Residents weigh in on affordable housing development in Qualicum Beach

Some want more information on the site plan; worried about loss of community garden

Qualicum Beach residents were recently invited to share their thoughts on three zoning amendments, including one that would allow for a medium-density affordable housing development.

The affordable housing development would be on town-owned land at Railway Street and Village Way. Before that happens, a zoning amendment needs to be passed to change it from residential 20 (R20) to permit multi-family residential. Plans have yet to be developed for the site.

A community garden is currently on the property, and some residents raised concerns about its loss, as well as the lack of information about a plan for the site.

“I think it’s commendable that council is considering densification and affordable housing in the core, however, I share the concerns expressed by many of the speakers today,” said speaker Glen Greg. “What I’d like to see is a clear site plan showing the location, setbacks, height, form and character of all the buildings, the green spaces, the driveways and access points, the parking and maybe a study to show how it would fit into the community and how it would impact traffic and parking within the neighbourhood.”

Mayor Brian Wiese said he understands why the public would be upset about not having plans to base their opinions on, but that council doing the zoning before having the plans helps them secure what would be necessary funding for the affordable housing project from BC Housing.

“People didn’t understand this is just a zoning thing, it’s pretty rare that we rezone prior to having a plan for what’s going to happen going forward, this is the first time,” he said in a subsequent interview. “Because we’re rezoning prior to the plan, only because when BC Housing comes down for their grants we have to be on the ball and ready, so we want to rezone early.”

READ MORE: Qualicum Beach approves Pheasant Glen zoning amendment

READ MORE: Qualicum Beach seeks feedback on affordable housing development

Wiese also said he understands concerns around the community garden, and that he sees it as an important aspect to the property — one he wants to keep.

“I very much want to keep the community garden, so I’m hoping for more space, not less,” he said. “We’re absolutely going to bring it back to the public again once the design is done.”

Numerous people also got up to speak on the property at 595 Spruce St., whose owner wants to subdivide the property to create two single-family dwellings on separate parcels.

“If we start letting developers tell us how we’re supposed to plan our neighbourhoods, we’re going to tear up the fabric of this community,” said speaker Ezra Morris. “Slowly we’re going to lose everything that makes Qualicum Beach great.”

Others brought up concerns around tree loss.

“The trees and other native plants on or near the property at 595 Spruce are an important part of a network of wildlife supporting habitat,” said Lynn Brooks. “There needs to be a well thought-out Qualicum Beach urban tree and vegetation management plan developed with community input as soon as possible.”

Wiese said the town will soon have a tree bylaw, but that he’s not sure exactly it will entail. He said it will most likely include a replanting plan for trees that are taken down for building.

“I imagine that’s how it’ll work, but until I see the bylaw, I can’t tell you,” he said.

John Wood, a Qualicum Beach resident, was the sole speaker on the zoning amendment for 191 4th Ave. W — a corner lot property, whose owner wants to create a duplex on the property.

“The building that’s proposed, it covers a number of things that are in the OCP that were expressed requests,” he said. “One is densification in the uptown area and the second is that it goes along with the form and character of the existing neighbourhood.”

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