EDITORIAL: Looking for inspiration in Qualicum Beach

What's next for Qualicum Beach now that the regional district board has decided — well, six out of 16 directors anyway — the town must go through a longer process for changing its growth containment boundary?

Nothing much changes, really, and that may be the point.

A town that has had its elementary school close and has watched its population decline is not what any sane person would call healthy. A majority of the current council thought this boundary change would encourage growth. We're not sure that's true — economics dictate these things more than anything else — but we get the sense this council majority feels it needs to try something, anything, to breathe life into what some indicators (school closure, population decrease) show is a declining town.

Our opposition to what the RDN board did last week has nothing to do with any specific development. We still believe the duly elected council of the day in a community should have say over development issues in its municipality, whether that's Qualicum Beach, Parksville or anywhere else. We believe in local control, period. The people of Qualicum Beach did not elect Nanaimo Mayor John Ruttan and empower him to make Qualicum Beach land-use decisions.

Regardless, it's time to look forward. Those who wanted to stop the boundary change often cited the town's official community plan. More specifically, they were saying any big change like this should come as part of an OCP review.

Fair enough. However, as we wrote during Parksville's OCP review process, we believe these should be living, breathing documents, not Bible-like decrees that can only be changed — and must be followed to the letter in the meantime — every five or 10 years. But it seems to us these same people who believe the OCP is akin to Moses' stone tablets are cherry-picking.

Qualicum Beach's current OCP talks about carefully-managed growth. It does not say "no growth" or "carefully-managed decline." Those who seem to be against any moves to encourage growth need to explain, with specifics and without empty references to already-failing strategies, how this community will thrive and survive if the population-decline trends continue. We only hear "no" from this camp, which provides a less-than-inspiring outlook for the future of this unique, beautiful town.

— Editorial by John Harding

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