I just want to caution the citizens of Qualicum Beach as to the direction we appear to be taking our community.
I have connected the dots and I believe our commercial core is at real risk of collapse. Two established businesses relocated away from Qualicum Beach’s core last month and two left the month before that.
There are now nearly two dozen vacant commercial sites in our little core. This has me very worried and I started to wonder if this was due to the general economy or was it a result of something more specific or inherent to this community.
As an inquisitive person I decided to analyze the 2006 and 2011 Stats Can Census’ Snap shot: We gained 11 new babies aged 0 to 4 in 2011, but lost 220 children, ages five to 19. Correspondingly we lost 265 adults aged 35 to 54 (Parents).
In the 65 to 85 plus age category we gained 610 inhabitants. I know from personal experience (also supported by data on the Stats Can web site) that consumer spending expenditures diminish dramatically as one ages.
Decreasing consumer expenditures is clearly at work here. Falling sales/business is not because our merchants do not understand how to market properly to the elderly, it’s simply that a household of two occupants aged 65 years of age and plus, spend half that of the average B.C. household.
This is a trend that needs to be properly assessed. And finally, let’s look at the elephant in the room that no one wants to discuss and what will likely be our commercial core’s kiss of death: Wembley Mall’s large format box store development.
So when town planner Luke Sales clearly articulated at the last council meeting why smart, sustainable growth in the downtown core is critical in supporting a vibrant local economy, creating diverse housing options and providing a green and responsible strategy in protecting our planet from climate change, I was relieved that someone at senior staff level understood the real issues and had the guts to speak up.
Unfortunately the message was lost on many of the attendees who heard it.
I sense most elderly people still feel any change to the core is still inherently a bad thing since it means strategic change; whereas, residual change resulting from poor or no decision making seems perfectly acceptable.
We are at real risk of losing both our high school and downtown core. My hat is off to those councillors who have also seen the red flags and who also don’t want this community to lose its specialness.
If a modest amount of controlled growth in the downtown core in the form of attractive buildings on the empty or derelict sites can support a stronger local economy and provide more market rental housing for those who need or want to relocate to the core but cannot or do not wish to buy, then I wonder how this could be construed as dangerous policy.
These future projects will be revenue positive for the town, despite some of the relaxations the town is discussing.