Disappearing forest, dry housing, Public Works Yard — Town ignoring OCP

Commentary by a trio of community leaders.

Where is Qualicum Beach’s Official Community Plan in all these proposed projects? Well, nowhere, actually. The 2018 OCP, with its required Housing Task Force and proposed revised tree and vegetation bylaws and policies, is missing in action.

Consequently, we have another unnecessary and acrimonious Town Council debate about land use in Qualicum Beach. To be sacrificed are five acres of prime tree canopy — shrinking the Community Park and trails to build a Dry Recovery Shelter and relocate the Berwick/Fern Road Public Works Yard.

These trails, located in the area of OB’s Community Park that the Town wants to clearcut for temporary housing and to relocate the Public Works Yard, are popular with hikers, runners and dog walkers. Qualicum Beach, BC

Many QB residents support a Dry Recovery Shelter to assist the work of the Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness. Likewise, many QB residents would agree to update and/or relocate, if necessary, the existing Public Works Yard (already in the 2021/22/23 budgets). But surely not at the expense of our urban forest central to addressing climate change and protecting the Town’s long-term environment and well-travelled community spaces. 

There is no moral defence for clear cutting forest land for housing vulnerable people let alone repositioning the Public Works Yard when alternative sites are available, including the ALR/Fire Station location; north airport lands; ‘mixed-use’ sites for the Public Works Yard in the OCP East Village plans; the Bus Garage area and others. 

How much better informed the debate and decisions would be if Council had complied with the 2018 OCP requirement to establish a Housing Task Force (3.1.24) as a fixed term standing committee of Council with terms of reference to explore:

“… housing opportunities within the Town, including a review of existing land, assessment of the feasibility of new housing concepts and opportunities for partnerships to help provide an appropriate mix of housing. The Town should identify specific Town lands that can be considered for partnership of some kind.”

Yet the Town of Qualicum Beach has made no such plans. As a result we are all, the Council, community groups, residents and taxpayers, left squabbling in the dark.

Lacking also are the recommended OCP revisions to the tree protection bylaws, policies and guidelines affecting environmentally sensitive areas (3.1.4). Their absence further undermines the Town’s ability to protect our forested lands. Meanwhile, trees, public and private, fall prey to ad hoc unplanned development threatening QB as a liveable “Village Neighbourhood.”

Qualicum Beach has plenty enough room for a long-term Dry Recovery Shelter and, if necessary, a relocated Public Works Yard. Let’s put the OCP to work. 

Trees are vital green infrastructure. Perhaps we should first ask why the Province would approve a $1.2 million grant that harms our urban forest and valued tree canopy while risking the environment and quality of life for all.

Written by:

  • Pat Jacobson — resident of QB since 2004, Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year – 2018, Qualicum Beach Streamkeepers Board member since 2008, and retired executive, GE Canada subsidiary.
  • Graham Riches — resident of QB since 2012, former director of the UBC School of Social Work. Published widely on poverty, food insecurity and public policy in BC, Canada and the Global North. Recent book ‘Food Bank Nations: poverty, corporate charity and the right to food’ (Routledge, 2018).
  • Jay Smith — retired professor of political science and former chair of the Centre for State and Legal Studies at Athabasca University, has published on issues of global governance, digital politics, intellectual property and surveillance. Currently resides in Qualicum Beach.