Qualicum Beach residents try to find balance between housing density, small-town character

Weekly discussion on transportation, housing Oct. 3 and 10 at Qualicum Beach Civic Centre

Despite somewhat opposing views on how development in Qualicum Beach should be approached, a group of about 10 people agreed determining a sense of community was the first step.

Tuesday’s (Sept. 26) meeting was the third in a series of weekly conversations for the Official Community Plan (OCP) review. The discussion topic was transportation and housing and the group included long-term residents, residents new to town, renters, people looking to move to Qualicum Beach and people who live in town part-time.

Early on in the meeting, everyone agreed there was a need for more affordable housing and more density in housing — the questions raised were where and how.

Peter Bullock, who has been living in the town with his family for a little more than a year, said there are two sides to planning: the ideological view of the town, such as the community identity, and then the physical planning which is guided by the ideological views of the town.

For most of the people at the table, the priority for community identity was maintaining the quaint feeling of Qualicum Beach.

Doug MacKay-Dunn, a District of North Vancouver councillor and part-time Qualicum Beach resident, said it is possible to develop the Village Neighbourhood and introduce higher density while also keeping the form and character quaint. He said it comes down to quality of life for residents.

“What is the quality of life and how do you protect that? The look and feel of the community is of paramount importance,” MacKay-Dunn said.

A handful of people said the solution was not to build up in terms of storeys, adding that “high rises” were not the way to fix the density problem. However, there were varying definitions of high rise. Some people said it was anything over three storeys, others said it was anything up to five or six storeys and others said high rises were above 10 storeys.

Currently the zoning in the Village Neighbourhood allows for a maximum of three storeys for structures.

Bullock said he values densification and building a community that can bring people together. However, he said, having a town “that shuts down at 4 (p.m.)” doesn’t enhance the vibrance of the downtown core.

“Where do you go? There is no reason to be downtown. When you bring people together it doesn’t have to be in a weird industrious way. People just want to hang out and have a green space and some buskers in the park,” Bullock said. “When you have people in walking distance, suddenly that can be possible.”

He said having a couple of high-density developments downtown would help, adding that if a person walked 100 metres outside the Village Neighbourhood, it could transition to single-family residences.

Doreen MacKay-Dunn, who lives part-time in the community with her husband Doug, suggested turning the area behind Naked Naturals into a walkable community with businesses, residences and restaurants. This drew support from the small group, which suggested building condominiums or townhouses in the area first.

There are still four weekly conversations dedicated to transportation and housing, scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 3 from 10 a.m. to noon and 6-8 p.m. and Tuesday, Oct. 10 from 10 a.m. to noon and 6-8 p.m. at the Qualicum Beach Civic Centre. People need to sign up in advance.

There is also a large public meeting on transportation and housing scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 4 from 6-9 p.m. at the civic centre. Pre-registration is not required for the meeting.

To sign up for one of the weekly conversations, contact the town at 250-752-6921, email raugustyn@qualicumbeach.com or drop it off at town hall at 660 Primrose St.

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