EDITORIAL: Big year for Qualicum Beach

With two major planning projects, this is a pivotal year for Qualicum Beach.

The Waterfront Master Plan and the Official Community Plan will likely be completed in 2017. They are, or should be, hand-in-glove documents that work together and do not contradict each other because, well, what's Qualicum without the Beach?

These documents have been, and continue to be, political hot potatoes. Those currently sitting in council seats could, presumably, shape the document to fit their personal opinions about growth, business, parkland, etc. They would be doing present and future residents a disservice if they looked at the process so narrowly, but they could also argue the electorate voted them into office because of those views.

It's Qualicum Beach, so there will be no shortage of arguments about the process and what's included, or not, in these important planning documents. And councillors/town staff can shape the public input process many ways. Having committee meetings in the middle of a work day is one way, and that decision can look like a deliberate move to exclude working (read young) people.

Census statistics show Qualicum Beach is not growing at an alarming rate. Actually, it's growing at a rate that's about half of the growth rate of the province and the rest of the country. Politicians, especially this current group in Qualicum Beach, like to talk about affordable housing and getting more families into town. Now is the time to back that up with action in the OCP.

The creation of affordable housing in Qualicum Beach is going to mean more rental housing and more small-lot developments. It could mean townhouse developments or apartment complexes or more legal basement suites. It does not mean more of the same, half-million-dollar homes.

We're not sure current Qualicum Beach residents want this kind of development in their town. There is definitely a faction that seems to have this attitude: we're here in paradise, quick, someone close the gates!

What would be refreshing is more openness and transparency from members of council on these matters. If they don't want apartments or townhome developments in their town, say so. If they are really voting against developments because they are generally against development and/or a landowner's right to pursue profit from his/her land, say so. Finding ways to stall a development in process, or nitpicking on details that aren't really behind the real reasons for opposition, is not an open and transparent way to debate civic issues.

This is an important year for Qualicum Beach. Do the people want a vibrant, happening beach and town, with new ideas coming in from younger people? Or do they want to remain a haven for wealthy seniors and a difficult place for developers to do business? It's possible neither is wrong or right. It would just be nice to hear some honest clarity from those who have been elected to pass these important documents into law.

— Editorial by John Harding

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