It’s a long way from issuing a building permit, but Qualicum Beach town council voted Monday to narrow the focus and take a step toward approval of a 160-unit residential resort development at Pheasant Glen.
During a committee of the whole meeting at the civic centre that drew about 200 people, council and the public heard about contrary legal opinions, regional growth strategy processes and details of the proposed development itself.
In the end, council passed a motion (with only Coun. Scott Tanner opposed) directing staff to develop a timeline and budget by January 13 for a limited-scope official community plan review that will be required if the development is to reach any kind of zoning and bylaw-change readings. Technically, as this was a committee of the whole meeting, council will have to pass the same motion at its next regular meeting Monday, Dec. 2.
About 15 members of the public took to the microphone Monday night to ask questions and make comments about the potential development and the process. The majority spoke in favour of the development and their comments received the loudest applause from those in attendance.
“Qualicum needs growth,” said one resident. “I came from Tsawwassen where that town died. You have to bring in new people (to Qualicum Beach) or it will die.”
Another resident said it’s impossible for official community plans and regional growth strategies to foresee all possibilities for development that may arise between their five-or-ten-year renewal cycles.
“To say it can’t be done is wrong,” said the resident.
The biggest applause of the night came after one resident said “let’s get on with it.”
“I’d like to see it developed and grow and be viable and I’d like to see it before I’m 80,” said the woman who said she was a member at Pheasant Glen. “It seems every time they (the proponents) think they are there, there seems to be a new brick wall. The planning department should be working with the owners of Pheasant Glen.”
There were a few speakers who spoke against the development, raising concerns about the watershed and opening the door to even more development in the South Qualicum Beach area. One speaker said “there are no positives” to the proposal.
Others also questioned the validity of the argument that this proposal would help bring more young families to the town. That speaker said he didn’t believe the homes proposed for Pheasant Glen would be affordable for families.
On Wednesday, a member of the family that owns Pheasant Glen provided comment on the results of the meeting Monday night.
“It’s very positive,” said Craig Dutton. “We get to take the first step in the process and that’s the opportunity we’ve been looking for. It’s nice to know what it is that will be expected from us and we are happy to do that.”
During the meeting Monday, Coun. Tanner suggested moving this project forward was a departure from the history of Qualicum Beach.
“Qualicum Beach is being asked to put profits before planning,” said Tanner. “Historically, the town does not operate that way.”
Coun. Bill Luchtmeijer made the motion directing town staff to start the ball rolling on what he perceives as a minor change to the Regional Growth Strategy, focussing the required OCP review just on the Pheasant Glen property, as opposed to a major change to the RGS, which would require a full OCP review, which is not due until 2017.
“We just can’t think about today, we have to think about the future,” said Luchtmeijer. “We need to look at what the community can benefit from this process and this application. Let’s work through it, one hurdle at a time.”