On August 31, 2020, three of the five members of Council (Mayor Brian Wiese, Councillor Scott Harrison and Councillor Teunis Westbroek) met with senior Town staff in a full day in-camera, i.e. closed to the public, workshop to amend the Town’s Strategic Plan. Council chose this date even though it was known that neither Councillor Robert Filmer nor Councillor Adam Walker were available on that day to attend.
Council offered no opportunities for public consultation.
Two weeks later, a Mid-term Strategic Plan Update document, to be appended to the Strategic Plan, was produced by Daniel Sailland, the Town’s chief administrative officer (CAO), and submitted to Council for its Regular Meeting on September 16, 2020. The Update document is included with the meeting Agenda.
The result? There is a jarring disconnect between the Official Community Plan (OCP), this latest Strategic Plan Update, and the Town’s Financial Plans (budgets) where it concerns discretionary, capital-intensive, projects.
The Strategic Plan is integral to the Town’s overall management game plan. In a two page summary, the Town explains that:
- “The Official Community Plan (OCP) identifies a long-term vision for land use and the future of Qualicum Beach.
- Council takes steps towards that vision through its Strategic Plan.
- The Financial Plan allocates resources each year to support the Strategic Plan.”
In other words, there should be a strong alignment of the priorities expressed in the OCP, with the Strategic Plan, and that these priorities are then reflected in the Operational Plan / Budget. This is standard good management practice. It is understood that unplanned emergencies, hopefully rare, do need immediate attention and can temporarily trump whatever ‘strategic priorities’ have been identified, to ensure the emergency has been addressed. Fancy words aside, this is how most of us try to manage our lives and our budget in pursuit of our goals. To do otherwise just results in wasted resources, unproductive chaos, and risky distraction by non-critical activity.
In this article, we look at what the OCP, i.e. the community (the people who live here), deems important, vs. the priorities identified in the Strategic Plan, vs. what the Town has included in its current financial plan (budget). We focus on a few discretionary (i.e. non-essential), capital-intensive (i.e. expensive) projects.
Now let’s unpack a couple of the “priority” projects identified by this 3-person Council for inclusion in the latest Strategic Plan Update.
Community Park Field House
Fifteen years ago (2005), as a follow-up to the adoption of the Official Community Plan, Town Council of the day directed that a review be undertaken of the Site Potential for the area known as the Community Park. One of many discretionary amenities that was identified was a Field House “to accommodate change rooms, meeting and office space, upgraded concession and other community and sports-oriented uses. If this building is constructed by an organization other than the Town, then it shall be a condition of a joint use agreement that the building shall be available to the general public at times satisfactory to the Town.”
Two OCPs later (2018), the Field House is not even mentioned in the OCP; only a generic statement that “Future uses of the Community Park shall be consistent with the 2006 Community Facilities Site Potential Plan Update and updates thereto.” Periodically since 2005, this non-essential wish list item has resurfaced occasionally, typically when some recreation-specific funding sources offered matching grants. But it never got traction with the community.
Yet here it comes again!
Two weeks ago, the Town Planning department submitted a recommendation to Council at their September 16, 2020 Regular Meeting to “endorse the funding amount of $4,959,590 for the Community Park Field Upgrades” (plus any cost overruns), which would include not only a field house but also artificial turf (here that comes again) and covered bleachers. They stopped short of proposing a covered dome stadium.
Now, this field house construction appears at the top of the list of priority “medium term” projects in the Strategic Plan update from CAO Daniel Sailland at the same meeting. It is not apparent whose pet project this is, but s/he is persistent.
So here is a project – the proposed Field House – that is not even mentioned in the current OCP, that has suddenly been catapulted out of the blue into the Strategic Plan. To reinforce just how disjointed the Town’s planning and budgeting processes are, this Field House project is not mentioned anywhere in the 10-year Capital Budget (2020 – 2029) approved by Council this past February.
Nor have we seen, heard or read any evidence of community consultation about the need for and relative importance of this proposed Field House project, and taxpayer appetite to pay for its share of construction, risk, and operation, and potential downstream implications.
Lastly, where is the joint planning with the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) which is responsible for major capital projects serving the shared recreation needs of our wider community (like the arena, pool, parks)? Why isn’t the RDN, the more relevant municipal government, applying for these recreation infrastructure improvement grants? And, where is the comparative analysis of an obvious alternative – investing instead in the playing fields at any or all of QB’s four schools, coordinated with School District 69?
Memorial Avenue / Hwy 19A (Waterfront) Roundabout
In a June 2020 article specifically about this project, Second Opinion QB reported that IF the community at large considered the current T-intersection to be an unacceptable public safety hazard, one would expect to see it prominently featured in the Town’s Official Community Plan updated in 2018. But the only mentions are vague references to traffic control, not to any potential solutions: “it is anticipated that the need for traffic control of the intersection will require careful management of both vehicular and pedestrian traffic” and, one of the objectives for the waterfront is to “reduce traffic volume and speed along the waterfront.”
We also noted that, even if the roundabout was just a new infatuation of the current Council and senior management, it would then warrant high priority in their current Strategic Plan 2019 – 2022. In that  document, the proposed waterfront roundabout does get mentioned – but only as one on a list of ten “community amenities and infrastructure upgrades that should be explored as resources permit.” Not exactly a resounding urgency in that Plan either. Nor were the alternate possible upgrades – ranging from cross-walk lighting to reduced speed limits, re-routing of traffic or a simple traffic light – even mentioned, much less decided.
Yet somehow, a roundabout at the QB Waterfront is still parked in the Town budget, along with a mythical expectation of grant funding (see related article in this issue, Busting myth about proposed Waterfront roundabout funding).
In July 2020, CAO Daniel Sailland reported, as part of his Strategic Plan Update to Council, “the roundabout [plan?] is being finalized in coordination with Shell [gas station].” It seems rather hasty and/or late in the game to be negotiating with this major nearby affected property and business owner.
It’s not clear what discussions ensued in the in-camera August 31, 2020 strategic planning workshop of the three (not five) Council members and senior staff, but the Memorial Waterfront Roundabout project is completely missing from the list of “updated corporate priorities for the September 2020 to January 2023 time period” in CAO Sailland’s workshop report submitted to Council on September 16, 2020.
Qualicum Beach has a Strategic Plan for the 2019 – 2022 period which is reviewed annually and amended.
Readers are encouraged to refer to the current 2018 Official Community Plan (OCP), available at https://www.qualicumbeach.com/ocp and the current Strategic Plan 2019 – 2022 available at https://www.qualicumbeach.com/strategic_plan
At the July 15, 2020 Qualicum Beach Council meeting, Town CAO Daniel Sailland presented a progress report on the status of each of the seven Strategic Initiatives in the Strategic Plan. His slide presentation is attached to the Agenda for the meeting, and his full presentation including discussion with Council is available on the Meeting video.