Council rejects proposal to prevent future age-restricted stratas in Qualicum Beach. — NEWS file photo

Qualicum Beach rejects elimination of strata age restrictions

Councillors raised issue of town’s lack of housing strategy

Residential stratas restricted to seniors only will continue to be allowed in Qualicum Beach.

The motion to adopt the controversial Unrestricted Residential Bylaw was rejected at council’s regular meeting Monday night with three councillors — Barry Avis, Bill Luchtmeijer and Anne Skipsey — opposing its third reading and adoption. Only Mayor Teunis Westbroek and councillor Neil Horner voted in favour of it.

Horner, who was the main proponent of the unrestricted bylaw geared toward preventing future strata developments from imposing age restrictions, made a strong plea to his fellow councillors to vote in favour of the motion.

The proposed restrictions, Horner pointed out, will impact nobody who is currently living in age-restricted stratas in Qualicum Beach.

“So the people screaming bloody murder about it would be entirely unaffected,” said Horner. “Qualicum Beach will still have age-restricted stratas, but it will be no longer possible for a new development to be bought up by elderly Albertans and then turning it into a 55-plus strata, making it unavailable for families.”

The proposed new bylaw included an exemption for stratas that have already enacted age restrictions in their policies. In the future, Horner explained, if a strata wants to have age restrictions they can apply to council for consideration for that designation.

“So it’s pretty not that super-strong (a bylaw), to tell you frankly,” said Horner, who added that he was not pushing this to get himself re-elected. He indicated that his goal is only to do what he believes is the right thing.

“In this case, the right thing is to prevent Qualicum Beach from becoming nothing more than a geriatric ghetto with the shops shuttered and the schools closed,” said Horner.

Horner found it heartening that age restrictions in Alberta were successfully challenged through the province’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms and believed that Qualicum Beach could do it as well.

Luchtmeijer argued for the Town of Qualicum Beach to challenge the province’s right to create and manage the strata title act isn’t within its jurisdiction.

“Our rezoning bylaws were not meant to challenge our levels of governments as far as what they could and could not do,” saide Luchtmeijer. “Social issues, I understand. The discrimination factor, I understand. But I don’t think the Town of Qualicum Beach has any right to tell the province where to go on this.”

Luchtmeijer said if council feels strongly in pursuing this, they should write a letter of encouragement to the ministers and the premier to do something about it.

“But don’t make us change and create a zoning that is going to discriminate against people who have some rights in the community,” said Luchtmeijer. “And right now their rights are enforced in the strata act.”

Avis agreed with Luchtmeijer that it is a provincial jurisdiction. However, he commented that the significant problem the town is currently facing is the lack of housing strategy.

“We owe it to our citizens to have that housing strategy,” said Avis.

Skipsey said she would like to eventually see a housing committee established.

“How can we fix a problem if they haven’t defined it?” she asked. “It is important that we bring the right people together and figure out exactly what it is that’s missing and needed in our housing mix and how we can meet the need. Also to look at the 55 (year) age barrier, just one piece of the puzzle and think about what is… the best way to address restriction such as age and rental.

“And I think it’s unfortunate that this council, for whatever reasons, chose not to look at the big picture but is instead trying to address this one issue.”

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