RDN will examine the wording of its Regional Growth Strategy

Remember the debate about Qualicum Beach's growth containment boundary?

Qualicum Beach Mayor Teunis Westbroek’s wishes it would, but the debate over what is and what is not a minor amendment to the regional growth strategy (RGS) just won’t die.

The issue was a heated one during the former town council’s tenure. A majority of town council wanted the Regional District of Nanaimo to consider a change in Qualicum Beach’s growth containment boundary a minor amendment to the RGS. The council of the day wanted to make the growth containment boundary and the town boundary one in the same. The issue was brought to a head chiefly through development plans at Pheasant Glen Golf Resort, which lies outside the town’s growth containment boundary but inside the town boundaries.

Westbroek and former Coun. Scott Tanner were opposed to the change being considered ‘minor’ but they were in the minority. Any change in a community’s growth containment boundary also triggers a change in the RDN’s RGS, so this issue had to be considered by the RDN board’s 17 members.

To the delight of those opposed to the Pheasant Glen development, the RDN board decided the Qualicum Beach request did not constitute a minor change to the RGS, which essentially ensured the development was destined to be mired in an official community plan process for years.

When it denied the request of Qualicum Beach, the RDN board also asked staff to come back with a plan to provide more clear wording on what could and could not be considered a minor amendment to the RGS. The board saw the beginnings of that plan to clarify the wording last week, including a public consultation process.

Westbroek, back as the town’s representative on the RDN after a three-year absence, wanted none of it.

“I would like to see us vote against this and leave it as it is,” said Westbroek. “I don’t see the need for this.”

RDN CAO Paul Thorkelson said the current bylaw regarding what can and cannot be considered a minor amendment to the RGS could be seen by some as “too rigid” and the new wording “introduces flexibility.”

Bowser/Deep Bay Director Bill Veenhof was in favour of going forward with the process.

“Using the reasonable man test, this is not a big deal,” said Veenhof.

The board passed the motion to go forward with the process to change the wording, with only Westbroek and Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay opposed.

Thorkelson said this week the process, including approval from the provincial government, could be completed by the first half of 2016. Before they are sent to the province, any changes to the RDN’s regional growth strategy have to be approved by the RDN’s member municipalities, including Qualicum Beach, which seems unlikely after a sea-change in council from the results of the 2014 municipal election.

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