DECEMBER 2, 2021
- Breaking News: Public Information Meeting – Naked Naturals re-zoning application – Tuesday, December 7, 2021
- Town managers ignored Council’s direction on Housing
- RDN directors deny funding to Oceanside Initiatives despite QB mayor’s support
- Backyard chicken survey was cooked
- Town deception about $2M grant for Public Works Yard relocation
- Former RDN CAO fired by District of Saanich
- Scene around Town – the Qualicum Beach Collective
BREAKING NEWS: Public Information Meeting – Naked Naturals re-zoning application – Tuesday, December 7, 2021
Many readers interested in the proposed Naked Naturals grocery store and housing development at 111 Fourth Avenue (site of the former Bus Garage at Fern / Memorial) may be unaware of the Public Information Meeting to be hosted via Zoom by the proposal applicant scheduled for 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, December 7, 2021.
You can request a Zoom invitation to this Public Information Meeting by contacting the office of the architect for the proposed development, Carsten Jensen, by email at Carsten@carstenjensenarchitect.com .
The developer’s public information meeting will be held literally the evening before the related Public Hearing hosted by the Qualicum Beach Town Council, scheduled for 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, December 8, 2021.
The Town Council’s meeting agenda also proposes third reading and adoption of the re-zoning of this former Bus Garage property located next to TOSH and the Qualicum Commons. Information about the Town Public Hearing is available at https://www.qualicumbeach.com/publichearing.
See also Second Opinion QB story: Naked Naturals – tangled web spun by Town staff
Town managers ignored Council’s direction on Housing
At QB Town Council’s regular meeting on November 17, 2021, Councillor Skipsey asked staff for an update on the establishment of a housing diversity steering committee.
The reply from Town planner Luke Sales was a stunner: “We have talked about the option of a housing task force or committee for housing diversity. That has been put on-hold. Council discussed this in 2019 and at that time there was no direction to move forward with the task force. If Council would like to see that… absolutely, we can strike that committee. We just need some clarity and direction from Council.”
Wow. Hard to tell whether this is just plain incompetence or a clumsy attempt to deceive Council and the public, but here are the facts as Councillor Skipsey immediately explained to Mr. Sales: “As of the July 21, 2021 Council meeting there was a motion directing staff to prepare a report on the establishment of a steering committee for a housing diversity initiative with the goal of preparing a housing plan for Qualicum Beach.” What clearer direction could Sailland and Sales have possibly needed?
The full, specific directive to staff four months earlier, as recorded in the July 21, 2021 meeting minutes, with unanimous Council support was: “THAT Council direct staff to prepare a report on the establishment of a Steering Committee for a housing diversity initiative with the goal of preparing a housing plan for Qualicum Beach; AND FURTHER THAT the report include proposed terms of reference for the Committee; options for stakeholder consultation; a timeline for completing the housing plan and budget considerations; AND FURTHER THAT the report be utilized to assist Council in prioritizing this strategic initiative when the strategic plan is revisited this fall.”
After being outed at the Council meeting, Mr. Sales hastily cobbled together a report of Options for a Housing Committee, issued two days later with the agenda for the November 24, 2021 Committee of the Whole meeting. His report reinforces his foot-dragging, suggesting we sit back and wait to see if the RDN somehow magically solves OUR housing crisis. Meanwhile, progressive leaders in other mid-Island communities are each rapidly building hundreds of rental units to house (and attract) much-needed modest-income workers and their families.
As we have reported previously, Town administration has proven itself incapable of even acknowledging the sorry state of rental housing in Qualicum Beach and its damaging effect on local businesses, let alone implementing policies and taking proactive steps to resolve the crisis.
Some optimism returned with the departure of CAO Sailland under whose watch the housing crisis worsened; perhaps a new leader would demonstrate much-needed leadership on this priority. But, alas, as this latest duplicitous insubordination has shown, maybe we not only need a new CAO but also a new Planning Director too. — GS
RDN directors deny funding to Oceanside Initiatives despite Mayor’s Wiese’s lone support
We previously reported on the genesis, activity and role in economic development assumed by the Oceanside Initiatives division of the Parksville and District Chamber of Commerce managed by Kim Burden.
Recently Burden and Corry Gervais were scheduled as a Delegation to Qualicum Beach Town Council’s regular meeting on October 27, 2021, to make their pitch for an additional $75,000 per year for five years from Qualicum Beach taxpayers for economic development services. At the last minute, literally when their spot on the Agenda came up, they were mysteriously disappeared without explanation by meeting chair Mayor Wiese.
This followed their no-show without explanation as a Delegation seeking RDN funding at the September 27, 2021 meeting of the Oceanside Services Committee (OSC) of RDN Directors.
They were re-scheduled for the following OSC meeting on November 22, 2021 where Corry Gervais read her eight minute pitch (no slides this time), supporting their ask for $150,000 per year for five years from RDN taxpayers (which include property owners in Qualicum Beach), as a portion of their expected annual spend of $360,000. No questions were asked of the Delegation by any of the RDN Directors.
Later in the meeting the Committee discussed the request. The normal protocol is for a motion to be on the floor before it can be discussed, possibly amended, then voted on. On this day, apparently only one Committee member, chair Brian Wiese, supported the request, so he made the motion, but there was no seconder, so the motion failed.
This is quite unusual. Normally someone will second any motion just to move it into discussion. But on this occasion, it seems that none of the other Directors wanted to share their opinions and assessment of the Burden / Gervais request, at least not in open meeting. Too bad. The public deserves to know what their elected representatives support, and what they don’t, and why.
Transparency and accountability take a hit, but the outcome is the same — at this point, the OSC will not be recommending to the RDN Board that they hand over their responsibility and our taxpayer money for regional economic development to the Parksville Chamber of Commerce, unless some back-room deal gets pushed through. — GS
Town’s Backyard Chicken survey was cooked
The results of the Backyard Chicken survey were examined at Council’s October 27, 2021 meeting. According to Town Planner Luke Sales, this was an extremely popular survey, 668 responses, second only to the airport land use planning meeting’s 700 responses. “I’d say this is something our residents are very passionate about,” said Sales. Apparently QB, at least on this issue, is a very polarized community, with 32% strongly supportive and 27.3% strongly opposed. “In total, the response would have been in favour of, but not inordinately so,” said Sales. “It’s just slightly weighted towards supporting.”
Mayor Weise promptly proclaimed, “I believe that the survey has spoken. The majority in town do want them, a slim majority, but definitely a majority.” A motion brought by Councillor Harrison was seconded by the mayor. Council voted 3-2 in favour, with Councillors Filmer and Westbroek opposed to Backyard Chickens.
But, did this survey really speak for the Town? This video shows a resident answering the Town’s Backyard Chicken survey, then discovering that the survey software prevents them from selecting more than one option, even though the survey states they could select as many options as they wished. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that means the survey results are cooked.
Specfically, this video relates to Question #4: What concerns do you have about backyard poultry in residential areas? Choose ALL that apply. As the person in the video attempts to answer the question, only one option (of eight) could be selected, immediately replacing any previous selection on that list. The same results were experienced on several different computers.
Issues raised in Council and discussed before the vote included Councillor Westbroek noting that chickens kept on regular size lots, unlike those on acreages, could easily cause problems for next door neighbours. Councillor Filmer raised concerns about backyard chickens attracting bears that might be enticed to wander into town and then have to be euthanized.
Sales stated that the biggest concerns identified by residents in the survey were rodents. “The key point here is that chickens don’t attract rodents, it’s their food that attracts rodents.” Sales was confident that regulations would keep pests at bay.
Oddly, no one on the Council raised the spectre of more bears and cougars wandering into Qualicum Beach — attracted by the chickens — and posing a risk of injury or worse to QB residents, especially children and seniors.
You can view Council’s deliberations on this matter here. The Backyard Chicken debate starts at the 1h 57m mark. — LS
Former CAO of RDN abruptly turfed by District of Saanich
On November 30, 2021, the District of Saanich announced an abrupt “end to their relationship” with their CAO, Paul Thorkelsson, generally understood to mean they fired him, effective the day before. No reason for his termination was given in their media release.
Mr. Thorkelsson spent nine years in management with the Regional District of Nanaimo, including serving as RDN Chief Administrative Officer until moving on to be CAO at the District of Saanich in 2015.
We note that Saanich a) immediately named an acting CAO, b) plans to recruit an interim CAO, and c) deferred recruitment of a permanent CAO until after the 2022 municipal election, so that their new Council can take responsibility for recruiting their CAO.
Meanwhile, the Town of Qualicum Beach has announced no plans following our CAO’s departure two weeks previous. — GS
Town deception about two million dollar grant for Public Works Yard relocation
The Town has been girding its loins to do battle with the public over proposed relocation of the Public Works Yard from its current longstanding presence at Fern and Berwick Roads. As oft repeated, the first casualty of war is truth. As we observe this ongoing saga, we will attempt to keep watch on the veracity of claims on both sides of the issue.
Let’s start with the claim, as presented on the Town website https://www.qualicumbeach.com/ops_facility, that “The Town has applied for funding to build the Combined Operations Facility, which is yet to be announced. If successful, it will provide $1,974,450 toward this project.”
Yes the Town did apply, as directed by Council at its January 13, 2021 regular meeting (for details, see staff report attached to the meeting agenda). The application deadline was January 27, 2021.
What the Town has not told the public — whether through incompetence or intent — is that the Town’s application was NOT successful. The successful applicants for this tranche of COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure Stream funding were announced by the provincial government on August 10, 2021 — four months ago! The Town’s claim of “yet to be announced” is blatantly false.
In the meantime, the Town has left the misleading impression that a two million dollar grant is in the offing. The Town’s spreadsheet summarizing Grant Submissions doesn’t even mention this application. We also note that Planning Director Luke Sales hasn’t updated this spreadsheet since June 2021. — GS
Scene around Town: the Qualicum Beach Collective
There’s a new group in town — The Qualicum Beach Collective. The group was launched a few months ago by local businesses seeking to put QB’s unique stamp on our community.
You may have seen one of their attractive Welcome to Qualicum Beach postcards highlighting Things to do in QB and featuring a handy map of QB’s Village shopping district. As Second Opinion QB reported previously, one of the QB Collective founders, Robin Bruner of Swell Sweets, had previously been a director and member of the QB Chamber of Commerce, but resigned several months into her directorship citing a lack of transparency with the Chamber of Commerce leadership.
There has been some chatter in the public about whether this is just another off-shoot of the Parksville Chamber of Commerce run by Kim Burden. One of the frequent criticisms heard about the Parksville and QB Chambers is that they often take credit for and control over local initiatives. However, as the QB Collective’s founders explain, “we are not a business association, and many of our business members are also members of the Chamber. We exist to promote and develop ideas that improve the quality of life here in Qualicum — rooted in the belief that if our community is vibrant, we all benefit.”
Council recently approved the following motion, as recommended by staff: “THAT Council grants permission to the Qualicum Beach Collective Society, in partnership with Milner Gardens, to put up a holiday light display including Milner Gardens’ “Santa’s Sleigh” on Town land by the clock tower on Memorial Avenue and Second Avenue, to promote the Milner Gardens Light Event happening through December, with seasonal music, an informational tent, and fundraising merchandise.”
Visit the Qualicum Beach Collective at www.QBcollective.ca — LS