Qualicum Beach town council voted unanimously to request a staff report to consider land near the firehall for a temporary dry housing project.
The project, which will provide 10 units to the Oceanside homeless population for nine months, was set to be at 747 Jones Street and was planned to be on the site of the town’s new public works yard.
Coun. Teunis Westbroek made the motion to consider using the Agriculture Land Commission (ALC) land near the firehall at council’s May 27 meeting.
The town held a public information session to answer questions about the project on April 29, where many residents questioned the Jones Street location.
The ALC land will require a temporary use permit, which Coun. Scott Harrison said could create regulatory barriers for the project.
“I hope we are not taking the lens for what’s best for us as politicians, but what’s best for the people we are trying to actually provide services for,” he said.
Coun. Robert Filmer said he has full trust in Parksville-Qualicum MLA Adam Walker, to help the town get the location is wants.
”I have full trust that if we should make this proposal and we ask exactly what we are asking, that he will pull through on his end and be able to make this happen for us,” Filmer said. “I feel the community will be a lot happier with the location.” He added he has seen community opposition to the Jones Street location, but not the project itself.
The Qualicum Nature Preservation Society (QNPS) started a Change.org petition to “save Qualicum Beach’s community forest,” opposing the Jones Street location for the public works yard and temporary housing.
“The credit here really goes to both the community of Qualicum Beach for using their voices, as well as the council for being receptive and listening,” said Ezra Morse, president of the QNPS. “We are just glad to have been part of the process.”
Daniel Sailland, the town’s chief administrative officer, said at the April 29 meeting the land was already designated for the public works yard, so putting the temporary dry housing project on it would minimize the impacts of deforestation.
Mayor Brian Wiese also spoke in favour of looking at the ALC land. He said the units will have to be moved if they are on the public works yard site — Harrison said they will likely have to be moved from the ALC land after nine months also.
The project will be funded through a provincial grant as part of the COVID-19 response.