Searching for balance

Talk centred on better ways residents could communicate with developers in Qualicum Beach

The three panelists at the Qualicum Beach Residents’ Association forum on development Thursday night at the civic centre were

The three panelists at the Qualicum Beach Residents’ Association forum on development Thursday night at the civic centre were

A panel of experts and 120 residents tossed around ideas for better communication between townsfolk and developers on Thursday night in Qualicum Beach.

One of the panelists, architect and former advisory planning commission member Bruce Fleming-Smith, suggested the formation of a Qualicum Beach Building Forum (QBBF), a group that could have representation from all three of the town’s residents’ associations and provide council with input before a proposal got too far down the road of the approval process.

Fleming-Smith said for any group like the QBBF, it would be “highly desirable to have the sanction and support of council,” but at the same time “it would be important the QBBF not become a forum for political partisanship.”

Another panelist, realtor/developer Dave Bryan, offered a glimpse into the profit margins and thought process of developers. He said Qualicum Beach needs to better communicate to its council and potential developers just what kind of development is desired in the town. For example, he doubted there would be many people who want to move to Qualicum Beach, or within town, and  into an apartment. He said a patio home was likely more desirable for this market.

Bryan also said regardless of what kind of development is desired, there is just not much room for any projects in the village neighbourhood. “Qualicum Beach is very tightly nailed down as far as availability of land goes,” said Bryan, a 35-year resident of the town. “There is not one piece of land that’s ready to go. That’s what the fight is about. We have nailed it down so tight.”

Bryan also offered comment on the heated political debates in town recently.

“Quite frankly, I’m tired of it,” said Bryan. “I’d like to see us bring back the Qualicum Beach we love and right now I don’t feel that and it’s a shame. If we could let our hair down for a minute and forget if we are on the left or right side of the room and just throw ideas out here.”

The third panelist, the town’s Director of Planning Luke Sales, steered clear from any talk of politics, but he did offer an explanation of the process for builders, residents and council, and he did offer his opinion about one hot topic.

“I don’t believe referenda would be appropriate in most cases,” said Sales, who continually pointed to the town’s official community plan as the town’s “visionary guiding document” from which all bylaws are guided.

Sales also said the town needs to strike a better balance in relation to the time it takes a development to go through the process at town hall. He pointed to the College Inn development, suggesting it took two years and cost the developer $500,000 before work was even done at ground level.

“That process took  a long time for the developer and time is money,” said Sales. “To them (developers) that (long time frame) starts to get pretty old, pretty fast. We should show them a degree of respect — they are putting their money into the community.”

The forum was hosted and organized by the Qualicum Beach Residents Association. The group’s president, Bill Adkins said this was an “educational meeting” that was born out of the debate around The Clarion development slated for the village neighbourhood right beside town hall.