Issues related to development and the town’s official community plan produced poignant comments from prospective council members at the first Qualicum Beach all-candidates forum Thursday.
The meeting was hosted by the Oceanside Development and Construction Association (ODCA) at the Parksville Community and Conference Centre. The meeting was restricted to ODCA members, and there were only about 20 in attendance, plus media. Candidates were given a few minutes each for opening remarks and then were asked to comment on questions posed by members. Most of the questions and responses were about development — past, present and future — and its relationship to the OCP, including a specific question about the proposed Pheasant Glen development.
There were some heated moments as candidates gave rebuttals to each other’s comments and responded to some shouts from the ODCA members in the audience.
Barry Avis (candidate for council): Said he liked “the concept of a condo within a condo,” explaining that could be a 2,000 square foot unit with 1,400 square feet for the owners and a 600-square-foot suite to rent to a “younger couple.” In relation to Pheasant Glen, Avis said: “do some studies, let’s look at those studies and see what’s appropriate.”
Mary Brioulette (council): “I believe we are moving ahead and I would like to see this council stay in place,” she said. In response to Avis’ comment about studies and Pheasant Glen, she said “That’s what we need, more studies. If I am elected, it (Pheasant Glen) will be part of the next strategic plan. It should have been done in the previous OCP.”
Delores Fraser (council): “I believe that development in downtown Qualicum Beach can be done in a manner that respects the OCP,” she said. “The public feels disrespected. Perhaps slowing down a little, a little more committee time, instead of abolishing committees.”
Neil Horner (council): “I can’t imagine anyone from the ODCA voting for me,” he said in his opening statement. “The OCP is not an obstacle to go over, around or through. It’s a road map.”
Bill Luchtmeijer (council): Recalled the years before the most recent council: “It was a community that said no to anything before it even got a chance. This (most recent) council has spent three years trying to untangle that.” Luchtmeijer called for “clear guidelines and certainty” for developers. “We can’t use red tape to cover our butts.”
Teunis Westbroek (candidate for mayor): “We need your ideas, your involvement, to develop the old bus garage site,” he told the ODCA crowd. He talked about a different OCP process in the future: “We’re going to listen to people in a different way.” As for Pheasant Glen, he said permanent residences weren’t part of the original plan, but he said: “I’m looking forward — I will work with the Duttons (Pheasant Glen owners).”
Denyse Widdifield (mayor): “My opponent doesn’t seem to acknowledge that we have to grow the economy of Qualicum Beach,” she said. “We need to have some business sense come to council. Right now we are stagnant. I am going to make sure I am aware of what’s happening in the community, what’s being presented.”
Dave Willie (council): Noted that professionals have dubbed the current OCP “flawed.” He said “we have lots of cliches in our OCP but no clear tools.” He also said “we need to find people who are invested in this town, who had kids grow up in this town. When you make your decision (on Nov. 15), look at the table (at Thursday’s forum) and see who is invested in this town.”
The Qualicum Beach Chamber of Commerce and The NEWS will sponsor an all-candidates meeting Thursday, Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. at the Qualicum Beach Civic Centre.