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THURSDAY SPOTLIGHT: The controversial Clarion

Condo development in village centre of Qualicum Beach passes third reading after a raucous public hearing
Kevin Monahan spoke against the development.

The five-storey development proposed for the empty lot next to town hall in Qualicum Beach was given third reading Monday night after a spirited public hearing.

About 200 residents showed up to the hearing on the Clarion development that was meant to be held at Qualicum Beach Town Hall Monday night — it was moved to the civic centre.

People spoke both for and against the development, with the majority showing their disdain for the property.

"My first consideration here is: are you kidding? Is this really under consideration?" said resident Kevin Monahan. "And secondly to get back to the legal issue: are you kidding? You are proposing to place a virtually entirely residential structure in a commercial zone."

Iris Page said she spoke on behalf of the Qualicum Beach Residents' Association. She said residents were not given sufficient time to discuss the proposed development, the building was too tall, it would overshadow town hall, and the style of architecture was not consistent with the rest of the town as expressed in the design guidelines and the Official Community Plan (OCP). Parking wouldn't be sufficient for commercial use, the market price would be too high for people looking to downsize or first-time buyers, and the development cost charges (DCCs) that have been waived for the development would have to be picked up by the taxpayers, she added, among other comments.

Hilda Pearce spoke in favour of the development, saying she has lived in the area for 50 years and worked on the first official community plan for the town. At that time, she said, the communities of Eaglecrest and Chartwell were not part of the plan, and the town hall and The Gardens (a four-storey building) required variances to the OCP. The town was built, and has the beautiful look it does today, because of variances to the OCP, she said.

"When I moved here the population was 600 permanent residents and it swelled to about 1200 in the summer, and if we'd all had the negative outlook that I hear here tonight most of you wouldn't be here," she said.

One of the residents who appeared younger than most at the meeting, Sabrina Krauchi, said that eveyone's opinions at the meeting, were just that, opinions. The development would go through, she said.

"Residents associations  . . . . speak on behalf of residents (but)  you're not speaking on behalf of all the residents," she said.

To which someone from the crowd retorted "The majority!"

She said everyone who was opposing the development and saying it didn't fit-in should look to the Old Dutch Inn development and notice that it's exactly the same.

Resident Art Skipsy, who said he also worked on the first OCP, said he was concerned about the traffic issues the development would cause. He said he thought council was elected to represent the people and not the developers. If the project goes ahead, he said, this council would forever be held responsible.

"I have been honoured to be part of the first OCP and I have been duly rewarded by positive comments, and I would not like this council to bear the grunt of what will happen if this goes ahead as it is," he said.

Before the development was given third reading discussion took place.

Coun. Scott Tanner asked a number of questions to staff including whether the project had legal issues. Director of Planning Luke Sales said legal opinion has been obtained and the town was in good standing in terms of the development permit.

Coun. Mary Brouilette wanted to clear up some misconceptions, one being the DCCs.

"As far as the DCCs, we're not giving anyone a million bucks, that's not the way it is," she said. "There was a motion that passed to encourage development, it has encouraged it, that lot has been empty for 16 years."

She said it's a reduction of payment from the developer and isn't anything to do with taxdollars. Coun. Bill Luchtmeijer said the DCC discussion was a scare tactic.

Coun. Tanner brought forward a motion to reduce the height of the building by one storey, which was supported by Mayor Teunis Westbroek, but opposed by the other councillors. Tanner then tried to pass an amendment to have the form and the character of the project changed to fit in better with the downtown village guildelines, and a more craftsman style of architecture — that motion also failed. He also attempted to pass an amendment that the developers would have to pay one third of the cost to put up traffic signals, $100,000, since the "additional traffic burden will cost the taxpayers to fork out the money for that signalization." It also failed.

"We don't sit here and bargain with the developers and say 'Hey, you know, kick in another 60 grand and we'll call it a deal — that's not professional —  that's not the way things are done," said Brouilette. "Proposals come in and we accept them or we don't accept them."

Westbroek then tried to pass an amendment to step back the top story on the east facade to reduce the perceived height of the building from the East. It also failed.

"I hope this goes forward,"  Coun. Dave Willie said before third reading. "And I hope it is a signal to everyone out there that we will look at projects and they all don't have to be exactly the same, they don't have to look the same, feel the same or be the same, but we do want to make sure something happens because the route we're going through now is, drive through Chemainus and you'll see."

Third reading of the development passed with Brouilette, Luchtmeijer and Willie in favour, and Tanner and Westbroek opposed. Fourth and final reading and adoption is expected May 27.