Qualicum Beach town council defeated a motion to allocate an estimated $10,000 for a landscape and parking plan for the former St. Andrews Lodge Waterfront park.
Mayor Brian Wiese said he could not support allocating the funds because it is still unclear what the park will look like, as the St. Andrews Lodge Historical and Cultural Society has yet to raise significant funds to restore the lodge.
“It might not even happen in our term — but I think right now that they have got a very low amount of money in their fund. With the museum getting a small grant, the chances of them getting a grant this year are pretty slim or next to nothing,” Wiese said. He added there will be further discussion on timelines for the restoration with a full council, after the town’s byelection.
The society was formed after a protest led to the town repealing a decision to demolish the former St. Andrews lodge building.
“My understanding was that we were giving the lodge society a year to fundraise to get a significant portion of the money. The idea was no cost to the town,” said Coun. Scott Harrison. “Right now I think they are four months in — last I’ve heard, they are still working on their mission statement after four months and the fundraising efforts are not really progressing.”
He suggested putting off further action on the issue until next year, after the society has had a chance to follow through.
“Regardless of what Councillor Harrison said, there is a sincere effort to try and keep the building. There is a lot of work to be done when it comes to statements of significance,” said Coun. Teunis Westbroek.
“We are charging them for power bills and other things. I don’t think that’s fair to charge a tenant when they don’t have a key yet, so let’s get moving on that and clear up this uncertainty.” He said he would like to see town staff work out a lease agreement with the society so they can have access to the building.
Harrison expressed concern the society has not put enough effort into fundraising or formalizing their organization. “There are no steps being taken right now, it is just not happening and I think we have to be honest about that,” he said.
Coun. Robert Filmer said he does not believe council has given the society enough credit, as they are forming and starting fundraising during a pandemic.
“It is a bit sad that certain members of this council choose to still slag this society and talk poorly about them,” Filmer said. “We keep trying to put limitations on them and you know, we should be working with them and helping them, not just saying get this done on your own. Because every time this comes to the council table, we slag them and we say they don’t have a lot of money or have not accomplished a lot.”
“That’s not fair. If we were four or five months into our term and someone came up to us and said, ‘hey, geez you guys aren’t getting anything done,’ I’d say, well we are just getting started, you have to give us some time.
Both Harrison and Wiese disagreed that council was talking poorly about the society and said they are only trying to establish timelines and move forward.
“Right now I see more effort being put into social media than into fundraising and that raises serious questions and I think it is entirely fair to raise those questions and if they make you feel uncomfortable, my apologies, but at the end of the day I think the public deserves to be informed as to where things are at and how things are moving forward,” Harrison said.
He added he has seen other charities in the area raise more money than normal during the pandemic. “Maybe money is not quite so tight in our area when no one is traveling on vacation in the winter because they have to stay home and so all the money they would have spent on vacation is actually going to the community.”
Filmer and Westbroek voted to allocate the money to the property — the motion was tied and defeated.