Town of Qualicum Beach and Regional District of Nanaimo seek mediation

The debate continues over what constitutes a minor amendment to the regional growth strategy

Qualicum Beach’s refusal to accept an amendment to the Regional District of Nanaimo’s Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) has led the two sides into a mediated dispute resolution process.

The issue arose after Qualicum Beach council considered a proposed housing development at Pheasant Glen Golf Resort in late 2013, which council of the day wanted to consider as a minor amendment to the RGS.

“The Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) can be amended in two ways, the regular process, which is a longer process that requires more approvals,” said Paul Thompson, RDN manager of long range planning, explaining a minor amendment is easier.

He said that while there has been no discussion about the proposed development at town council meetings for more than a year, the issue sparked a review of what constitutes a minor amendment and the two local governments cannot agree on those details.

Thompson said provincial legislation requires all municipalities to accept any RGS amendments or go through a dispute process.

That process isn’t detailed in legislation or policy, so at its July 26 regular meeting the RDN board directed staff to “enter into a dispute resolution process with the Town of Qualicum Beach and other interested municipalities,” which Thompson said the two sides will work out together.

Qualicum Beach Mayor Teunis Westbroek said, “We have to be hopeful when you start a mediation process — we’ve never done that — but I think council wants to co-operate with the rest of the region but it also has to have some reasonableness as far as how we word this amendment.”

He said Qualicum Beach council is particularly concerned about the word “contemplate” in terms of what leads to a full review and would like more clarity. He said he’s optimistic “we’ll come to an amicable solution.” Westbroek has previously said the town will address related issues like growth on the town boundaries in its next official community plan review, instead of in a proposed South Qualicum Beach plan.

The new mediated process will only involve the section on what constitutes a minor amendment, which Thompson admitted is complicated and currently leaves room for debate.

As the RDN’s highest level plan, the RGS is meant to “provide a regional vision for sustainable growth,” Thompson said, explaining that it has 11 goals and associated policies to help guide growth with a regional perspective across the RDN’s four municipalities and surrounding rural areas.

“It is a commitment made by the RDN and its member municipalities to follow a course of action in relation to social, economic and environmental goals,” he said.

The RGS looks at a roughly 20-year timeframe, and the board considers updating it every five years, which Thompson said it will do in the next year or so.

For more information call 250-954-3798, e-mail planning@rdn.bc.ca, or visit www.rdn.bc.ca.

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