Coinciding with the arguments to expand the Growth Containment Boundary, residents have been told repeatedly by the Mayor, councilors and staff that the most effective means to influence town priorities and direction is the Official Community Plan. By all measures, the OCP process is the single most expensive, time consuming, and comprehensive method of gaining and documenting public input.
The current OCP does not reflect expanding the Growth Containment Boundary. On March 4 we were told that expanding the boundary was a strategic priority of the current council. The public has never heard why this subject is a priority to council, leaving residents to guess. Our guess is the change is necessary to facilitate the Pheasant Glen subdivision/resort proposal. But the proposed change goes beyond the Pheasant Glen property as it incorporates the so-called estate properties along 19A as well as Island Timberlands property. Given the properties involved, this is not a minor amendment.
The proposed change removes a meaningful check and balance by eliminating any oversight by the RDN. Under the current structure, has the RDN ever blocked the Town from moving forward with development deemed beneficial to the Town but not included in the OCP? We offer development of “The Gardens” as an example of growth under the current structure, which was not reflected in an OCP. RDN involvement becomes an issue when the development proposed is (1) not reflected in the OCP and (2) has some element of controversy.
As proposed, expansion of the Growth Containment Boundary would eliminate any future RDN participation in future land use within Qualicum Beach. As proposed, the change would also concentrate future land use decisions to a vote in favor by three council members. This concentration of future land use decisions is not appropriate for many reasons.
Given all the rhetoric of the importance council gives the OCP, it simply is not logical that elements of the OCP can be ignored and changed based on the opinion of three elected officials serving a three year term in office with no opportunity for a second look or oversight by the RDN.
We recently learned that a supermajority vote was required to approve the parkland transfer involving the new Fire Hall. We know that a supermajority (four of five council members) is required on matters pertaining to town senior staff. Yet the proposed boundary expansion would only require a simple majority vote.
Changing the Growth Containment Boundary outside the scope of a complete OCP review is wrong. It ignores public input as expressed in the current OCP. It ignores public concern of Qualicum Beach becoming a community of subdivisions. It exposes this council and future councils to significant pressures given the financial gains from land use zoning changes.
If this council is compelled to change the GCB now, without a complete OCP review, it should implement a bylaw to require a supermajority approval by council of any changes to the OCP, including this proposal to expand the GCB. The residents of Qualicum Beach are entitled to this broader approval process.
Lance Nater is a member of the Eaglecrest Residents Association