Discussions among councilors on the Town of Qualicum Beach’s 2012 strategic plan – specifically to do with the official community plan (OCP) – erupted into the public during Monday night’s regular council meeting.
In it’s 2012 strategic focus areas update, the council asked staff to review and identify OCP issues that ‘hinder economic recovery and possible new project opportunities.’ While the council had approved the document prior to it coming to the fore Monday, it was clear that the decision to do so was not unanimous.
“I think this has to be a complete aberration of the democratic process,” said councilor Scott Tanner. “It disenfranchises the public who did participate in the OCP process.”
He said a new council has come in and wants to review many OCP issues that were decided upon.
Coun. Dave Willie, who ran in last November’s municipal election on a platform of process review – and had done the same in a previous bid for the mayor’s chair – said what a majority of council decided to do was have staff identify issues in the OCP that the development community might have a problem with. He added a questionnaire has been sent by the town to developers to get their specific concerns about such issues in the current OCP, which was just passed late last year after a long public review.
Willie disagreed this move was listening to the needs of the development community over anyone else.
“There will be a public process afterwards,” he said, noting any decision council makes on changing the OCP will come before the public at a regular council meeting.
“The OCP is a fluid document,” Willie continued. “We’re going back to look at all the things that might have an impact.”
Yet, like in the previous OCP, he did say the council will eventually interpret the concerns and feedback and make a decision.
The previous OCP process, added coun. Bill Luchtmeijer, ignored a lot of people. He said council would be remiss not to look at those issues.
“Things change from day-to-day and I think things were overlooked last time.”
Willie said he heard from people that they were not heard in the last OCP process.
“The council of the day decided which way to go,” he said. “There’s a new council here today and we don’t like this.”
He then mentioned the Kwalikum Secondary School potential closure debate over declining enrollment, saying that decisions made over the last 10 years by past councils has made it difficult for the school to continue.
“Using KSS to open up the OCP and review our urban containment boundary, I don’t think that’s fair,” replied Mayor Teunis Westbroek, adding using the school and students to forward ideas about development and growth is distasteful.
There are currently no plans to close KSS and the town has announced it is working with the school district to help keep it that way.
Westbroek added he feels this isn’t fair to the people who did make contributions in last year’s OCP process.
“I agree with councilor Luchtmeijer on the infill of lots and that it matters to find out what’s holding the development up, but I don’t support (the OCP piecemeal review).”
Tanner said there was a lot of debate on this matter behind closed doors, but council felt it needed to come before the public – a point on which Willie agrees. Tanner added, however, he doesn’t think it’s the council’s role to change the OCP and open up more areas for development. His motion to rescind this part of the strategic focus document was defeated by Mary Brouilette, Luchtmeijer and Willie.
Luchtmeijer added he doesn’t think the town should let developers drive change, but for the town to do so.
“Times change and things change,” added Willie, saying he wants to look at the decisions that were made. “And the public, if they feel the decisions were good, they’ll let the council know.”
Willie, Luchtmeijer and Brouilette again voted to move ahead with the plan, with Tanner and Westbroek in opposition. The focus item was left with an open-ended timeline.