Residents want to be able to influence proposed developments before they get too far along in the official process but there was no clear idea of how to achieve that emerging from a panel discussion arranged by the Qualicum Beach Residents' Association last Thursday.
The QBRA asked town Planning Director Luke Sales, architect Bruce Fleming-Smith and real estate developer Dave Bryan to give their views on how to achieve more dialogue, especially in relation to large projects.
The meeting, packed to standing room only, was called after The Clarion, a five-storey, 53-unit condominium development next to town hall, sailed through council in little more than a month.
Sales said the planning process is based on the Official Community Plan and it's in forming that plan that residents can have their say.
He said he didn't think holding referenda on proposed developments would help.
Fleming-Smith said it's possible to identify key properties in the town, such as the tennis courts and the bus garage site, and to hold workshops or study groups, possibly under the auspices of the QBRA, on what is best for those sites.
Perhaps The Old School House could hold an art competition based on ideas for the bus garage site, he said.
"There will be change," he said. "We just want change we're happy with."
Advisory Planning Commission members are often left "shaking their heads," he said, over the lack of opportunity for residents, developers and the town to discuss possibilities "before entering a highly articulated process." Bryan said Qualicum Beach, "fortunately or unfortunately, is very tightly nailed down as far as available properties go."
What gets built, he said, depends on what's going to sell. Three-to-five-storey apartment blocks haven't sold well, he said, and a show of hands revealed that only a few would consider moving into an apartment-style building in the town but a large majority would consider a patio home or town home.
The problem, Bryan said, is that there's no place in Qualicum Beach to put even just 10 patio homes.
"We've got this place nailed down so tight there's nothing," he said. "We're not serving our own people."
Resident Graham Riches asked about changing the make-up of the APC but Bryan said that's too late in the process.
"By the time I get to the APC, I'm done." Bryan said. "The APC is there to help the process along."
Fleming-Smith noted that Vancouver's Urban Design Panel often sends big-money developments back for refining.
Bryan said it would be great to have such a collaborative process involving a range of professionals "but that's not what we have here... that's not the APC."
Resident Kevin Monahan said there needs to be a mechanism for going back to the constituents when something bigger comes along to avoid "late-stage antagonism."
Fleming-Smith said there would be better communication if there was a "more collaborative, cohesive attitude on council."
Bryan said the planning department could suggest to developers that they pitch their projects to relevant community groups.
On Monday, Coun. Scott Tanner gave notice that he'll introduce a motion at a future council meeting asking staff to look into referring developments to community groups before they enter the formal process.
Coun. Mary Brouilette objected to "another layer" for developers to get through but Tanner said that's not what he's proposing.
Mayor Teunis Westbroek said such groups have worked in the past on issues such as secondary suites.
Brian Wilford / The panel for the forum 'Growth and Development in Qualicum Beach: Towards Positive Dialogue Between Residents and Developers' (from left): QBRA chair and moderator Paul Kyba, architect Bruce Fleming-Smith, town Planning Director Luke Sales, and real estate developer Dave Bryan.;
© Copyright 2013