LETTERS: Fund climate change mitigation – Cell towers – Dangerous cycling routes – Railway Station housing non-compliant

DECEMBER 2, 2021

  • Town resources should be redirected to mitigate climate change impact
  • Personal digital devices pose greater EMF exposure risk than cell towers
  • Town action needed to protect cyclists and pedestrians on QB’s mixed-use paths
  • Railway Station development permit a clear violation of Council motion, site zoning

Town resources should be redirected to mitigate climate change impact

To the mayor and council of Qualicum Beach: Please consider these to be my comments with regard to the various subjects in the agenda for the [November 24, 2021 Committee of the Whole] meeting.

Climate Change

Runaway forest fires, heat domes, deadly floods, atmospheric rivers, acidified ocean water and sea level rise – all terms that ten years ago the average Qualicum resident would have wondered, what has this to do with me?

The 2016 climate change model is now obsolete. We have personal experience with these aspects of climate change, and the indications are that they are going to increase in severity and become more frequent. We can no longer put off the effects of climate change. The effects are on us now. In the last six weeks, Southwestern BC has seen unprecedented amounts of rain, and also the lowest atmospheric pressure ever recorded in the Pacific Northwest (947 millibars). Earlier this summer we saw a heat dome which killed almost 600 people in BC and exceeded previous records by up to 10° C.

And yet, it is business as usual in Qualicum Beach. We know now that healthy forests and aquatic ecosystems can help us to deal with the 100-year-storms that are likely to become the norm. We know that we must have financial and material resources available to mitigate the near future effects of climate change. And yet the types of projects that the town is considering have no clear relationship to the challenges that are in our near future. The solution – the town must stop investing in projects that do not have a clear connection to our climate change response.

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It is too bad that we have squandered millions of dollars on a roundabout that we don’t really need. But we can stop planning for a five million dollar move of the public works yard to the community park. We can and should abandon the plan to cut more urban forest to be replaced with blacktop. Healthy forest soil is capable of absorbing up to 14 inches (350 mm) of rain per day and prevents devastating floods and slope failures. This plan will simply contribute to the negative effects of climate change.  

Tree and Vegetation Management Plan

The Tree and Vegetation Management Plan is long overdue. But we need to reconsider the priorities of the existing TVMP and ensure that it reflects the needs of our climate change response. We know that trees produce oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide. We know that trees soak up excess water in the winter and bring water near to the surface in the summer. We know that trees help to cool our environment in the summer and moderate the cold in winter. They protect our dwellings from wind and help us to reduce our dependence on artificial heating. Unfortunately this town seems to ignore the valuable contribution of trees.

The TVMP must encourage tree retention on public and private land. It must discourage developers from clear-cutting building lots and completely replacing healthy soil with roofs and blacktop, shedding water away from natural systems which are capable of soaking up this excess.

These are the same developments that use impermeable surfaces for driveways and walks, further ensuring that the soil will never be able to absorb rain from increasingly common rainfall events.

I urge Council to propose three new policy statements by a motion at this COW meeting

1) That all council decisions on any subject must, from now on, take into consideration the impacts of climate change.

2) That all council decisions on any subject must, from now on, take into account the impact of tree and vegetation removal.

3) That all future building and development permits must be net-zero by 2030 in respect to carbon emissions, and that between now and 2030 council adopt a progressive plan toward net-zero by 2030.

Respectfully submitted,

Kevin Monahan, Qualicum Beach

Personal digital devices pose greater EMF exposure risk than cell towers

Re: TELUS proxy constrains QB residents’ input, with help from Council and federal agency

It is easy for us to be upset with Telus coming to town and saying they are erecting a cell tower in our neighbourhood. It is easy to be upset with the QB Mayor and Council because they appear to shrug the issue off by hiding behind the fact that the safety concerns are those of other levels of government. Our distress over the issue of cell towers is misguided on two levels.

Firstly, it is true that QB mayor and Council have no say on the safety of cell tower radiation, only on the placement of it. They can only act on information provided by the federal regulation and safety code 6, which says in essence “no problem.” Town council is not the place to address concerns about the safety of cell tower radiation. The purpose of this letter is not to discuss the adequacy of Safety Code 6. There is evidence of more harm from EMF than we [are] led to believe, but that’s not the issue here.

Know what else is local? Gift certificates! Easy, quick and always appreciated – by businesses and by recipients.

The second misconception is that cell towers are the most hazardous source of electromagnetic radio frequency field (EMF) exposures. They are not. [The most hazardous sources are] your WiFi, smart TV’s, wireless printers and the like.

I live in Qualicum Woods, and I walk the neighbourhood every evening. I have an interest in human exposures to electromagnetic radiation and chemicals. I have two degrees in science, and worked in the field of occupational exposure to chemical and physical agents.

Out of curiosity, I measured EMF exposures in our neighbourhood during my evening walks. WiFi routers, wireless printers, smart TV’s, smart home devices emit more than a hundred fold higher EMF exposures than any cell signal. (Rogers is the predominant signal in our neighbourhood). Typical WiFi exposures on the street are 500 to 700pW (a measure of the field power). The cell signal is 20 to 30 pW. (The cell strength is higher from your phone when sending or receiving calls).

If people really want to reduce their exposures, shut off your WiFi, etc. when they are not in use, or use a network cable. At a minimum, put the router on a timer so that you and your neighbours are not exposed during your sleep.

We all like to point the finger at whom we perceive as the big baddies, in this case TELUS, but often ignore what is easily within our control. We protest the emissions from the tar pits in Alberta, but still choose to drive SUV’s and empty pick up trucks. Let’s put our efforts toward issues where there is a greater harm, and greater chance of success.

David Mitchell, Qualicum Beach

Town action needed to protect cyclists and pedestrians on QB’s mixed-use paths

Attention: Council, Town of Qualicum Beach, Bob Weir, Director of Engineering & Capital Projects, Luke Sales, Director of Planning

Dear Council and Staff

I offer the following observations as a follow-up to, and expansion of, the concerns about cycling safety on Town “mixed-use” pathways, first raised (to unknown effect) in my April 7 letter. I offer these in the context of my extensive experience cycling year round in this area, often as much as 5,000 km per year, for the past 20 years.

I have yet to receive a response to my letter, despite the minutes of the June 2 Safety Committee meeting minutes documenting that I would receive a response.

The Town’s transportation consultant was referenced in those minutes as commenting that safe cycling was indeed possible on that section of mixed-use path adjacent to Hwy 19A. This cyclist is left wondering if said transportation consultant is himself a cyclist and/or has managed to safely cycle along that path himself. I detail below several reasons why cycling along this, and most other sections of mixed-use pathways within the Town, is in fact far from safe. This lack of adequate safety is indeed reinforced by the collision, resulting in injuries, this past summer between a cyclist and two pedestrians.

On four days in early October I specifically incorporated use of most of the Town’s mixed-use paths in various cycling routes I rode around the area, and found all of them lacking adequate safe cycling opportunities. The safety shortcomings fall into two categories — structural (as in, how well are the pathways designed and constructed), and behavioural (as in, how safely or appropriately do the various users of the paths actually use the facility and how they interact with other users).

Hardly any of Qualicum Beach’s mixed-use paths incorporate dividing lane, or centre-line, striping. I have cycled extensively in other communities that have built their mixed-use paths “properly”. I am talking about mixed-use paths specifically and not about dedicated bike lanes. Both Courtenay’s and Victoria’s mixed-use paths, as examples, include centre-line striping. Such centre-line striping acts as a reminder to path users (and such reminder is often even specifically reinforced with warning signs along the pathway) that travel on the path is “direction-dependent” (travel along the right) — just as it is on roadways. Faster travellers — whether cyclist or runners or fast walkers — know and/or are told to slow down when encountering slower travellers, and to pull into the opposing lane and pass slower travellers when it is safe to do so, and to then move back into the correct lane for their direction of travel.

Memorial Avenue in Qualicum Beach approaching municipal golf course and Waterfront, showing mixed-use path on right side of road.

Perhaps because of this lack of lane definition, too many users of the mixed-use paths completely ignore the concept of directional travel along the right half of the width of the path. (Although I must add that I have increasingly noticed motorists also ignoring this and driving down the middle or even the left side of our “undivided” residential streets).

This is particularly noticeable and prevalent on the pathway adjacent to Hwy 19A, where there are several sharp jogs or “dog-legs”, as well as “blind corners”, in the path, making it easy for users to stray into the oncoming lanes as they wind their way along the path. It exists to a lesser degree on the path along Rupert Rd at the top of Laburnum Rd, where the path ahead is often obscured by trees around which the path meanders.

The path adjacent to Hwy 19A has the additional complication of having walls or fences on one side and either concrete barriers or parked vehicles on the other side immediately adjacent to the path. This makes the travelable portion of the path effectively narrower than the width of the pavement alone would suggest. There is zero clearance for travelling anywhere near the edges of the paved path without danger of the rider or the bicycle (e.g. handlebars) striking these when passing or overtaking other users.

In my cycle travels on the mixed-use pathways, I almost always encounter several of the following, many to a significant degree:

  • Pedestrians walking two-, three- or more abreast across the entire width of the path
  • Pedestrians walking their dogs, including sometimes unleashed, or on very long leashes, across the entire width of the path
  • Pedestrians walking with earphones, or pedestrians talking on/listening to their telephones, or pedestrians so engrossed in conversation with their fellow walkers, that they are unable to hear a cyclist’s warning bell. (l note particularly along the Hwy 19A-adjacent pathway that even in the absence of “plugged-in and tuned-out” pedestrians, the noise of the passing motor vehicle traffic is often sufficient to drown out the sound of a cyclist’s warning bell).
  • In certain cases, especially along the Hwy 19A-adjacent walkway and indeed the entire waterfront walkway, there are far too many pedestrians to allow safe coexistence with cyclists under any circumstances.

My recommendations to the Town to increase both pedestrian and cyclist safety and to reduce pedestrian/cyclist confrontations are as follows:

  • Centre-stripe all the mixed-use pathways (except as noted below)
  • Mount an education and enforcement campaign to ensure all path users “stay to the right” and to “pass safely” (just as we do — or at least should be doing — in our motor vehicles)
  • In the case of the Hwy 19A-adjacent path (including the walkway along the waterfront between Memorial Ave and the Shady Rest), prohibit cyclists from the path entirely. Improve cyclist safety along that stretch by the placement of signs at either end (and perhaps also at several additional locations along its length) to the effect that “Cyclists may use full lane” — per Pg 38 and Figure 4.6 on Pg 39 of the Age Friendly Transportation Plan Update of November 2017.


Lotar Mauer, Qualicum Beach

Railway Station development permit a clear violation of Council motion, zoning

An open letter to Qualicum Beach Council – Railway Station neighbourhood railroaded!

On May 27, 2021, Qualicum Beach Town Council discussed the development permit application by Kiwanis Housing for an affordable housing development at Railway Station. Objections to the scale and form of the development have been repeatedly expressed by the neighbouring community. The proposed 56-unit building is massive — the length of a football field, five storeys high. It does not comply with development permit guidelines which “requires that they match the scale of adjoining residential areas,” nor does it comply with the 3-storey R20 zoning that was created specifically for the project just one year earlier. Following discussion, Council passed a motion directing staff to issue a development permit “subject to a reduction in height to a maximum of four storeys on any side of the proposed development.”

The Town staff have now issued the development permit — for the same 56-unit building, with the roofline modified to partially obscure the 5th storey. They state that this can be considered a 4-storey building because the 5th storey is recessed from the 4th, such that the 5th storey windows are not visible from ground level. This novel and appalling reasoning suggests that any developer can add an extra storey to their building, and the extra storey doesn’t count if you can’t see its windows from the street!

The location for the Kiwanis housing project, Railway Station, will be on the far (east) side of Qualicum Beach’s heritage E&N Train Station, as pictured above.

The development permit is in clear violation of Council’s motion, the town’s development guidelines and the site’s R20 zoning. We call on Council to enforce their rulings, and demand that the project be brought back before them before any building permit is issued.

Council needs to take a stand on whether they intend the project to go ahead as-is despite non-compliance — or whether they believe the project should be redesigned to meet the Town development standards. A redesign would necessitate a reduced project scale. It is now clear that cramming 56 units and 56 surface parking spaces onto this small lot requires that it be completely covered with tall buildings, asphalt, and cars; the only element of integration with the surrounding community would be the use of neighbouring side streets for overflow and visitor parking.

In a misguided attempt to house as many people as possible on a single site, the proponents of this project have set the stage for a 60-year blight on the Town’s village character. Moreover, they have squandered the opportunity to create a successful housing community that would be not just a place to live, but a place to call home. The Town of Qualicum Beach and its Council need to demand action on the deceitful sham that has been perpetrated at Railway Station.

Submitted by the under-signed residents of the Railway Station neighbourhood:

Gail Atkinson, Glenn Greig, Doris Brock, Sylvia Ronyecz, Pat Jacobson, Catharina Schreurs, Don Reid, Linda Reid, Graham Riches, Mary Riches, Carollyne Haynes, William Neill, Dolores Saulter, Stephen Eyres, Anne Pearson, Nancy Clark, Allan Clark, Brady Mathison, Fiona Mathison.

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