Members of the Qualicum Beach Residents' Association attended the public meeting on March 4 to receive information and provide community feedback about the Town's proposal to change our growth containment boundary. This is a major change to our Official Community Plan and deserves and requires a full community review, which this meeting did not entail. The proposed changes will have a significant impact on our community including, the growth of its population and future development.
The March 4 meeting was attended by only forty local residents. The Town should make a greater effort to communicate with the taxpayers on matters that are so critically important to our future. Public consultation requires proper notification along with background information, communicated in plain English. Town officials explained that there was a "glitch" in the website publication of background information related to this important meeting. A small newspaper advertisement a week in advance of a public meeting about a major OCP change is not sufficient.
Although a public hearing will be required, its format will not allow for dialogue. It appears that the Town is attempting to process this complex and far-reaching proposal using the fastest method possible. It is not acceptable that this single meeting is intended to be the only opportunity for taxpayers in Qualicum Beach to understand and discuss a major change to our OCP that could have an everlasting impact on the quality of life in our Town.
At the meeting, Town officials had difficulty explaining this complex proposal. It is difficult for residents to provide feedback on this major change to their OCP when the proposal hasn't been effectively explained. An unbiased and balanced discussion paper with pros and cons would be useful. The Town Planner explained that the urgency for the change in the boundary relates to a "strategic priority" of the current Council.
We urge the Town to take the necessary time for a full and proper communication of the implications of this proposal and, for residents to come together to discuss and provide feedback as part of a full OCP review. The community needs to understand whether this major OCP amendment will open the door to rapid zoning changes by a pro-development Council that results in population growth and urban sprawl. Could this include the development of properties in the Town such as the estates adjacent to Milner Gardens; or, part of the Eaglecrest golf course; or, the south side of Rupert Road.
Residents are encouraged to go to the Town website and register their views. If you don't understand what is being proposed, you should ask Town staff to provide answers to your questions. Alternatively, written submissions to Town Hall will be accepted. It is unclear how long the Town will give to receiving input from the public on this important proposal.
Dave Golson, Vice President
Qualicum Beach Residents' Association