Todsen proposal creeping closer to D-Day

On February 10, 2021, QB Town Council will convene a Public Hearing that will likely be looked back upon as a watershed moment in the governance of land use in Qualicum Beach.

On January 13, 2021, Council gave second reading to the bylaws to amend the Official Community Plan and rezone a chunk of QB’s iconic Estate Residential lands to enable a 16 lot subdivision.

Many community residents have submitted written comments for Mayor and Council to consider. Here is a summary of “Comments From The Gallery” connected with the January 13 Council meeting, organized around four important questions.

  • Is the community being well-served by proceeding to a decision whether to approve or reject the Todsen applicationby a depleted Council of only 3 members?

Bruce Fleming-Smith thinks not, and wrote “I urge you in the strongest of terms, to defer hearing and consideration of this agenda item and to defer granting of second reading; pending a by-election having been held for Adam Walker’s replacement and pending Councillor Filmer’s return to Council. As you know this is an extremely important matter which has garnered significant public attention and clearly a very contentious matter for our community. In exercising your duty to provide sound representative governance, proceeding without a full Council to consider items of this significance would stand as a profound betrayal of public trust. … Do the responsible thing and defer further consideration of this application until Council has been restored to full representation.”

  • Do the vision, policies and directives in the Official Community Plan matter, or is the OCP just some periodic window dressing to pretend QB residents have some say in how the Town will develop over time?

Anne Skipsey, a QB Council member when the current OCP was developed in 2017/18, wrote: “The Official Community Plan is clear — urban development outside of the Urban Containment Boundary (UCB) shall not be approved. Estate Residential zoning discourages additional residential density.”

In other words, the OCP and the UCB do matter. They exist to prevent urban sprawl onto farmland, environmentally sensitive areas, and the Town’s designated greenbelts and iconic areas like the Qualicum Beach Heritage Forest. Lois Eaton states: “The OCP is the vision of the community, not plasticene to be worked into whatever shape suits the Council’s support of land speculation.”

What Wiese didn’t say was that if the UCB becomes an inconvenience, his Council will just unilaterally move the boundary — which is precisely what is currently being proposed.

Two years ago, citizens were concerned when the Town hastily arranged with the Regional District of Nanaimo to align our Growth Containment Boundary with our municipal boundary. Skipsey suggests that “this [Todsen] application is EXACTLY why citizens expressed their concerns to the RDN about the Town’s request to move the Growth Containment Boundary.” She further notes that “On January 3, 2019 Mayor Wiese assured: “Some of the delegations and letters to the RDN board on December 4th, 2018 implied that this amendment will invite more changes to land use designations in Qualicum Beach, which is not the case. As stated in the Town’s 2018 Official Community Plan, the Town will manage growth through an Urban Containment Boundary that is independent of the Growth Containment Boundary in the Regional Growth Strategy.”

What Wiese didn’t say was that if the UCB becomes an inconvenience, his Council will just unilaterally move the boundary — which is precisely what is currently being proposed.

In Charna Macfie’s view: “The redrawing of the UCB contradicts what the Town and Council promised the public when the Town amended the Regional Growth Strategy.” Promise made; promise betrayed.

Anyone who doubts the thoroughness of discussion and the firmness of Council resolutions leading to the final 2018 OCP directives as to which properties were intentionally deemed inside vs. outside the Urban Containment Boundary, should revisit the Agenda and Minutes of the February 15, 2018 Committee of the Whole meeting. A series of options were put forward by Planning staff, specifying a number of areas that were raised during community consultations for possible inclusion within the UCB. The Committee of the Whole decided to recommend to Council that the draft 2018 OCP recognize that the UCB be amended to include two properties generally identified as Laburnum Ridge and the Airport Lands. These were the only two lands selected for inclusion in the UCB. All others were rejected by Council, and these two were the only changes to the UCB in the finalized OCP. Specifically excluded from the UCB were the Pheasant Glen Resort development, Island Timberlands, Nenzel Road rural cluster, Berwick Road ALR acreages, Rupert Road (vacant) garden centre, and the Todsen property on Eaglecrest Drive.

According to Kevin Monahan, a member of the 2018 OCP Steering Committee, “During the OCP process, the OCP Committee took the position that the Urban Containment Boundary was simply a boundary that enclosed all lands in Qualicum Beach that were “suitable for urban development”. So we proposed that the consultations should focus on the question “What lands (if any) that were currently outside the UCB should be considered suitable for urban development”. In the end only two areas were selected, and by that decision, all the other lands on the list were considered “not suitable for urban development”.

  • Does this proposal enhance the quantity and mix of appropriately located affordable housing in Qualicum Beach?

At one time, this was a big talking point by both the proponents and Town staff and Council. Now, not so much.

Do the responsible thing and defer further consideration of this application until Council has been restored to full representation.

Bruce Fleming-Smith

Skipsey’s opinion is that “This [Todsen] proposal is purely land speculation and should not take precedent over the wishes and vision of the community as stated in our OCP.”

Fox McKinley notes that the subdivision “will invariably result in a windfall for the landowners, but have no benefit to the surrounding area residents, or more importantly to the Town. Dense developments like these are needed closer to town centre for those wanting to walk to the shops and depending less or not at all on their cars.”

Tim Pritchard notes an inconsistency in the Town services proposed to the Todsen subdivision, as compared to the adjacent lot. “The Council proposal that this project should be bare land strata should be given some further thought. Councillor Westbroek says that this offers financial benefits to the Town because fewer services need to be provided. … There is an inconsistency here – the adjoining Cottages development which is of a similar size and is currently under construction was not required to be a strata and will receive full Town services. Where is the fairness and consistency here?”

  • Will the public have been adequately engaged in the Todsen decision process? It may be a Public Hearing on February 10, but will the public really have been able to comprehend the significance of the precedent-setting decision that may get made?

Deb McKinley thinks not: “The amendment bylaw you are considering … proposes to move the Urban Containment Boundary, which is an issue of great interest to many of the Town’s residents, and also proposes to remove wording from the OCP which establishes that “In order to promote and encourage the retention of large rural holdings the Town shall not support the subdivision of land designated by the Regional Growth Strategy as Resource Lands and Open Space and Rural Residential, into parcel sizes that are smaller than specified by the applicable OCP…” To proceed with this development application (and that of Pheasant Glen Golf Resort application), without any public consultation of the issues (and when Council is reduced to only three members), would be a violation of Section 475 of the Local Government Act, a violation of the public trust, and an abuse of process, any or all of which may expose Council to significant legal liability. This is not a minor amendment that can be easily dismissed. It demands the involvement of the public and a full, open and transparent discussion with the community. Please do not schedule a public hearing for this subject until after consultations with the public have been completed.”

The OCP is the vision of the community, not plasticene to be worked into whatever shape suits the Council’s support of land speculation.

Lois Eaton

Jay Smith echoes McKinley’s concern about inadequate public engagement stating “I am in opposition to the above amendment because it is beyond the scope of the authority of Council. Provincial law, that is Section 475 of the Local Government Act states as follows: During the development of an official community plan, or the repeal or amendment of an official community plan, the proposing local government must provide one or more opportunities it considers appropriate for consultation with persons, organizations and authorities it considers will be affected. Consultation under this section is in addition to the public hearing required under section 477. To this date there have been no such consultations with the public with regard to this amendment. Any action taken to amend the OCP today is legally contestable and could be rendered null and void. I would urge that Council suspend any action on this item until the law is followed completely and in its entirety with the public being given their legal right to be consulted.”

Last word on public engagement to Charna Macfie: “Democracy does not happen in a vacuum and dies when government officials do not respect it and when citizens do not speak and protect it. Make sure your voice is heard before and at the Public Hearing [on February 10].”

Previous Second Opinion QB coverage of this contentious proposal can be found in the following articles and submissions: