This had the potential to turn into a counterproductive complaint-fest.
To the credit of the panelists, the 120 people in attendance and the leadership of the Qualicum Beach Residents’ Association, the forum Thursday night at the civic centre became a constructive dialogue that might yield results.
Clearly initiated by The Clarion development and the speed (according to some) it was passed through council, one would not have been alarmist to guess this forum Thursday was going to see a long line of people at the microphone crying over spilt milk and dividing the council and community once again into little camps.
Alas, it was not. How refreshing.
Some of the suggestions may be entirely unworkable and/or create more problems than they solve, but at least there was some productive, respectful discussion.
Much of the credit for the comfortable temperature in the room goes to the three panelists asked to speak and answer questions about development in Qualicum Beach and how better communication can happen between residents and proponents before the project ends up being approved by council.
Architect and former advisory planning commission member Bruce Fleming-Smith, the town’s director of planning Luke Sales and local realtor/developer Dave Bryan set the tone with their open, honest approach to the evening.
Sales was understandably unwilling to participate in any political parts of the discussion, but he did provide insight into how things work at town hall in regards to development.
Fleming-Smith came with a suggestion for a new group — perhaps formed with representation from the town’s three residents’ associations — to provide input for council on development.
Bryan was engaging, entertaining and informative, even supplying some numbers and profit margins developers are generally loathe to discuss in public.
While we don’t agree the town needs yet another unelected group to advise council, at least this discussion was civil, and perhaps it will alert developers that they must do a better job communicating with the residents of this unique community.
— Editorial by John Harding