Qualicum Beach council has decided to move forward with the relocation or demolition of the old St. Andrews Lodge building.
The decision was first reached in-camera on Oct. 14 but was brought up at council’s regular meeting on Oct. 28, where it was discussed and carried. Coun. Robert Filmer and Coun. Adam Walker were opposed.
“First of all I think we shouldn’t have decided in-camera,” said Filmer, who wanted to include public debate in the decision process and for council to reconsider its position.
Coun. Teunis Westbroek indicated it would be against town policy if council rescinded a motion that has already been put into effect by town staff. Chief administrative officer Daniel Sailland confirmed Westbroek’s statement.
Filmer asked how council could be comfortable having the project forge ahead without enough information released to the public on how much it will cost to retain and renovate the building.
“We let the public know that we’re coming up with a plan, whether it’s demolish, relocate or use and then we’re going to go back to let them know this is what we’ve decided,” said Filmer. “Instead, what has happened it is that we’ve decided in-camera that we’re going to get rid of this building. And they see this on the agenda that it’s been done and now they’re hearing a week later that it’s been actioned.”
Mayor Brian Wiese said they have been transparent of their plans as they held a request for proposals to let the public know of what they intend to do as well as went through a lengthy public consultation process.
“What we’re doing is exactly what we said we would do,” said Wiese.
Coun. Scott Harrison indicated there is a report on how much it would cost to keep the lodge. On June 24, staff presented a report to council that showed it would cost $545,000 to renovate and upgrade the building to today’s standards; with a usable space of 1,514 square feet plus 72 square feet of storage space. Staff said there’s other cost not factored in and it would be more expensive than most new homes.
The report pointed out the town would unlikely recover the cost of the renovation even it were used for commercial purposes. To demolish the building, it would cost the town approximately $40,000.
Harrison also added that a majority of the people involved in the consultation process indicated they would not support retaining the building if the cost is going to be significant.
“To say that the process is wrong is a little bit misleading,” said Harrison.
Walker asked council to delay execution of its decision and that they submit an application for funding of up to $2 million through the Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Programme. However, the deadline was Oct. 29. Walker indicated that he had two or three volunteers who was willing to work with staff on the application overnight.
The Qualicum Community Education and Wellness Society, a non-profit group, wanted to work with the town in preserving and maintaining the lodge. They’ve cited other heritage buildings that operated through partnerships with non-profit societies such as the Filberg Heritage Lodge and Park in Comox, the Mollie Nye House in North Vancouver and the Baldwin House in Burnaby.
To pay for its planned renovation, the society was planning to submit an application to Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (Community, Culture, and Recreation Infrastructure) and was seeking the council’s endorsement. But the town also applied to the same program for its community playing field upgrades.
QCEWS is now asking the public to voice to town council their opposition to demolishing the building, built in 1938.
“QCEWS was not asking for the town to redirect staff time or capital funding plan – only for the opportunity to show what can be done when community comes together (based on a model similar to the Filberg Heritage Lodge and Park in Comox),” the group stated on its website. “Currently, there are many grants available to not-for-profits and local governments for tourism, heritage, accessibility, recreation and economic recovery.
The town purchased the waterfront property from the estate of Elizabeth Little for $3.4 million in 2018. The plan is to turn it into a public waterfront park that include pathways, improved beaxch access, viewpoints, sign system and ways to engage in the site’s history.