Demolition work on St Andrews Lodge in Qualicum Beach has been halted. Town council voted to open a conversation with the Qualicum Beach Community Education and Wellness Society (QCEWS) to establish a society that could take lead in restoring and operating the building.
“This could [have] a very community building effect or it can be more divisive, both council and the public. So if majority of council says today, let’s forget about demolishing it — now let’s work with a group that’s going to look after it for us with no cost to the town,” said Coun. Teunis Westbroek at a special council meeting on Nov. 6, where council debated the fate of the lodge.
Westbroek voted on the original motion not to work with a society to relocate or restore the building at a regular council meeting on Oct. 14, but since changed his mind after pushback from the public. Council also voted whether to rescind this decision at its Oct. 28 regular meeting and it was decided to stand by the original motion with a 3-2 vote.
“I’m sorry, I made a mistake. I should never have voted this way a couple weeks ago but I did. When I thought about it a lot more, I felt that we were going in the wrong direction,” Westbroek said.
Council debated legal ramifications of moving back on its decision to tear down the lodge. Coun. Scott Harrison proposed the town seek legal advise before formally rescinding the motion, but it was voted to stop work, with all in favour except Mayor Brian Wiese.
“I think to proceed without that legal surety is a huge mistake and it opens us up as an organization that doesn’t care about the law. We don’t care if we break the community charter — we just do what we want and I think that is a very dangerous road to go down and will have ramifications that will last far longer than this decision, even if it is a good decision,” said Harrison.
Council voted unanimously to seek legal advice and have a staff report done, detailing costs to the town. There is no timeline set yet for fundraising or when QCEWS must have a plan for the building.
“We can’t let this go on for five or six years looking for money,” Wiese said.
Westbroek proposed a timeline of 18 months for the society to have a plan, but said it can be debated at a later meeting.
The only work done on the building this week was removal of hazardous materials, according to Westbroek.
“Mission accomplished, we have stopped the demolition. So let’s just make sure that we as a council know all the ramifications of what’s going forward. We will get a legal staff report and we will get together and have another discussion,” Wiese said.