The PQB News begins its annual year in review, a look back at what made headlines in 2018.
This segment covers the first three months of the year – January through March – with ensuing editions completing the journey through the year’s local news. Check out any edition anytime at https://www.pqbnews.com/e-editions/
• With a recent deluge of snow and dipping temperature in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area, the region’s winter weather shelter was operating nearly at full capacity.
The 8-bed shelter in Arbutus Grove Church, located at 170 W. Hirst Ave. in Parksville, is able to provide warm beds to sleep in and hot meals to those who do not have a home to stay in.
“Some nights it’s six to eight (people),” said Violet Hayes, executive director of Island Crisis Care Society and co-chair
of the Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness. “For the most part we’re right around capacity.”
• Students in three School District 69 (Qualicum) schools were being taught Hul’qami’num, a First Nations language.
The teaching began as a pilot project in September, 2015.
There was so much demand for the district’s one Hul’qami’num language instructor, Colleen Manson, that the district’s Indigenous resource teacher, Carrie Reid, developed a software tool to help kids learn.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Reid said of her role in helping more people learn Hul’qami’num. “I was just playing with the software. I didn’t know I was doing something exciting.”
• A runaway prolific offender in a stolen vehicle led Oceanside RCMP on a three-hour chase, then allegedly attempted to drown a police dog before being captured and arrested.
On Thursday, Dec. 28, Oceanside RCMP spotted a stolen vehicle on Claymore Road West in Qualicum Beach at about 11 p.m.
The vehicle had been reported stolen out of the Comox Valley area, according to a release from the RCMP Island District.
The driver of the vehicle refused to stop and RCMP members followed tracks in the snow until the vehicle was found further up the road in the ditch. Several weapons were found.
• Island Health was calling for the public not to visit hospitals, residential care or assisted-living facilities if ill, as it announced confirmed outbreaks of influenza A at long-term care facilities in the Parksville Qualicum Beach and Nanaimo areas.
Island Health’s active outbreak list confirmed Trillium Lodge in Parksville had influenza B, a respiratory or influenza-like illness, as of Tuesday, Jan. 2.
• Paige Dalby and Darren Peerens were prepared to go to the hospital Wednesday morning (Jan. 3) for Dalby’s caesarean section, but they weren’t expecting their newborn daughter Autumn Rose Peerens to be Parksville Qualicum Beach’s first baby of the new year.
Dalby, in an interview over the phone from North Island Hospital Comox Valley, said she was shocked and surprised Autumn Rose was the new year baby for the local region.
Peerens said he and Dalby drove up from Qualicum Beach and were at the hospital 6 a.m. Wednesday for Dalby’s C-section.
Autumn Rose was born shortly after that at 8:40 a.m. weighing in at eight pounds, nine ounces.
• Three Nanoose Bay properties made the list of top 100 most expensive residential real estate in Vancouver Island.
BC Assessment released its 2018 property assessments and identified the highest assessed values from all over the Island as of July 1, 2017.
Leading the way in the Parksville Qualicum Beach region was an acreage in the Beachcomber area in Nanoose Bay, on Dorcas Point Rd., valued at $12,418,000. It is ranked sixth overall behind the highest-ranked valued property in Vancouver Island, James Island, which is worth $53,279,000.
• Qualicum Beach council was divided on how future strata age restrictions would affect the town and its residents which has the oldest demographic in all of Canada.
The Unrestricted Residential bylaw would change the definition of “dwelling unit” to prevent strata corporations from restricting resi- dency by age or family composition.
The Town of Qualicum Beach council approved third reading of the Unrestricted Residential zoning amendment bylaw on Monday (Jan. 8) with councillors Barry Avis and Bill Luchtmeijer voting against the bylaw.
• When she left her job with the Society of Organized Services in the 1990s, Renate Sutherland told her co-workers that she would be back one day as the executive director. Sutherland made good on that promise 12 years later, when she became the society’s current executive director in April, 2008.
Sutherland stepped away from SOS for the second time when she retired as director. Susanna Newton stepped into the role.
• The Town of Qualicum Beach entered into a two-year pilot project with an Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities (AVICC) working group on a social/strategic procurement plan. Social procurement is an emerging practice of a more strategic and proactive approach to purchasing “that seeks to better leverage tax dollars to achieve positive social outcomes aligned with community values and strategic objec- tives,” according to a report prepared by the town’s CAO, Daniel Sailland.
• A fire that fully engulfed a pickup truck in a residential driveway was extinguished by Parksville firefighters late Thursday morning, Jan. 11. The Parksville Volunteer Fire Department was called at 11:11 a.m. Thursday to a report of a vehicle fire on Terrien Way, in the San Pa- reil neighbourhood.
Firefighters arrived to find flames coming from the cab and from the engine compartment and the paint blistered on the older-model Dodge Power Ram pickup. Firefighters quickly doused the worst of the blaze, but had to force open the truck’s hood to get at lingering flames.
• People hear all the time that Qualicum Beach is one of the world’s best places to visit, and it seems Canadians surveyed by Expedia Canada agreed.
Qualicum Beach was chosen as one of the top places to visit in 2018 for Expedia Canada’s travel blog.
The Expedia Canada travel blog team recently surveyed 1,000 Canadians and asked them which city they would recommend their fellow travellers visit in the new year.
• A proposed new subdivision servicing bylaw was scheduled to be given three readings by Parksville city council at its regular meeting Monday, Jan. 15. It didn’t even make it to first reading.
The bylaw, crafted by city staff after being granted the go-ahead by council in its Dec. 18 meeting, was withdrawn after a reconsideration motion by Coun. Kirk Oates was approved unanimously.
The subdivision bylaw would have, among other things, eliminated the planting of street trees in new subdivision construction, a provi- sion that drew prompt and vigorous opposition from many residents in the community.
• A man who stabbed a Good Samaritan near Qualicum Beach and stole his vehicle was handed a four-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to a number of charges at provincial court in Nanaimo last week.
During sentencing, it was revealed Jeffrey Brian MacDonald, 32, had stolen a car on Sept. 21, 2016 and crashed. A passerby stopped to assist and MacDonald assaulted the man and fled in his truck. The victim survived.
In the weeks leading to that incident, MacDonald was involved in three car thefts and robberies in Nanaimo and Ladysmith. He also violated probation from a previous conviction for possession of theft instruments.
• Federal Minister of Indigenous Services Jane Philpott announced Ottawa would commit $34 million to build 3.5 million metres of subsea fibre optic cable along B.C.’s coast. The remaining $11.4 million comes from the province through the Connecting British Columbia program. The money will also help connect 44 First Nations communities. Included in the funding are Bowser, Qualicum Beach and the Nanoose First Nation.
• Recent heavy rains damaged part of the rail trail in the Coombs area.
Users of the Coombs to Parksville Rail Trail were advised to take caution due to the flooding. Part of the trail is damaged between the Crown Woodlot driveway and Virginia Road in Coombs.
The damage on the trail was to the east of the Shearme Road and Highway 4A intersection.
• Three Ballenas seniors marked their final home basketball game with laughter, tears and flowers — and a bit of pizza — at the Ballenas Secondary School gym Tuesday, Jan. 23.
Head coach Steve Dorsay presented Grade 12 players Emma Canil, Amanda Greenshields and Sophie Dugas with bouqets of flowers before the girls posed for pictures with family and friends.
A woman trapped after her vehicle plunged into a road washout in Lantzville was rescued with the help of Arrowsmith Search and Rescue personnel in the wee hours of Monday morning, Jan. 29.
Arrowsmith Search and Rescue president Nick Rivers, who performed the rope rescue, said the scene was “very bad.”
Ten emergency vehicles were on scene at Rumming Road just off Highway 19, on the border between Lantzville and Nanoose Bay, a little after 12:30 a.m. Monday morning. Arrowsmith and Nanaimo search and rescue and Nanoose and Lantzville fire departments were on scene. The woman was transported to Nanaimo Regional General Hospital with unknown injuries.
• Two paramedics were to be added to the staff at both the Parksville and Qualicum Beach ambulance stations as more paramedics will be hired to handle higher volumes of call-outs across the mid-Island.
Twenty-four full-time paramedics were to be hired in Nanaimo and two each in Parksville, Qualicum Beach and Ladysmith.
• A bank ATM machine was ripped from a wall and taken from a gas station in French Creek just a few minutes after midnight on Tuesday, Jan. 30.
Oceanside RCMP received a commercial alarm notification from the French Creek Shell Gas Station at the 800-block of the Island Highway.
Once RCMP were on scene, Cpl. Jesse Foreman said police discovered an unknown suspect had forced entry through the front doors and proceeded into the building with a wheeled dolly.
The night before, Foreman said, there was a similar attempted theft at a local resort, but was stopped by staff.
• Residents evacuated from Parry’s RV Park in Parksville after the nearby Englishman River flooded began returning to check on their trailers and belongings.
The residents returned to find their homes intact, but extensive damage to the park entrance after floodwaters washed out a culvert and the main entry road, tossing slabs of asphalt and concrete retaining blocks around and ripping out a fence, shrubs and at least one light pole.
Loose items in the park, including lawn furniture, toys, a wheelbarrow and other tools, and even a small boat, were pushed to the end of the property to lodge against the inside of the park’s fence or, in some cases, carried across Martindale Road to land in the ditch on the other side.
• A motion to adopt the Unrestricted Residential bylaw at the Jan. 29 Qualicum Beach council meeting failed.
However, the motion failed because Coun. Neil Horner brought forward new information about how the Government of Alberta has changed its Human Rights Act to prohibit age discrimination in protected areas of goods, services, accommodation or facilities in sections 4 and 5.
Horner said he thought the updates to the Alberta Human Rights Act are important and useful information. Prior to having final adoption of the Unrestricted Residential bylaw, Horner said third reading should be rescinded and there should be another public hearing.
After the initial motion failed, council unanimously rescinded third reading and scheduled a public hearing for Feb. 19.
• Qualicum Beach Mayor Teunis Westbroek took an opportunity to ask Prime Minister Justin Trudeau face-to-face about the national housing strategy.
Westbroek asked Trudeau at the prime minister’s town hall meeting in Nanaimo if the PM could address the federal government’s housing strategy, land claims issues and housing for First Nations. Westbroek also said it would be better if parts of the national housing strategy was started sooner than 2019.
“Qualicum Beach has land — Crown land — inside our town boundaries that we could use for (First Nation) land claims and work with them as developers.”
Trudeau responded to Westbroek by saying there are elements of the national housing strategy that won’t kick in until a couple of years from now, and “that is because there is a lot of work to do to get where we need to be.”
• On Feb. 5, the provincial government announced where and how customers will be able to purchase recreational cannabis.
But in a pre-emptive vote during its regular meeting Feb. 5, Parksville city council voted to have staff amend four city bylaws in order to place a freeze on cannabis sales in the city, until it is able to develop “a customized local framework.”
“The province has not made all the announcements, or said 100 per cent what local government’s role will be in regulation and enforcement,” said Keeva Kehler, director of administrative services. “Staff is recommending a ban on all cannabis-related activity in the city until we receive further information.”
• Oceanside RCMP reeled in a thief who allegedly stole a bait car and loaded it with stolen goods Sunday, Feb. 4.
Police received a notification that their bait car had been activated in Parksville and was being driven to the Errington area. The vehicle was driven by the suspect to a trailer park on Smithers Road in Errington and parked. Police surrounded the vehicle and made an arrest without incident.
• After a forum on mental health and substance use in Parksville, some people were saying local substance users and homeless people need somewhere to go to use in Parksville Qualicum Beach.
The forum was organized by the Oceanside Harm Reduction Coalition. It was billed as a community conversation on the Parks- ville Qualicum Beach region’s “unique needs” regarding mental health and substance use issues. About 100 people attended the event.
• The Regional District of Nanaimo planned to provide a limited number of free bus passes for families below the poverty line within the regional district.
The 2016 census data reported that in the RDN, there are a total of 12,960 people living below the poverty line. According to Daniel Pierce, Director of Transportation and Emergency Services, if half the number — students, seniors and adults — was eligible to receive a complimentary monthly pass, it would result in a potential loss in revenue of $376,960 per month, or $4,523,520 annually. It would require tax requisition to recover the loss.
• A basement suite fire in Qualicum Beach was contained within minutes by personnel from Qualicum Beach Fire Department and four other departments.
The QBFD had assistance from the Parksville, Coombs-Hilliers, Errington and Dashwood departments. RCMP, BC Ambulance Service and BC Hydro were also on scene.
No one was home at the time of the fire, Kohse and the department was investigating the cause of the fire.
• The Nanoose Volunteer Fire Department set up a trust account at a credit union to help a woman whose car fell into a road washout.
Karena Donnelly was driving home Jan. 29 when her car drove into a mudslide on Rumming Road near the Nanoose Bay/Lanztville border.
Arrowsmith Search and Rescue’s Nick Rivers performed the rope rescue and Nanaimo Search and Rescue, Nanoose and Lantzville fire departments were also on scene assisting. Rivers said the vehicle was upside down and all the windows had been blasted out on impact.
A lukewarm response from prospective new volunteers spelled the demise of the Qualicum Beach Fire & Ice Street Festival.
The festival’s volunteer committee announced that “after a great deal of thought and consideration” the event would be cancelled after 25 years, as of 2018.
The notice was shared via social media on the Qualicum Beach Fire & Ice Street Festival Facebook page.
• A man from the Qualicum Beach area had some ideas for what to do with his newly won half-million dollars.
David Le Blanc won $500,000 off the Extra on a winning Lotto 6/49 ticket. He bought the winning ticket at Mid-Island Co-op Whiskey Creek on the Alberni Highway.
“I plan to put some money in savings and plan a little vacation but most importantly of all, I really want to help all my kids,” he said.
• As the snow started falling Feb. 18, some people were staying warm inside, but the Forrester family decided to do something different.
Ruby Forrester said she and her husband Andy, their two children, Quin and Leele, and their two international students spent most of Sunday building a nearly eight-foot igloo outside of their house in Parksville.
• Island Express Air announced new daily flights from Qualicum Beach to Victoria, Boundary Bay and Abbotsford — and the Abbotsford-based airline also hopes to be flying to Bellingham, Wash., within a year.
Flights from Qualicum Beach depart at 8:15 a.m., with a return flight landing at about 5:30 p.m.
“We’ve been getting a lot of requests for this,” Island Express Air president Gerry Visser said in an interview. “This means that people can fly from Qualicum Beach to Victoria, Abbotsford and the whole Surrey/White Rock area by using Boundary Bay Airport.”
• Seeking to ease a tight rental housing market in the city, Parksville council approved first and second reading of a zoning amendment bylaw to facilitate a 63-unit rental apartment complex on Dogwood Street, near the Quality Resort Bayside off Highway 19A.
The four-storey apartment building would include 35 two-bedroom units of 850 sq. ft. each and 28 one-bedroom units of approximately 600 sq. ft., ac- cording to Shawn Vincent of Simba Investments.
• The environmental consequences of spilling 30,000 litres of light fuel into the Georgia Strait during an internal transfer aboard HMCS Calgary may not be the same as if it were bunker oil.
The Royal Canadian Navy, however, was taking Saturday’s incident aboard the naval vessel just as seriously.
Four smaller ORCA-class training vessels were dispatched to the area in question, with five specific areas to investigate between Greater Victoria and Parksville. Representatives from the Canadian Coast Guard and provincial environment specialists were on board to help in the detection phase and direct any immediate actions that need to be taken.
• While some people have no problem slagging politicians like it’s a sport, one group was praying for every single MLA in B.C.
On Twitter. In alphabetical order. Every Monday to Friday.
They tweet out things such as, “Father, thank you for Rachna Singh and the experience she brings to the table in her Surrey Green Timbers district, especially advocacy in Trade Unions.’
That was tweeted out from the Twitter account PrayBC in support of the B.C. NDP MLA.
• The trees were back in Parksville.
City council approved an amendment to remove a requirement to eliminate the planting of public street trees in new subdivision developments during a special public hearing and meeting at the forum in downtown Parksville.
Council then approved the repeal and replacement of Subdivision Servicing Bylaw, 1996, No. 1261, and directed staff to prepare a new bylaw to be brought before council.
“For me, it goes back to the requirement for the elimination of street trees on local roads,” said Coun. Kirk Oates, whose motion to reconsider an earlier approval of the bylaw proposal led to Monday’s public hearing. “That bothered me, because most of the time you hear the phrase, ‘tree-lined streets,’ it’s preceded by the word ‘beautiful.’
“I think this council is committed to keeping our city Parksville, not Cementville.”
• More than 75 residents, many of them sporting pink anti-bullying shirts, gathered in Parksville’s Community Park Sunday, Feb. 25, to show they have a heart. And to create one.
Works of HeArt, an anti-bullying initiative started by local artisan Micki Findlay, debuted with a gathering of people, ranging from seniors to young children, who assembled in the shape of a heart as photographers and videographers on the slope above captured images of the event.
•The Regional District of Nanaimo board of directors declined to make a motion to give third reading to a staff recommendation to amend an Electoral Area F bylaw concerning the production of cannabis in the region.
But an amendment to Bylaw 500.415, which covers Electoral Areas A, C, G and H, was given third reading by the board.
The bylaw amendments involve a change in terminology from marijuana production to cannabis production. As well, production of cannabis will no longer be restricted to medical purposes only. The amended bylaw would include non-medical cannabis production to reflect the federal government’s anticipated legalization of recreational cannabis on July 1.
• Mail service to several households in Nanoose Bay was disrupted after a pair of community mailboxes were damaged in acts of vandalism in late February. Oceanside RCMP warned that with the tax return season underway, residents should be vigilant and collect mail on a daily basis.
“This time of year it spikes,” RCMP Cpl. Jesse Foreman said. “Tax time and Christmas.”
The damaged community boxes are located near each other on or near Northwest Bay Road.
• Concerned over the potential negative economic impact of the B.C. government’s speculation tax on the City of Parksville, council approved a pair of motions to lobby for exemptions for Canadian residents for certain properties that would be hit by the tax.
“Since the budget announcement, members of council have received numerous concerns from Canadians who own property in the city and may now be subject to this additional tax,” said Coun. Sue Powell, who introduced the motions during council’s meeting March 5. “The city has many properties which are owned by non-B.C. residents, sometimes as the intended full-time home for Canadians who will be retiring here, some are family homes which have been inherited by children of full-time residents, and others that are not intended for full-time residence but that are zoned as vacation/rental properties in the resort area.”
• A vehicle fire on Hirst Avenue in Parksville was contained quickly thanks to the help of a local business owner.
Kevin Kinnear, Parks West owner, said he could smell smoke while he was inside the store, when a customer came into Parks West and said there was a vehicle on fire just outside.
“I grabbed the extinguisher and went out to the vehicle,” said Kinnear, who added that the fire had just started and wasn’t too large.
The driver of the vehicle, who appeared shaken up but was unhurt, said she was still inside the SUV when it caught on fire.
Parksville assistant fire chief Mike Tisdelle said when he arrived on scene, Kinnear had already extinguished the fire.
• Nearly a year after getting funding to plan a supportive housing project in Parksville, the province announced $6.9 million in funding to build supportive modular housing units at the site.
Approximately 50 housing units are planned to be built at 222 Corfield St. South, with a goal of opening the facility by spring 2019.
• Two men were arrested as they attempted to steal gardening supplies in Parksville on Monday, March 5.
Oceanside RCMP were notified of suspicious goings-on by a man on his way to work. The witness saw two men walking up the Port Alberni Highway to an awaiting vehicle parked under the Highway 19 overpass.
“The men appeared to have a new garden cart with new items on top that appeared to be from a local garden supply store,” the release stated.
• Parksville city council finally closed the book on a contentious subdivision servicing bylaw when it voted unanimously to approve a new bylaw that will allow the planting of public street trees in new developments.
The new bylaw was given three readings with minimal discussion after an amended version was submitted by staff.
“This includes the changes to reintroduce trees, as requested by council,” said Vaughn Figueira, director of engineering.
• The Regional District of Nanaimo board endorsed a recommendation to allow advertising on BC Transit buses in the regional district. But not all the directors were in favour of it.
Qualicum Beach director Teunis Westbroek said the buses look better and cleaner right now without advertising.
“I would like to see if there’s another way to advertise other than what we saw in the past… it looks like
a driving billboard,” said Westbroek.
• Pressure continued to mount against the NDP government’s proposed speculation tax as Parksville-Qualicum Beach MLA Michelle Stilwell and West Kelowna MLA Ben Stewart both rose to press Finance Minister Carole James during question period in the legislature Thursday, March 15.
Asked whether the ministry would honour requests for exemption from the tax from the Regional District of Nanaimo and the munic- ipality of West Kelowna, James would say only that details of the proposed legislation are still being crafted.
• The Ballenas Secondary playing field may look rough and in need of a significant upgrade but it’s still home to the Whalers.
The field is well-used by the school’s athletic teams and has been the venue of countless league games. For spectators, however, the pleasure of watching the students in action is often tempered by the need to stand throughout the duration of a match. Some sit on the grass and are able to bear damp trousers after. There’s no seating to sit and enjoy the games, unless fans bring their own foldable bench or even blankets.
The Ballenas Interact Club wanted to something about it. Led by president Amanda Greenshields, who is in her last year in high school, the club was trying to raise funds to buy bleachers.
• It was all smiles and congratulations when stakeholders gathered in Parksville to announce funding for a long- sought homeless shelter and affordable housing project in the Parksville Qualicum Beach region.
At Parksville’s council meeting Monday, March 19, the opposition arrived in force.
Council unanimously approved a motion to begin the statutory rezoning process for the property at 222 Corfield St. in Parksville, an act which drew boos and shouts from a group in the gallery that came to oppose the 52-unit affordable housing and shelter project.
• Two Parksville Royals, Anson McGorman and Ethan Dean, were wearing some bling on their fingers when they returned home from a trip to Arizona.
They were glittering championship rings they earned with the Canadian team that competed in the 14U Select 30 Super NIT tournament in Mesa, Ariz. There were seven teams from the United States and only one Canadian team.
The two products of Oceanside Minor Baseball were invited to join the all-star Canadian team, made up of players from B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan.
• Island Health was warning the public not to consume herring eggs that were harvested from French Creek to Qualicum Bay.
There had been a case of people getting sick and treated from eating the herring eggs believed to be contaminated with vibrio cholerae, a bacteria that is rarely seen on Vancouver Island.
Medical health officer Dr. Shannon Waters said the bacteria was discovered after fewer than five people were treated for intestinal infections.
• The Town of Qualicum Beach took a small but significant step in trying to reduce single-use plastic bags in the community.
At its regular meeting, March 19, council passed first reading of a bylaw that would eventually ban the sale or provision of single-use plastic bags in Qualicum Beach.
The vote was 4-1 in favour of the motion, with Coun. Bill Luchtmeijer the only councillor opposing it. Luchtmeijer said he felt the bylaw did not do enough to curtail the use of not ony plastic bags, but of other plastics as well.
• Nothing hits quite as hard as the songs that first introduced a person to the power of music.
That’s a kind of theme blues singer, songwriter and guitarist Jim Byrnes pointed out in his latest CD, Long Hot Summer Days.
The return to his musical roots is also a theme for his upcoming performance at Smoke ’N Water Restaurant in Nanoose Bay Wednesday. It was a return to old stomping grounds, said the former Island resident, adding he hoped to catch up with plenty of old friends and fans, and make some new ones as well.
• A cost originally deemed “out of the realm of reality” by one Qualicum Beach councillor was approved for renovations on the town’s waterfront washroom.
Council voted to award the tender for the beach washrooms to Don May Construction for a total cost of $239,207.49.