Pheasant Glen hotel design panned by Advisory Planning Commission

October 3, 2023 – It was a lively meeting with some jaw-dropping moments. Andrew Brown, the Advisory Planning Commission Chair opened the September 13, 2023 discussion with Pheasant Glen development proponents by asking, “What is your wildfire ecology strategy?”

Pheasant Glen agent Nigel Gray’s response, “We don’t have an identified wildfire risk here… we’re not concerned about that right now.”

More on the topic of wildfire later in this article, and elsewhere in this issue of Second Opinion QB.

APC recommendation: deny the hotel development permit

Two years ago, Council was convinced to rezone land at the Pheasant Glen golf course for the creation of a rustic “resort.”

The plans now presented by the proponents seeking development permits paint a very different picture.

“It looks like an international airport hotel from the 1970s. … It’s just really disappointing. … It’s heart-breaking for the community.”

These were some of the comments from members of the Town’s Advisory Planning Commission (APC) who were asked by Qualicum Beach Council to review and assess two Development Permit applications submitted by Pheasant Glen Golf Resort.

Proposed Pheasant Glen Golf Resort development permit application review presentation to Advisory Planning Commission, 2023.

One of the applications is for the proposed hotel (Lodge) and clubhouse buildings. The second application is for the design and plans for the residential bare land strata subdivision for which, in its first phase, the proponents intend an initial 79 sublots and “Villas.”

The APC has recommended to Council that the Development Permit for the Pheasant Glen Lodge, Brew Pub and Clubhouse be DENIED.

But — because of the narrow scope and low standards constraining the APC’s assessment of these two projects — the Commission reluctantly recommended to Council that the Development Permit for the Pheasant Glen Villas be APPROVED.

From the proponent’s apparent lack of attention to, and specifications for, mitigating the effects of climate change, it appears that low construction cost and high margins, not environmental stewardship, are driving the developers’ design and engineering decisions.

The Town’s minimal expectations for Energy Conservation and GHG Emissions are well below those of other communities who have stepped up to mitigate climate change. For example, the only DPA Energy Conservation requirement specified by the Town is that the “buildings be designed and engineered to be solar ready.”

The proponents’ team of architects failed to provide Commission members with even basic engineering specifications for the proposed Lodge and clubhouse. At this point, neither the Commission nor the public has any clear idea of what the developers have planned.

Should the APC be allowed to comment on any future Building Permit applications, they will be expecting substantial improvements in building design and engineering.

The minutes of the APC meeting don’t convey the breadth and substance of the Commission’s concerns expressed during their September 13, 2023 meeting. This is a closer look at the exchange between the proponents of the development proposals and the members of the Advisory Planning Commission.

The proposed Pheasant Glen hotel design gets an F

The presentation began with the applicant’s agent, Nigel Gray from Macdonald Gray, reviewing the overall site plan and progress to date.

Architect Alfred Korpershoek from DHK Architects, accompanied by Glenn Hill, a principal with the company, then walked the members of the APC through their proposed design for the Lodge and clubhouse. Conspicuously absent was any discussion about the “brewpub/taphouse,” which was part of the proposal pitched to Council for the rezoning application two years ago.

You never get another chance to make a first impression so the saying goes.

After their initial shock and dismay at the esthetics of the design, the APC commissioners laboured to imagine how visitors would experience the Resort as proposed in the Development Permit applications.

Who and what is the Lodge for?

Right out of the gate, the proponents were challenged for neglecting to identify the purpose and use of the planned buildings.

Commissioner Maureen Dyson’s initial questions following Korpershoek’s overview zeroed in on the target market for the Lodge’s overnight accommodations, and how customers would share the dining and bar facilities in the Clubhouse and use the recreation services on the rest of the site.

Dyson asked some pretty fundamental questions: “Who will come to the Lodge? Are the units rented? Are they sold? Rented on a weekly basis? On a long-term basis? Is it like a hotel? I want to understand how the Lodge functions,” she said.

All relevant questions, since the majority of the suites are two- and three-bedroom apartments with kitchen, living room and covered deck — the kind of condos that are typically individually owned, or sometimes fractionally with time-share options.

Nigel Gray replied, “This building is entirely short-term stay.”

Of the 42 units, he said the four large three-bedroom penthouse units “are probably going to be owned by the [resort] ownership and rented out.” [our emphasis]

By making that distinction, we will assume that the first and second floor units are probably going to be sold to other owners which, in today’s market, would go for somewhere north of $25 million in total.

Gray continued: “This is going to be the perfect place to have weddings and that sort of thing. You can imagine that the seating in the [only] restaurant is going to be gobbled up by the wedding. … It is essentially a hotel.”

A hotel, as Dyson pointed out, with a rather small entrance lobby.

Commissioner Dyson referenced the Town’s Architectural Form and Character Guidelines, specifically where it is noted that “buildings should be characterized by simplicity of form, attention to detail, and the creation of a welcoming place with a feeling of familiarity, friendliness and comfort.

Dyson said, “I did not get a sense of that. I find that breezeway a very confusing area. Who’s using that fireplace? There’s nothing there. … That whole central core between these two buildings is bothering me,” she said rounding out her concerns about the design concept.

“If you want this building [Lodge and Clubhouse] to really respond to its setting, and that’s the setting all the way to Mount Arrowsmith… Why do I drive up this very long roadway into the parking lot and am confronted with what is, in effect, a wall between me and the view?”

advisory planning Commission Chair Andrew Brown

Commissioner Richard Nuesch was not charmed by the proposed Lodge design either.

“The emphasis seems to be on looking posh and fancy, not looking like a relaxed, fun, warm holiday destination,” Nuesch said. “For me, it does not work. .. The colours are too dark. .. just not inviting … The first thing I see is this huge plain building. The restaurant [aka Clubhouse] from the road side looks like a big shed.

Commission Chair Andrew Brown’s comments on the overall form and character of the Lodge and Clubhouse were in a similar vein.

“In my view, these two pieces do not fit together at all. I can’t tell what the character of them is. I can’t tell what the clubhouse is trying to be. I can’t tell what the Lodge unit is trying to be – It looks like a 1960s motel.”

Brown continued, “Let’s talk about the corridor. I think it’s over 200 feet long, with a little tiny elevator, not a freight elevator, at one end. Everybody who wants to use that elevator has to go down to that end.”

He pointed out that even after parking your car underground you could end up walking 200 feet to the elevator, then you have to walk another 200 feet back to where your unit is.

Brown said, “Is a 200-foot corridor an example of accessibility? I don’t think so. I think it’s a box with people in it — like a filing cabinet, for people!”

“If you have a long building — and I don’t agree with the shape of this building — you have to have elevators in the right place. Otherwise, you’re going to have very frustrated people moving themselves, groceries, kids, furniture, etc.

Brown also noted, “I don’t see any natural daylight penetration into this terrible claustrophobic corridor.

Spoiling the magnificent view

Much lamented was the view of Mount Arrowsmith, a magnificent natural community asset upon which the project design could capitalize, all but obscured by the building design.

“If you want this building [Lodge and Clubhouse] to really respond to its setting, and that’s the setting all the way to Mount Arrowsmith, why isn’t it broken down into distinct units with spaces between them that allows views of the setting all the way through,” said Brown.

“Why do I drive up this very long roadway into the parking lot and am confronted with what is, in effect, a wall between me and the view?”

In theory, the breezeway between the Lodge and the Clubhouse would partially offer that visual opportunity. However, Brown observed, “All the truss work in the breezeway totally blocks the view!

What about the Energy Conservation and GHG Emissions DPA Guidelines?

Commissioner Roy Collver asked, “How are you going to heat and cool this thing [Lodge]? What kind of ventilation? I see no room for a mechanical room anywhere in the building. … The dark roof — you’re building a pretty big heat island there.”

Brown added, “Is it passive solar heating? Is it all electric heating? Is it natural gas?”

The proponent’s architect replied, “We do have an intention to meet a high level of energy efficiency with this building.” [emphasis ours] Insulation and heat pumps were mentioned, but only as examples of what might be used, or not, to maximize energy conservation and minimize greenhouse gas emissions.

The Pheasant Glen Villas design gets better marks but plan details still sketchy

The proposed “Villas” application is for a subdivision of 100+ houses to be built on the Pheasant Glen Resort property, situated on the Town’s geographic fringes much like Qualicum Beach subdivisions Chartwell, West Ridge and Eaglecrest.

Two years ago, when the applicant sought rezoning, Gray presented Council with a rustic “cottage” image to support the applicant’s intention to build a “resort.”

Proposed Resort Cottage Character at Pheasant Glen, 2021.

Now that the land has been rezoned, and approved for subdivision, the Villas design concept has changed significantly, from rustic to modern.  

John Larson (CA Design, Qualicum Beach), gave the APC commissioners an overview of the current design plans for these Villas.

Here’s the proposed “Coastal Mountain – Modern” style now on offer. Not that there is anything wrong with this standard residential housing style, but there is nothing particularly unique or cottage-y or even resort-like in its appeal.

The ‘look and feel’ of the setting has changed too. The featured stands of native trees, prominent in the originally proposed design concept seem to have disappeared into the background or been replaced by standard nursery stock.

Granted, there is less sprawl and fewer manicured lawns wasting space and water with these smaller-than-normal Villas lots.

“Coastal Mountain – Modern” style now proposed for the Villas replaces the “cottage character.” Architect’s rendition – Pheasant Glen Golf Resort

The homes will be densely clustered. The average proposed lot size is about 550 square meters (5,900 sq feet). The architect’s current rendition doesn’t adequately convey the fact that each row of houses will be cheek by jowl so that, with the minimal 5-foot side setback, your neighbour’s wall could be only 10 feet from your house, on either side. For the majority of the homes, windows will only be available on the front and back.

With limited front yard space, no hedges and no sidewalks, privacy will be at a premium.

Also, the winding roadways will be narrow with no on-street parking in front of the homes.

Conspicuously absent was any discussion about the “brewpub / taphouse,” which was part of the proposal pitched to Council for the rezoning application two years ago.

Again, as with the Lodge application, details on energy efficiency were not provided for these “Villas.” Larson did state that each garage will contain electric vehicle charging, and that each home would be obliged to meet Step 3 of the BC Energy Step Code, now a minimum expectation for all residential construction.

Much was made of the commitment that all buildings will be solar-ready.

Solar-ready sounds good, but it simply means the roof could support an array of solar panels, and a conduit to the house electrical panel is do-able. Virtually every house built in the past 50 years is thus “solar-ready.”

Given the plan proposed for the Villas, we can expect another subdivision of 1,600 to 2,400 square foot, million dollar plus, storey-and-a-half detached homes just the same as can be found in any city suburb.

The amenities offered to this satellite residential community appear to be thin to non-existent.

When Commission Chair Brown asked, “Where is the central community space for all these people?” Pheasant Glen agent Gray replied: “It’s the clubhouse.”

The Clubhouse, aka the (sole) restaurant, the one that will be “gobbled up by weddings.”

Two thumbs up for Villa form and character

The Commission’s response to Larson’s presentation was like chalk and cheese compared to their evisceration of the Lodge and Clubhouse plans.

Commissioner Richard Nuesch noted that the recessed garage doors were a welcome improvement compared to most subdivisions where each building can look like a “double garage with an attached house.”

For Commission Chair Brown, it was “kind of a shock to see this.” In a positive way.

Brown suggested that the Villa’s form and character would better represent his expectations for the form of the Lodge and Clubhouse too — “a rural resort form!”

Commissioner Dyson agreed. “There is some really nice quality and character here [in the Villa designs].”

“Why don’t these three buildings [Lodge, Clubhouse, Villa] all use the same architectural language?” Brown asked. [Use] “… the same palate of materials, the same interpretation of roofs? Why aren’t we thinking that way? How did they get fragmented? It’s a lost opportunity if they are not the same language.”

Perhaps somewhat facetiously, Dyson added: “Maybe you [Larson’s crew] could help out and act as a guide for the architecture of the [Lodge and Clubhouse] so that there is some cohesiveness in the whole development.”

Wildfire management expectations and intentions

Commission Chair Andrew Brown opened the discussion by asking, “What is your wildfire ecology strategy?” Jaws dropped at the response.

“We don’t have an identified wildfire risk here … we’re not concerned about that right now,” said Nigel Gray, Pheasant Glen’s agent.

Brown responded by pointing out that Qualicum Beach is surrounded by forests, and that recent experience in BC and elsewhere has included fires that travel at one mile per minute and can be impossible to stop.

“So, anything combustible near any building is a source of a big, big disastrous problem,” said Brown.

Gray’s proposed use of FireSmart techniques such as no combustible mulch did not satisfy Commissioner Roy Collver who asked: “How was it determined that there was no wildfire risk here?”

Gray replied that, since the Town doesn’t have specific Wildfire Development Permit Areas and a wildfire plan that identifies this property as being in an at-risk area, then, he concluded, there is no identified wildfire risk for this development.

Brown ended the discussion on fire risk by setting the tone for expectations for the rest of the meeting, “It would be wonderful if this project was a first-class ecology demonstration in every sense.”

Gray replied: “I think that is always our intent.”