Qualicum Beach citizens took their frustrations to the streets and expressed anger over the possibility of development on two parcels of land in the town’s greenbelt. They marched to Town Hall, where a few hours later council voted 3-2 to amend the community’s Official Community Plan (OCP), paving the way for development on the land.
“We have a really good OCP. I want it followed. It was derived from democratic process — we want to keep it that way. What they are doing now is not right,” said Diane Sharp, a resident who attended the rally and opposes the development.
Ezra Morse, president of the Qualicum Beach Preservation Society (QBPS), addressed a group of about 60 people as they waited for council members to arrive at Town Hall.
“What’s happening is people are coming in and they’re not seeing neighbours or friends or the future that we believe in. They’re seeing a paycheque,” he said, referring to the proposed development. “Places where we used to walk our kids and our neighbours and our friends and our family. We’re seeing those pieces of us — who we are — broken apart, commoditized and sold.”
There was anger and frustration at a process which has left some residents feeling ignored and left out.
“We have written letters, all kinds of stuff. The response is extremely slow or nonexistent from the town,” said Lynne Brookes, a protester.
She said she was concerned about the future of Qualicum Beach’s forested lands, particularly because the town does not have an urban forest master plan.
“It’s been in the works for about 20 years and now finally it looks like it’s coming about and there’s not been much in the way of citizen input,” said Brookes. “It’s a very behind closed doors thing, with minimal input opportunities for people.”
Councillor Robert Filmer voted against the amendment to change the town’s OCP, but said he was disappointed the opposed citizens did not involve him.
“It’s sad the way it did go down. I don’t feel I was included in the discussion, and as a decision maker in the town, that’s not exactly how I want things to go,” he said. “I think when development starts coming forward — just the word development comes forward — people start to get worried and scared and rightfully so.”
Morse was not deterred by the council’s decision to change the OCP and move forward with construction.
“You’re going to be able to find me here before every council meeting,” said Morse.