limits as well as the City of Parksville has recently, in 2019, allocated which will be over $1 million to providing 52 affordable suites in the form of 222 Corfield Orca Place,” O’Brien said. “If we identify more places that are property tax exempt because they qualify for affordable housing, then the ramifications of that is the existing churches and non-profits are going to have their tax exemptions lowered further which can be a hardship for them.”
Councillors Al Greir and Mark Chandler both spoke about looking into providing more co-operative housing options in Parksville. The city allows co-operative housing projects in all multiple-family residential zones and suggests developing an educational brochure on the various model of multi-family housing as well as considering leasing/donating land for co-operative housing projects.
“I think it’s really important to start working on this now,” Greir said.
Working toward the priority of community safety, council has already implemented a bylaw to regulate panhandling in the downtown core, are working towards passing a bylaw to regulate the distribution of hypodermic needles and have implemented a security camera rebate program for residents and businesses within city boundaries.
Another action for council’s consideration is to promote Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) such as clearing trees and bushes where individuals may be taking part in illicit or criminal activities.
Warren Payne, parks foreman with the city, said the parks department has, over the past several years, gone into city parks such as Renz Park and Mark’s Nature Park to limb up the trees and lower the underbrush, but that it’s had adverse effects.
“In conjunction with the droughts that we’ve had the past few years… this has resulted in the centre areas of Mark’s and Renz Park dying out. I do have concerns about more invasive plants taking hold in Mark’s Park,” Payne said. “From my understanding the camps that have been in [Mark’s] Park are at at the back portion of the park so they’re probably 100 metres plus from the road. Even with the trees limbed up and the brush taken down, it’s such a long sight line into that portion of the park that I don’t know it would be that beneficial.”
O’Brien said limbing the trees and removing underbrush in urban parks would cause severe strain on the trees.
“It’s not just the trees in our parks, it’s the underbrush, it’s the root system, it’s the bugs and the critters that form this elaborate system that we call a park or a forest… in an urban area,” O’Brien said. “If we go in there and clear out the brush from underneath these trees, it’s going to cause severe strain on the trees, we’re well into climate change.”
During this term in office, council and the city will also focus on recreation by working with the community to improve indoor and athletic recreation opportunities and exploring the feasibility of constructing a pool and sports multiplex. Another priority for council and the city is to focus on healthcare and invest in partnerships and seek opportunities to support improved access to health care professionals in the region.
In terms of economic development, council and staff will support enhanced economic development opportunities by streamlining processes and creating service efficiencies and continue to work with partners in the film, tourism and commerce sectors.
“We really need to offer a complete community and that means not just housing, but arts, culture, recreation and make it a community that is self sufficient and that is what will attract all sorts of people that want those amenities,” said councillor Marilyn Wilson.