Qualicum Beach election issue: development in the downtown village

A developer and candidates talk about their vision for Qualicum Beach's downtown village

If growth and development could be considered the catalyst for political war these past three years on Qualicum Beach council, then the village centre was the front line.

By a familiar vote of 3-2, council passed bylaws to waive development cost charges (DCCs) for certain developments downtown. By the same vote margin, council made changes to height restrictions on new building in the village.

Both bylaws came to the forefront during the debate over The Clarion, a project proposed for vacant land next to town hall. Construction has yet to start on the project.

Dean Dreger has been vocal about what he feels was a shift in the way the town deals with development the past three years. He said prior to 2011, the town “didn’t speak the language of developers and didn’t care to learn the language of developers. My concern now is people don’t recognize the way it really was (prior to the 2011 election).”

Dreger’s Amplio Developments has built award-winning housing in Qualicum Beach. He said his projects — he’s currently building an eight-unit row housing complex at Jones and Second Avenue — employ on average 20 people at a time and “they are all young people with families.”

Dreger said if development policies revert to pre-2011 standards, he is “not going to put myself through that aggravation again” and focus his business and its accompanying employment on other communities.

The NEWS asked candidates for mayor and council for comment about growth/development in the downtown village. It was up to the candidates how they responded, but we suggested they could consider the following facets of this debate: DCCs, height restrictions, business health, form/character of buildings and the role of staff and council on growth/development issues in the village.

What follows are some of the responses we received.

Teunis Westbroek (mayoral candidate): “Over the years, patient, hardworking and pragmatic people have carefully built our town and created meaningful spaces. To continue this success story, we need to elect councillors who will commit to pursue the direction set by residents in the Town Official Community Plan.”

Denise Widdifield (mayoral candidate): “The challenge in the future is to initiate a manageable downtown revitalization and investigate adding complimentary residential projects. The problem with our existing OCP guidelines is that these issues are not answered clearly.  We have no clear, concise plan.”

Barry Avis (council candidate): “DCC, yes. Height restrictions, yes. Council controls policies on growth and development. This should be based on resident and business input to the community plan and also considering staff recommendations.”

Mary Brouilette (council): “In order to attract good, relevant development in our downtown core, I fully believe incentives should be offered. Our village core needs further densification. Empty lots contribute little towards the economic health of our community.”

Delores Fraser (council): “I believe that development in the downtown village should be done in a manner that respects the OCP and the present Growth Strategy and that community involvement will be necessary regarding major changes. Height restrictions should be adhered to for the attractive and spacious feeling and DCCs should not be decreased for new developers who benefit from the hard work and investment of those before them.”

Neil Horner (council): “Anyone who would like to find out about my thoughts on the issues is welcome to visit my website at neilhorner.ca.”

Bill Luchtmeijer (council): “I think that the current council has gone a long way towards making the downtown more viable by offering development incentives that will create a strong community in the village centre that will support existing small businesses, pedestrian activities and at the same time providing some high-quality residential accommodations.”

Len Mustard (council): “It is most reasonable that a new business be asked to contribute to the expense of the infrastructure that they will be accessing. However, starting a new business is an expensive proposition, and I would be in favour of allowing a new business to stagger the DCCs over a few years.”

Anne Skipsey (council): “I would like to know what the citizens of Qualicum Beach want and what is their vision for the future of the village. I do have some thoughts relating to the preservation of Qualicum’s unique small town character and will be happy to share these as part of a meaningful public consultation process. I encourage anyone who would like to learn more to go to AnneSkipsey.ca.”

Dave Willie (council): “People are looking for a more diversified inventory of product in the core that allows them the access within walking distance to all the amenities that make Qualicum Beach so special. A strong core is the heart of our community for both the residents and business alike.”

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