October 14, 2022
Divisive development proposals
Although many development projects in Qualicum Beach are processed without contention, some development proposals become divisive within the community and Council. Second Avenue high-rises is one of these.
Resident support and rejection for 6 and 7 storey residential buildings in the industrial area on Second Avenue called East Village revitalization was a divisive issue for the community. A large majority of residents are in favor of redeveloping that area, but strongly differ on how it is developed.
Two re-zoning public hearings for Second Avenue were held where more than half the residents attending the hearing made their case in opposition of the 6 and 7 storey buildings stating preferences for the original development concept. In fact, the original concept drawings are still used on Town’s website as the reference to 2nd Ave. development – https://www.qualicumbeach.com/_eastvillage. The original concept starkly differs from final design that was adopted in September 2022. Drawings of final plan can be found on page 66 of July 19, 2022 Public Hearing Agenda.
Divisiveness within a community can escalate creating harmful outcomes for the community and individuals. During this Council’s term, the OCP amendment for a subdivision on an Estate Residential property on Island Highway demonstrates the harmful affects of divisivness that included lawsuits against two residents, denigrating remarks by some members of Council directed at individual residents and residents collectively and Council’s decision to refuse public consultation on the amendment and discouraging the democratic process.
Unity is the opposite of divisiveness. I have trust in our community to elect a Council that strives for unity, to make decisions in a collaborate, non-judgemental environment with a willingness to support meaningful public consultation.
C. Mcfie, Qualicum Beach
Who will be guarding the Town’s finances?
With the QB election upon us and rampant inflation, mounting food and gas prices and municipal tax increases biting ever more deeply, who on Council is primarily accountable for financial oversight and decision-making?
The Town cannot afford further cost overruns and give-ways incurred by the previous Council: the under-budgeted and still unfinished Memorial roundabout requiring an additional $1.75 million; the selling of Town land in the East Village for half its independently assessed $1 million valuation; and what appears to be leasing Town land to the Fern-Cedar pub building for $550 per month for 40 yrs, then returned to Town ownership.
As Harold Macmillan, a former UK prime minister, once warned, be wary of privatizing public assets – ‘the family silver’ – to make up for lost income.
Of note, the Town’s failing infrastructure also smacks of poor financial management – Bay Street instability, failing culvert at Beach Creek and East Crescent, the Grandon Creek trail closed due to removal of top stairs and ongoing issues with erosion and culvert failure at the bottom. Given the age of other town essential infrastructure and the future impacts of climate change these will present significant challenges in managing town finances.
Certainly, there’s a degree of transparency. Staff provide monthly ‘For Information’ financial reports to Council regarding the Town’s $15m budget and the accounts are subject to annual audit. Yet, where lies Council’s accountability?
While the elected Mayor and four councillors report directly on the core functions of Council – ‘General Government’, ‘Parks and Recreation’, ‘Community Development’, ‘Arts & Culture’, ‘Protectives Services’, none of them reports directly in the open Council chamber on the Town’s financial transactions. Why this lack of financial oversight by our elected officials?
Perhaps, with the outgoing Council it was a case of the dominant ‘three-two’ voting bloc in the many ‘in-camera’ meetings. Who knows?
Whatever the reasoning, let’s hope our new Mayor encourages fellow councillors and staff to explore the establishment of a Finance and Audit Committee chaired by a councillor reporting directly to Council. A good place to start would be the City of White Rock which has one.
In these hard and climate challenged times Qualicum Beach needs all the financial transparency and accountability it can muster to protect the public interest and our environment.
Graham Riches, Qualicum Beach
The BC Hydro info was available, but Mr. Weir did not provide any.
It’s BC Hydro’s responsibility to mitigate streetlight issues, but the Town must provide a complete list of locations to investigate.
There is no information at all in this [Weir’s August 24th] report. It is vague and without any meaning. Nothing was said about how many inspections were done, or where the inspections were done. Mr. Weir had not confirmed with BC Hydro in time for answers. How many more inspections are going to be done? Those are questions that should have been asked by Council. Oral reports are not best practice for a Council meeting, as no preparation seems to be done, and Council is not provided with info in advance to review and question.
Progress happens over time, and it’s odd that Staff can report nothing at all in an “update” to Council. Of course, Staff are not just reporting to Council, they are reporting to the Public through that meeting. I learned more from a question during a phone call with BC Hydro Street Lighting about how many Town investigations (answer: 30 or so) and how many have been done (answer: 99%). The info was readily available. Since Staff and the BC Hydro have both agreed they speak regularly, the non-report is perplexing.
Mr. Weir has indicated to Council last year that he has had more than 100 complaints – why are there only 30+ on the BC Hydro list provided by the Town?
BC Hydro started a valuable provincial program to switch to LED streetlights. But each Town chooses, for its streetlights, the light wattage and the colour temperature. Mr. Weir chose the actual lights. During discussion in the Council meeting of February 3, 2021 when Mr. Weir was asked why he chose the lights that he did, Mr. Weir replied he chose the same lights as the ones for the Roundabout intersection at Memorial and Rupert Rd. He said he chose these – Industrial/Commercial white and bright ones – for “consistency”. He chose lighting against the BC Hydro guidelines for residential areas, clearly shown on their website (1).
As far as the Town having influence on the (review work) progress, Mr. Weir has fought a solution and a review of the issue he created, every step of the way. Council meetings in 2021 and 2022 have been full of questions about the need for 4000K lighting in residential neighbourhoods, health concerns, environmental concerns – so much time in meetings to hash out this problem. Mr. Weir has offered some statements, and misguided schemes which Council did not accept. Some examples: the contractors are “long gone” and can’t come back for fixes; residents should pay for a review of a streetlight; he can’t find a consulting engineer because the issue is too political; residents should pay for any changes; the neighbourhood should pay for a solution; the lower wattage lights are unsafe for driving; the Town will not be insured if we go to 3000K. Certainly other municipalities who chose the recommended residential lighting still have insurance. All this absurd prolonging for nothing – the solution is achievable.
The Town states it is BC Hydro’s responsibility to review and determine what, if any, remedial action can be undertaken. And BC Hydro relies on the Town’s responsibility to provide a list of locations to investigate. When asked, BC Hydro replied they just got the information that a streetlight needs to be investigated, from Mr. Weir on August 25, 2022. Why was that? This has been requested, in writing, since January 27, 2021, and double-checked affirmatively June 16, 2022.
Residents had better triple-check whether the streetlight they have issue with is on BC Hydro’s radar via the Town’s investigations list. But who at the Town can they check with for a true answer?
BC Hydro can mitigate the effects of the offending street lights, but only when the Town Staff provide information to do so.
Laurie Sieber, Qualicum Beach
This BC Hydro info on their website states that the CUSTOMER ie. TOWN OF QUALICUM BEACH selects the LED wattage and Colour Temperature to replace each of THE TOWN’s current street lights.