September 02, 2023
- Naked Naturals development rolling again?
- Qualicum Foods suspends home food deliveries
- Island Health Board’s continued refusal to engage with public
- Slo-pitch season champs!
- Skateboard park proposed upgrade yields new perspectives
- Scene around Town – Roundabout rodeo
Naked Naturals development rolling again?
It’s been over a year since we last reported on the uncertain future of the Town-owned property at Fern Road and Memorial Avenue, still commonly referred to as the Bus Garage Site, adjacent to the site of the planned new Naked Naturals Whole Foods store, and currently used as overflow parking for Quality Foods.
In these last few months the project has come back to life, spurring people to wonder whether the Naked Naturals development might finally be able to proceed. Here’s an update on what we have learned.
In June 2022, the Town halted planning for this site and deferred further action to 2023, putting the Naked Naturals development on hold, pending the Town’s deliberations about what to do with the Town-owned parcel adjacent to the Naked Naturals site.
Scope of the work planned in 2023
The Town engaged a Vancouver-based consulting firm, PWL Partnership Landscape Architects Inc., at a cost of $64,740 “to lead a public engagement process resulting in a conceptual design for the Town-owned ‘Bus Garage’ Property, as well as a related mobility study.”
Quoting from the Request for Proposals (RFP) issued in May, “the Town hopes to answer questions such as the following:
- What types of uses should be incorporated into this valuable public space?
- What types of amenities/services should be incorporated?
- Should there be any concessions, rentals, food service or other commercial uses? If so, what types?
- How much underground parking should be developed in the area? Surface parking?
- How will the site interact with the adjacent uses, including The Old School House (TOSH), the proposed Naked Naturals grocery store, and adjacent roadways?”
The Mobility Study portion of the project is to assess “the current state of mobility in the area and identify potential issues and opportunities related to: traffic flow, pedestrian safety, public transit, and parking. Outcomes of the Mobility Study will identify strategies and make recommendations to improve overall mobility in the subject area.”
At its March 23, 2023 meeting, Town Council approved a project budget increase to expand the “Uptown Mobility Study Phase 1” part of the project “to include an exploration of how Second Avenue West could be reconfigured to reduce parking pressure on the ‘Bus Garage’ and enhance the vitality of the uptown area.”
According to the Town, “Public engagement is a foundational component of this initiative, and consultants will be expected to utilize innovative engagement strategies to ensure that the final Conceptual Design and Mobility Study recommendations are aligned with the community’s values and long-term vision.”
Expectations of Town progress overly optimistic?
Specific expectations of the consultant expressed in the RFP included:
- “Lead a large-format public meeting in September 2023 to get public feedback on options for the future of this property;
- Provide consultation options for residents, tourists, and business owners to provide feedback during the summer months; and,
- Lead a large-format public meeting in October 2023 to present the results of public consultation along with recommendations.”
It appears to have been overly optimistic to expect public consultations during the summer months, which have now come and gone.
As of September 1, PWL’s public engagement methods and timing have not yet been announced. — GS
Qualicum Foods suspends home food deliveries
In July, Quality Foods, a division of Pattison Food Group Ltd., “paused” on-line shopping until “sometime in 2024,” including curbside pickup, at all 14 of its stores, including Qualicum Foods here in Qualicum Beach.
They are no longer providing home delivery. So customers without vehicles cannot even walk to the store, choose and purchase their groceries and have them delivered.
QF suggests that customers instead “transition on to the Save-On-Foods [Parksville] online shopping site if you are unable to come into our Quality Foods stores.”
Thrifty Foods in Parksville also provides the option of on-line shopping with home delivery here in Qualicum Beach. — GS
Island Health Board’s continued refusal to engage with public
In an article published earlier this year, we noted the farcical pretense of the VIHA Board hosting a “Public Forum” but then refusing to engage with the public.
Other than the meeting chair, not a single other VIHA (aka Island Health) Board member in attendance exchanged a single word of dialogue with the audience in Nanaimo.
The hope was that Board Chair Leah Hollins would do a better job of agenda / time management next time, and leave more than ten minutes for questions from the audience at the end of the meeting. It was not to be.
At VIHA’s next travelling road show in Duncan on June 29, 2023, Hollins started the Public Forum with such earnestness: “Our time together will help us better see what matters most to you, so we can increase our understanding and refine our thinking.” Watch video here.
In the next hour and half, the VIHA Board did nothing to increase their understanding of what matters to Cowichan Valley residents.
Instead, meeting attendees (virtual and in-person) were subjected to four presentations from Island Health staffers who took no questions, and who managed to run out the clock leaving at most five minutes for the audience to speak at the end of the meeting.
In her closing act of disrespectful tokenism, Hollins said she wanted to “take a minute to ask if there are any questions from the audience.” One brief operational question from the audience elicited a brief response from the presenter — a response that was not recorded, so those attending virtually didn’t get to hear it — and then the curtain came down.
So, for an hour and a half, the handful of VIHA Board members arrayed at the head table sat like a row of Easter Island stone head statues, neither speaking nor engaging in a single word of dialogue with the audience.
Seems like a strange way to increase their understanding of anything. But it does speak volumes about their indifference to public service, transparency and accountability. — GS
2023 PSAG Outdoor Slo-pitch Champions
On August 31st the region’s co-ed slo-pitch league managed by the Parksville Seniors Athletics Group (PSAG), in affiliation with the Parksville Golden Oldies Sports Association (PGOSA), capped their season with two championship games.
In the White Division, the Bears needed a last inning rally to overtake rivals, the Legends.
In the Red Division, the Crush won their fourth playoff game in a row to upset regular season leader the A’s. — GS
Skateboard park upgrade proposal yields new perspectives
After we published the story on the proposed skateboard park upgrade and media bias, a reader alerted us to an interesting fact that seemingly escaped the attention of PQB News and the proponents of the proposed “upgrade.” (The proposal has subsequently been changed from an upgrade to a wholesale replacement.)
The proponents of building a new skateboard park, and the stories published by PQB News, exclaimed frequently and in language bordering on the hysterical, that QB’s existing skateboard park was “dangerous” and “urgently” needed repair.
In fact, a risk assessment of the existing skateboard park had been done in September 2022. As confirmed by CAO Lou Varela, the assessment was done, in person, by a B.C. Municipal Insurance Association professional.
The result of the professional assessment? QB’s existing skateboard park was identified as “low risk.”
In our story, we reported that a previous Council had apparently approved a lease management agreement in October 2020 with at least one of the skateboard park upgrade proponents.
Second Opinion QB contacted Councillor Anne Skipsey, current Chair of the QB Parks and Recreation Committee, about the status of that lease agreement.
We reported that “Skipsey said she was not on Council at that time and has referred our question to Town Administration. We have not yet had a response.” And we still have not received any response from Town Administration.
Periodic visits to QB’s Community Park reveal that the skateboard park has not been in much use this summer, despite the excellent weather. Skateboarders have often been seen in QB this summer though, careening along town streets.
We were apprised of a relatively new addition to the graffiti at QB’s skateboard park, unwelcome messages that seems at odds with the typical colourful but generally inoffensive skateboard park graffiti that adorns our and many other community skateboard parks.
The skateboard park upgrade proponents featured in the PQB News stories we wrote about previously “predicted” this would occur but, in our experience, this conduct is not reflective of QB’s youth.
Whomever is responsible for maintenance of QB’s skateboard park facility should be removing these message especially as many pre-school skateboarders apparently use this facility. — LS
Scene around Town – East Village roundabout rodeo
The newly-constructed roundabout in QB’s East Village was operating for many weeks without any signage.
Vehicles parked – parked! – right in the roundabout, forcing other vehicles to travel the wrong way… in an area frequented by pedestrians, especially during Farmers Market days.
You really couldn’t make this stuff up. Who’s in charge of this accident waiting to happen? We can’t wait to see the chaos when commercial delivery trucks join the rodeo. Can an ambulance or a lawyer be far behind? — LS