The future of St. Andrews Lodge in Qualicum Beach is uncertain after council voted not to rescind a motion from earlier this month. Council voted on Oct. 14 to not collaborate with a local group to repurpose or relocate the building in a closed meeting.
“I’ve been talking to lots of residents lately and I’m sure councillors have been getting emails and phone calls about St. Andrews Lodge. I honestly feel that we made a mistake on this one,” said Coun. Robert Filmer during the Oct. 28 meeting.
Coun. Adam Walker raised the possibility of funding the repurposing of the building by applying for a grant through the provincial government’s Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program. The program provides grants to support economic recovery, tourism, heritage and rural and economic development projects in communities impacted by COVID-19. The deadline for the application is Oct. 30, which is not enough time to put together the information necessary, according to Coun. Scott Harrison.
“I don’t feel comfortable moving forward in that direction without understanding the long-term operational costs of maintaining the building,” said Harrison.
Filmer expressed his frustration with the decision not to repurpose the building and the fact it was done in a meeting the public did not have access to. He pointed to a large number of emails regarding St. Andrews from community members he is not used to hearing from. Filmer said he thought the motion had been rushed.
Mayor Brian Wiese said council had been through a lengthy public consultation process, including a request for proposal (RFP). He added one proposal was withdrawn and the other was incomplete.
“That left us zero options to move forward other than what we’re doing,” said the mayor.
The proposal deemed “incomplete” was a proposal by the Qualicum Community Education and Wellness Society (QCEWS) to apply to the federal government’s Investing in Canada Plan.
Harrison said when the town consulted with residents, 59 per cent said they did not support spending significant costs to retain the building. He also pointed to the fact the town had already entered into a contract with Parksville Heavy Equipment to demolish the building and if council rescinded their previous motion, the town could be in breach of the contract.
Walker said it might be worth paying out the contract if it meant the town could apply for the Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program.
“If the province is willing to invest $2 million into our community, that to me seems well worth the refunding of that contract amount,” he said.
Walker said he had volunteers willing to spend as much time as is necessary to write the grant application.
“All we’re asking for is one day of reprieve and likely two, maybe three weeks to hear back on this grant,” he said.
Council voted 3 – 2 against rescinding the motion, with only Filmer and Walker in favour.
Parksville Heavy Equipment is committed to preserving some elements, such as a door or a window, if requested, according to Daniel Saillard, chief administration officer for the town.
*This story was updated to correct that Coun. Walker was speaking about the Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program, not the Investing in Canada Plan.