The Town of Qualicum Beach council is at a stalemate regarding plans for the development of the St. Andrews Waterfront Park.
Staff recommended on March 17 that council endorse a plan to hire a consultant to finalize a landscaping and parking plan for the park, with a budget of $10,000.
But it didn’t move forward as there were two votes in favour and two votes against. Mayor Brien Wiese and Coun. Scott Harrison voted against the recommendation while councillors Teunis Westbroek and Robert Filmer offered support.
Council has agreed to spare the St. Andrews Lodge from demolition following a public outcry to preserve the historical building. The St. Andrews Lodge Historical & Cultural Society has agreed to take over the lodge from the town and find the funds needed to renovate and upgrade it to today’s standards.
Harrison indicated the society has been given a year to fundraise a significant portion of the project as the town will not financially contribute to the preservation and operation of the lodge.
“I’ve heard they’re still working on their mission statement and after four months the fundraising efforts are not really progressing to be polite,” said Harrison, who added that “when we don’t know what’s going to happen on the site, to allocate funds for a parking configuration when there’s still large questions that remain unanswered would be unwise. So I don’t support spending money at this time.”
Westbroek indicated there is a sincere effort to retain the building and the society is still working on their statements of significance. He suggested town staff work with the society to come up with a lease agreement that would allow them access to the lodge.
“We’re charging them for power bills and other things. I don’t think that’s fair to charge a tenant when they don’t have a key yet,” said Westbroek. “So let’s get moving on that an clear up this uncertainty.”
Westbroek acknowledged that while the issue with preserving the lodge is still being determined he would prefer to see the rest of the park be open to the public.
Wiese agreed but would not support spending $10,000 at this time.
“I am not sure we’re there yet,” said Wiese. “They might not even happen in our term. But right now they’ve got a very low amount of money in their fund. With the museum getting a small grant, the chances of them getting a grant this year are pretty slim or next to nothing.”
Filmer experessed concerns that some members of council continue to “slag this society and talk poorly about them.”
“First of all, they’re trying to get a society or an organization going amidst a pandemic,” said Filmer. “We keep trying to put limitations on them and you know we should be working with them and helping them and not just saying get this done on your own.”
Society president Anne Skipsey said their objectives hinge on working collaboratively with town council and staff.
Skipsey said they’ve asked Wiese for an opportunity for the group to meet with the town to discuss “a positive way forward.” She said they have drafted a lease agreement and are eager to discuss it with the town. They are now scheduled to meet on March 22.
Skipsey also indicated that on March 12 they’ve requested the St. Andrews Lodge be placed on the town’s community heritage registry. Attached to the request was the society’s statement of significance outlining the historical impact of both the Little family and the lodge in the community since 1938.
“How can we possibly apply for grants or start a fundraising campaign when we don’t yet have a lease agreement in place,” society treasurer, Greg Sabo asked. “Heritage status is also an important tool in accessing potential grants. We look forward to signing a lease and obtaining heritage status for the lodge so we can make things happen.”