The fate of St Andrews Lodge in Qualicum Beach could be reconsidered after Coun. Teunis Westbroek told protesters he regrets supporting the motion to demolish the building and asked Mayor Wiese to call a council meeting.
“I think the majority of council now wants to save it and I think if we turn it over to a society with an agreement as to what the building can be used for and some timelines — I think we would all be better off,” Westbrook said. He said he plans on putting forth a new motion at the meeting which will allow a society to be formed that could take ownership of the building.
Protesters gathered at the lodge as work began Monday to call for council to rescind the decision it made at its regular meeting on Oct. 14. Protesters expressed frustrations with town council, holding signs calling for it to listen to its citizens.
Anne Skipsey, who organized the protest, said she was upset the decision was made behind closed doors, without an opportunity for the public to speak on the final motion.
“There was meant to be a third phase and the third phase was meant to be where the town presents its vision and gives the community an opportunity to respond and phase three has never happened,” Skipsey said.
The town went through two phases of public consultation and spent nearly $50,000 to gather information, according to Coun. Scott Harrison.
“There have been several different things where people wanted to, essentially have a public hearing, but there are other forms of communication as well,” Harrison said. “We had a public process for people to engage the building and no-one came forward with a viable proposal.”
The town asked for proposals for the building, but Harrison said the proper cost estimates, plans and documents were not provided. Relocating the building was the preferred option, but nobody came forward with a place to put it, according to Harrison.
“We have had lots of great ideas from an artisan residence during the winter and then opening it up more in the spring; as a tourist resource or having art exhibits here in the summertime,” said Skipsey.
Council voted in-camera not to collaborate and pursue the options. Coun. Robert Filmer said he does not believe the decision warranted being discussed in private.
“The motion was to have staff come up with avenues or ideas, whether it was going to be demolished or refurbished. A member of council, in that meeting, changed the motion to just have them either demolish or removed basically as soon as possible,” Filmer said.
Harrison said in order to be eligible for grants to refurbish the building, it would have to be wheelchair accessible and the whole building would have to be raised because it is on a flood plane. The cost of operating the building, combined with the renovations was a concern for council, according to Harrison.
“I think it was just a difficult decision. It’s not something that is taken lightly, but at the same time I think we have to remember we are in a once in a century pandemic and the operational costs would result in significant tax increases, which in turn impacts small businesses,” Harrison said.