July 14, 2023
- Ballard Fine Homes – story correction
- Town Council green lights ambiguous plan for 230 Second Avenue West
- New tea shop a hidden gem
- Ballenas Track funding update
- Scene around Town – commercial sign on roundabout distracting drivers
Ballard Fine Homes story correction and trial schedule update
The trials of Ballard Fine Homes and of Darren Gaudreault, previously scheduled for July 2023, were recently rescheduled for March 2024, two years after the infractions are alleged to have occurred.
We have issued a correction to the story we reported in the previous issue of Second Opinion QB, RDN alleges Ballard Fine Homes issued fraudulent occupancy permits.
The original published version of this story stated that information obtained from Court Registry documents revealed that the RCMP had validated the RDN’s claims, and that Regional Crown Prosecutor Leanne Mascolo had approved the charges. Ms. Mascolo was not involved in the Ballard / RDN file and while, according to the RDN, the RCMP did investigate the RDN’s claims, they did not “validate” the claims.
These errors arose because one of the documents in the court file that we cited had apparently been mis-filed by the Court Registry and was not part of the Ballard / RDN matter.
We apologize to the parties, and thank Ballard Fine Homes Ltd. for bringing this to our attention.
To further clarify any misperceptions, these charges are not criminal charges, they are brought by the RDN under the provincial Offence Act.
Legal counsel for Ballard Fine Homes, Josh Bloomenthal, stated in an email to Second Opinion QB, “Our client is being unfairly prosecuted for misconduct that was committed by an independent contractor without our client’s knowledge, participation or approval.”
We reached out to legal counsel for Darren Gaudreault for comment but have not received a reply. — GS
Town Council green lights ambiguous plan for 230 Second Avenue West
The Zoning Amendment and Development Permit application for 230 Second Avenue West was approved by a slim margin on June 21, 2023, but questions about the nature of the development remain.
As we noted in a recent Breaker, Short-term rental policy dithering, the Town had been chided, politely but pointedly, by the Parksville Qualicum Beach Tourism Association executive director Blain Sepos, for its lack of attention to “short-term vacation rentals in our region and the growth they’ve had here, as well as the impact we perceive they have on affordable housing in our region.” Sepos had previously brought the matter to Council’s attention in 2019.
On March 22, 2023 Council narrowly passed First Reading for 230 Second Avenue West by a 3:2 vote. A Public Hearing was held on May 24, 2023, and the proposed development was back on the agenda for Third Reading at Council’s June 14 meeting.
Normally, when a Public Hearing is held, a synopsis of public comments made at the Public Hearing is included with the draft minutes of the Council meeting. Due to a filing error by Town Administration, the May 24 meeting Minutes were not included with the June 14 agenda. As a result, Council decided to defer Third Reading until June 21, 2023.
On June 21, after an hour of rambling Council discussion – it’s at the beginning of the June 21st meeting video – Council did approve Third Reading by the same slim 3:2 vote as in the First Reading.
“Boutique hotel” concept not guaranteed
How many individually-owned units will there be in the building, and what will they be used for?
This sounds like an odd question to be asking now that Jackie Ramphal’s Zoning Amendment and Development Permit application has been cleared for take-off, save for the formality of adoption.
The proposed development has been described by some as a “boutique hotel” — based on the cluster of four suites on the second floor that might all be operated as short-term rental accommodations. That has been the narrative associated with the project, comparable to a small hotel with main floor shops and a restaurant/bar.
However, the package comes with no guarantees, short- or long-term.
Structurally, the building plan identifies 12 discrete units — four commercial units on the ground floor; four residential units on the second floor (three of them with lock-off units which could be rented as bed-sitting rooms by the owners of these second floor units) for a total of seven individual residential units on the second floor; and, a single large residence on the third floor.
However, it is not known exactly how many individual ownable units this “mixed-use” strata will actually have.
The third-floor residence seems likely to have its own title, but the first two floors could all be one property consisting of units that could be rented (long- or short-term) or leased from a single owner.
But, ownership could be something entirely different.
When contacted, Town planning director Luke Sales confirmed that none of the proposed Restrictive Covenants would place any restrictions on ownership or use of the residential units on the second floor.
Council and Town Administration have not ruled out the second-floor units being separately owned by investors wanting to buy (and hold or flip) property in downtown QB. This also applies to the commercial units on the first floor which could be individually owned and operated, or optionally leased to a commercial tenant.
For example, international commodity investors could buy up the units as part of their mega-portfolio of short- and/or long-term rental properties. Or, a single investor could, conceivably, buy the entire property for their own personal use.
The result of Council approving this proposed development without any specific restrictions to accommodate Qualicum Beach’s identified needs could easily have the opposite of the desired effect on affordable rental housing and/or visitor accommodation.
Perhaps some clarity will be forthcoming before adoption of the development application for 230 West Second Avenue, on the Agenda for the July 19, 2023 Regular Council Meeting. — GS
New tea shop a hidden gem
This bright, cheery shop tucked away in downtown Qualicum Beach recently caught our eye.
Stepping inside we were impressed by the array of teas available, many of them sourced direct from organic certified farms.
Camellia Organic Tea Boutique owner Laura Brietzke says many of the teas she carries are EU Certified Organic.
EU Certified Organic farms are consistently monitored and certification standards are frequently reviewed and revised in order to stay on top of quality control, says Laura.
“With EU Certification,” she says, “you can be sure that your tea is free from pesticides, herbicides, artificial fertilizers, hormones, antibiotics, GMO’s, artificial flavours and colours, and other prohibited chemicals.”
The tea shop offers a variety of teas and tea blends from around the world.
Mate is a popular traditional tea-like beverage originating from South America. Laura says Mate tea acts as a mild stimulant, “making it a great alternative for those who don’t enjoy the acidity or jitters associated with a cuppa Joe.”
Organic Thrive is a powerful mix of Japanese Sencha green tea, Wu-Yi oolong and aged Pu-Erh tea to give you a surge of energy. Ingredients include peppermint, cinnamon, licorice root, lemon myrtle, elderberries, hibiscus, apple pieces, black currants, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, wild strawberry leaves and orange oil.
For all the sangria lovers out there Laura offers Sangria Soul, an EU Certified tea blend with candied pineapple, grapes, orange peels and lemongrass that meets the richer tastes of beet, carrot and apple for an alcohol-free alternative to the famed summer drink.
Laura says if you prefer the boozy version, you can also try making your own sangria at home with this blend of tea!
Now offering iced tea drinks on the patio, you can choose from raspberry lemonade and peaceful pear to blood orange Rooibos and strawberry champagne.
You can also find an array of tea accessories from tea infusers to elegant teapots, cute teacups and sangria pitchers.
Camellia Organic Tea Boutique is tucked away just behind the barbershop on Memorial Avenue, and next to the entrance to Naked Naturals Whole Foods, across from the Farmers Market. — LS
Hours: Mon-Sat 9:30 AM to 5 PM (Tues & Sat til 3 PM)
Ballenas track funding update
In a previous story, QB Council’s track record supporting white elephants erodes town reserves, we noted that the School District’s Ballenas Track proponents, after receiving $563,800 in funding commitments in 2022 from the Region’s local governments, were back asking for an additional $712,000.
The Town of Qualicum Beach Council were scheduled to discuss their $71,200 portion of the request at their meeting on May 24, 2023.
After a short discussion on May 24, Council deferred its decision to its next meeting on June 14. There was strong indication that the Town was reluctant to meet the additional funding request.
The Ballenas Track project proponents, despite the paltry amount they raised through donations from individuals and businesses in the community, had secured a guarantor in April who was prepared to make up the entire shortfall.
The guarantor was City of Parksville Mayor Doug O’Brien or, more accurately, the taxpayers of the City of Parksville.
At a Parksville City Council meeting on April 10, 2023, Mayor O’Brien cajoled his Council into ear-marking $750,000 of City funds within its 2023 budget for “the entire completion of the track.”
In stating, “We know that is the amount that is needed to finish off the track,” Mayor O’Brien seemed not to have contemplated that the $1.5 million current project cost estimate might increase down the road.
In making this guarantee of financial support, O’Brien was hoping that other municipal governments might offer additional money to offset some of the financial burden he had suddenly imposed on Parksville taxpayers.
Parksville Councillor Adam Fras, who voted against the idea, provided a reality check. “We should never promise and ear-mark more money than we’re willing to spend to begin with,” said Fras. “If you put down $750,000 where’s the incentive for community partners to pay their fair share?”
O’Brien was not to be deterred, even suggesting that, despite years of lackluster fundraising, “I know this Track Committee. I am sure they will continue to work with other parties to actually support it [with cash]. I am confident.”
At the Qualicum Beach Town Council meeting on June 14, 2023, Councillor Scott Harrison noted that while “the City of Parksville has committed $712,000 [the figure is actually $750,000], they were hoping to spend a maximum of $500,000.”
Instead of the additional $71,200 requested by the Ballenas Track proponents, QB Town Council only committed an additional $18,600 which, in combination with the $56,400 committed in 2022, brings the Qualicum Beach taxpayer direct contribution to the School District’s Ballenas Track project to an even $75,000. This is $52,600 less than was asked for.
However, Town Council did indicate that they are prepared to invest $52,600 in future improvements to needed amenities for students who attend Kwalikum Secondary School here in our own community.
In addition to the $75,000 in direct funding, the Town of QB’s taxpayers have also provided an additional $79,164 as their share of project contributions from the RDN drawn from their Northern Recreation Program Services Reserve Account. Those Reserves were created from previous purpose-specific RDN levies on each community in District 69.
To put the total Qualicum Beach taxpayer contribution of $154,164 to the Ballenas Track project ($75,000 plus 79,164) in perspective, this probably exceeds the entire amount of funds raised by Trustee Elaine Young and her Oceanside Track Steering Committee from private donors, businesses, non-profits and the local athletics organizations themselves who will benefit directly from the proposed training track.
We say “probably” because, until the public is provided a full, independently audited statement of the finances of the Oceanside Community Track Society, including details of its fundraising revenues, the actual amount of funds raised by them remains unknown. — GS