Qualicum Beach council is divided on how future strata age restrictions would affect the town and its residents which has the oldest demographic in all of Canada.
The Unrestricted Residential bylaw would change the definition of “dwelling unit” to prevent strata corporations from restricting residency by age or family composition.
The Town of Qualicum Beach council approved third reading of the Unrestricted Residential zoning amendment bylaw on Monday (Jan. 8) with councillors Barry Avis and Bill Luchtmeijer voting against the bylaw. Avis has consistently voted against the bylaw each time it came forward at council.
Coun. Neil Horner, who initially brought forward the motion in July, 2017, said not long ago Kwalikum Secondary School was threatened with closure and then Qualicum Beach Elementary School (now Qualicum Commons) was closed. Horner said there was a “huge outcry” which helped keep the former open.
“The need that I see is to have a message that young people are welcome in Qualicum Beach and, if we want to keep our schools open, we have to have some young people in Qualicum Beach,” Horner said.
“If we don’t pass this bylaw, I would suggest we’re sending out a very strong message that ‘No, young people aren’t particularly welcome in Qualicum Beach. We’re old, we want to stay that way and if the school closes, we’ll make another stink about it. But really when it comes time to do something about, something concrete, we’re not willing to make that move.’”
Luchtmeijer said he thought council was stepping outside of its mandate by, “trying to decide how people should live in a community.
“I think the way the town is developing now, or progressing now, is driven by the people who live here and come here.”
At the start of the meeting, there was a public hearing on the bylaw amendment. Five residents got up to speak.
Mary Brouilette, a former Qualicum Beach councillor, said she doesn’t think council is aware of how strata corporations work.
“Stratas are not inexpensive, and I think this is a little bit of smoke and mirrors here that you think that you’re adding new housing — you’re not adding new housing at all,” said Brouilette.
Brouilette said strata corporations are self-administered because they are the owners of the properties, adding strata councils have the right to make decisions based on ages, rental units and allowing or prohibiting pets.
“I think the municipality has got no business jumping in on that,” she said.
Lance Nater said he can’t believe the bylaw had made it this far in council chambers.
“You’re infringing on people’s rights,” Nater said. “The Supreme Court has heard this issue of age restriction numerous times, and every time they’ve heard it, they make sure the wording in their decision has been that stratas have the right to take a vote and establish an age limitation.”
Tim Pritchard said town council might be cutting off the opportunity for people who represent a large portion of the population in town. Pritchard said when residents get older sometimes they want a smaller property with less work, such as a strata.
“Many of those people would prefer to have people in such a community of the same generation as they are and many would be hesitant to move into where there was a hyperactive community for young people,” Pritchard said.