Sunningdale proposal sparks conversation on spot rezoning in Qualicum Beach

Graphic courtesy of Town of Qualicum Beach.
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Qualicum Beach town council carried third reading for a proposed development on Sunningdale Road after a conversation on spot rezoning and whether the town’s current process is best for the community.

“I think the process has become a major point of stress, both for neighbourhoods [and] I think also for members of council and I do wonder whether we are actually achieving the goals we set out to do, in terms of helping transform our neighbourhoods into progressive places that achieve our sustainability initiatives,” said Luke Sales, director of planning. “I don’t think the current process is working.”

The proposal that sparked the conversation at council’s July 28 special meeting aims to change zoning to allow the property owner at 188 Sunningdale Road East to divide the lot into three separate parcels. There is currently a duplex on the lot.  

Sales said spot rezoning also has benefits. “Council gets to see every development that comes through and look at its design in detail,” he said. “Spot zoning works in many circumstances — I think for large developments. Is spot zoning the right approach for this? I am not entirely sure.”

He used the town’s bylaw which permits secondary suites in single-family dwellings as an example of an alternative to spot rezoning. 

“It wasn’t allowing a huge step that’s disjointed from current zoning approvals. It’s just one more unit, so maybe we should just go ahead and look at neighbourhoods and allow one more or two more,” Sales said.

The project is in the Village neighbourhood, which the Official Community Plan (OCP) identifies as a place to increase density. Sales did not suggest council makes a broad rezoning decision in regards to the Sunningdale project because it is already at third reading, but he wants a broader conversation on zoning in the future.

Coun. Scott Harrison said he would like to leave the conversation to when the town conducts an OCP review.

The town held a public hearing for the Sunningdale project last week, where councillors heard many people speak against it. Coun. Teunis Westbroek said he would like to see the neighbourhood engaged more before rezoning the property.

“Most people expect and realize there will be some improvements, there will be some changes, there will be higher density, but you bring them along, You don’t set people against another,” he said. He voted in favour of third reading after council’s discussion and said Coun. Robert Filmer’s comments on the public hearing changed his mind.

“Basically any public hearing that we are doing, the one comment that we always hear is ‘not in my back yard’ and ‘I really like this’, ‘the idea is great, ‘this is great for our town, but not in my backyard,’” Filmer said. “If we listen to that comment throughout all of town, we wouldn’t build a thing. We wouldn’t build a road, we wouldn’t build a house, we wouldn’t build a grocery store because the comment is always ‘not in my backyard.’”

He said no project is ever perfect and there will always be compromises, “but we also have to talk about and think about what are we trying to do for our community,” he said.

“I have a really hard time sympathizing or listening to the comment of ‘not in my backyard’, especially when someone says, ‘I really like it, I just don’t want it by me’ because if that’s the case we don’t have a town.”

Only Coun. Anne Skipsey was opposed to third reading. “I am going to give my vote to the voices of the neighbours and vote in opposition,” she said. 

Mayor Brian Wiese said he remembers only a few neighbours speaking at the public hearing, “the rest were the people that speak on everything we do, generally negatively,” he said. “I think Councillor Filmer nailed it.”

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