Pheasant Glen hearing unearths more uncertainties

In a previous article, we questioned the unseemly haste by Council to push through approval of what we characterized as a half-baked proposal from the Golf Clan Holdings group fronted by Craig Dutton.

So many questions had not been answered; so many details glossed over. Now, with the hindsight of a two hour Public Hearing on March 31, 2021, which readers are encouraged to view, we learned there are even more uncertainties and information gaps, plus a curiously abrupt closure to the Council meeting.

Where is the Land Lift Analysis for this proposed development?

At the beginning of the Public Hearing, as is customary, Town Planning Director Luke Sales provided a brief summary of the application. Councillor Westbroek immediately asked: “Since this is a re-zoning, I just want to clarify this. We did the rezoning for the Todsens.” Yikes, did we miss a meeting? Rezoning has NOT yet been approved for the Todsens – at least not formally by third reading and adoption by Council. Westbroek continued: “We did a lift analysis in the [land’s] value change before and after rezoning. Would that not be required for this situation? And why not?”

Excellent question Councillor Westbroek. Town Policy 3008-11 Community Amenity Contributions is very clear. Unless an applicant qualifies to be exempted, the policy states that “the Town will seek an amenity contribution equivalent to 50% of the additional land value created by the rezoning, based on a land lift analysis.” [emphasis ours] There are only four possible exemptions, none of which apply to the Dutton application.

Image from Pheasant Glen Land Use Concept document submitted for “Multi-Use Lifestyle Resort Community.”

The response from Luke Sales to Councillor Westbroek is troubling in its ambiguity.  “As I noted,” explained Sales, “the contribution that has been proposed by the applicant is approximately $450,000 as a part of the affordable housing contribution which essentially means $2,000 per residential unit, and there are 225 units on the site. Or, as the other alternative, they offered to build two cabins and make those available for employees in the Town [sic]. So, those would be low rental units [whatever that means].”

What an applicant might propose is completely irrelevant. It is the Town’s obligation to apply its Policy. With the recent and on-going fiasco of the Todsen land lift analysis, one would think the Town would have gotten its act together for the Land Lift applicable to the Dutton proposal.

Master of the obvious, Sales ended with “There isn’t a breakdown as to how it [Dutton’s irrelevant “offer”] relates necessarily to the land lift. It’s up to Council to determine the extent to which that Policy [3008-11] is applied in this situation.” In his written submission to Council, with concurrence from Town CAO Daniel Sailland, Sales had stated “As of the time of writing, no information has been provided by the applicant as to how those community amenities were calculated as per the Town’s Community Amenity Contribution Policy, Policy Number 3008-11.”

Do we really need to remind Sales and Sailland that it is their job to tell Council whether this application warrants an exemption? And, if not, to then carry out the requisite Land Lift Analysis. And then make the information available to Council and the public before scheduling a Public hearing.

[ RELATED STORY: Mayor’s haste to grease skids for Pheasant Glen ]

Perhaps one or more readers could help out by reading section 5.0 of the Policy and let Sales and Sailland know which, if any, of the four specific exemptions applies to Dutton’s application. A reminder – because the Public Hearing has been held, unless and until the March 31 Public Hearing is somehow rescinded, Council members are under no obligation to discuss any aspects of the application with members of the public. Silly, eh?

Had Town Administration followed its own policy directives, this application would never have been allowed to come before Council for Second Reading and subsequent Public Hearing without a properly defined Community Amenity Contribution, calculated through a properly conducted Land Lift Analysis.

What about additional traffic to and from the proposed subdivision and resort?

Multiple speakers at the Hearing expressed concern about increased traffic, even suggesting needing a roundabout at the intersection of Rupert and Qualicum Roads. How much would supporting the additional traffic safely cost? Who would pay for the creation and maintenance of the roadworks?

Would Beach Creek even survive?

The proposed development is at the headwaters of Beach Creek, one of the two such creeks that traverse the Town. Significant effort, not to mention taxpayer money, has been expended to remediate the waterfront end of the Creek. Large-scale housing construction adds to the risk of contamination to the water, and could conceivably result in no waterflow at all in dry periods.

Would the Town’s drinking water be put at risk?

The Town draws water from wells at two primary sources, one of which is the Berwick Field, adjacent to Pheasant Glen. Contamination from golf course runoff is already a known risk. Replacing acres of trees with manicured lawns, fed and watered with toxic pesticides could affect both the quality as well as the volume of available drinking water. Aquifers everywhere on the Island are already experiencing longer recharge times — yet it appears that there has been no serious examination of the potential impact of the Dutton proposal on this important, precious QB resource.

Where does wastewater and sewage go?

There does not appear to be even a sketchy plan for wastewater and sewage disposal and/or recycling except a toss-away comment that we’ll just bring a line in from the Airport. That’s a long way. Is there sufficient capacity beyond the airport to convey the waste to the French Creek treatment facility? What would all this cost – both to install as well as increased annual operating costs, as well as reserves for the inevitable future replacement per asset management guidelines?

Heads were probably nodding in agreement across the Town when one speaker queried: “Has there been an Environmental Assessment done on this property? If not, why not? If so, can the public see it?”

To which we would add: “Has the Environmental Assessment been done by a truly independent expert, who is not being paid by the proponent?”

Do we even need a purpose-built hotel for tourist accommodation?

The community generally accepts that we need to restore and even increase the inventory of available short-stay visitor beds. However, one resident who spoke at the Hearing suggested that Qualicum Beach is already served “by the largest hotel in the world … AirBnB.”  AirBnB did not even exist when the Town first started to think about a resort destination at Pheasant Glen back in 2005. Time for a rethink? Good topic for broader conversation at the next OCP Review — how do we as a Town successfully harness the opportunities that are enabled by these web-enabled booking brokers?

Why did Mayor Wiese shut down the Council meeting so abruptly?

If you managed to watch and listen to the entire Public Hearing (and were still awake), when the public hearing portion of the Council meeting ended, the Council meeting remained in session. At that point you would have noticed a strange omission of protocol regarding the governance of the Town’s business.

The meeting chair, Mayor Wiese, called for a motion to adjourn, which was received and seconded. The proper next step would be to ask for “Any discussion?” That didn’t happen. When Wiese called the vote, Councillor Filmer voted against Adjournment. Filmer clearly had something to say but was denied the opportunity by Mayor Wiese.

Written submissions from the public to the Public Hearing can be found for a limited time only at