Jonathan Schmidt discussing limits on commercial development. (Debra Lynn photo)

Jonathan Schmidt discussing limits on commercial development. (Debra Lynn photo)

Port Alice residents attend walk n’ talk on community development

Residents asked to identify places they love, any places of concern, opportunities, or ideas

WRITTEN BY DEBRA LYNN

On Sept. 6 the Village of Port Alice hosted a “walk n’ talk” as a way to approach updating the village’s Official Community Plan (OCP) and Zoning Bylaw. The activity was moderated by land use consultants, John Watson and Jonathan Schmidt.

Before heading out on the walk, Schmidt explained how an OCP gives guidance and sets priorities for council so that, when decisions need to be made and everyone is on different sides, “there was at least some pre-conversation to help guide the process.”

At the walk n’ talk, Watson and Schmidt asked residents to identify places they love, any places of concern, opportunities or any ideas for solutions. Schmidt affirmed that this is a way to raise issues “in a friendly way where’s there’s not one burning application that’s in front of everyone.”

Schmidt explained that in this phase of the process they are listening to ideas and seeing the sights around Port Alice. In phase two, they will generate ideas and then present them to the community as “draft directions” for feedback. They will later come up with draft OCP and draft zoning bylaw directions.

The group followed the sidewalk south along Marine Drive, briefly stopping to watch whales spouting and swimming around the inlet.

The first stop was at the lot on the corner of Marine Drive and Taylor Way. Schmidt asked participants what they thought should be here. One resident mentioned it should be a place to have vehicles serviced. Another resident suggested something connected to medical services, such as a senior’s home, being that it is just across from the urgent care centre.

Schmidt mentioned that one of the drawbacks of being in a small village is that there are usually “only a few key properties.” If owners are not looking to develop them, “there’s not a lot of tools available for municipalities to… spur them to get off the speculation track and actually start doing something.”

He noted that some villages have property they own that they develop and “sometimes some of that public investment starts to spur some of the speculators to say, ‘oh, something is really happening positively within the village. I want to turn from just holding this land to doing something.’”

The discussion that followed centered on the issue of the empty and crumbling Quatsino Chalet and the lack of a sit-down restaurant.

Later on, Schmidt started off by mentioning how the upgraded marina was one policy in the 2010 OCP that was “one of things that got done.”

He opened up the field to some other ideas for the locale. One resident suggested zoning for houseboats and attracting kite surfers.

In response to a discussion about diversifying the economy so that it’s not just seasonal, Brian Grover suggested that Port Alice’s season can be extended due to the weather. He stated that people come for storm watching and to photograph the mists on the mountains. When they post their photos on social media, it will generate more people coming up, that “there’s a multiplier effect to each… photographer that comes up here and has a successful outing.” He affirms this is something that can happen through the winter.

On the return trip, the group passed by the corner of Marine Drive and Taylor Way once again where Schmidt instigated a discussion about limiting commercial development to suit the character of the community by saying that there’s “lots of growth demand around the island… you could open the taps and… probably have lots come, but then, what is Port Alice and is it the place you came here for?”

He stated that the OCP can set maximums on the size of commercial buildings and write it into zoning bylaw. A discussion then followed about the preservation of Port Alice’s “million-dollar view.”

Back at the strip mall, Watson asked the group what they see that can be developed. Among the various suggestions, Grover suggested an artisans’ venue. Another resident suggested a computer tech hub. Another suggested a drug store, and another, a daycare.

Watson concluded by telling participants to think about what commercial business they need and what would work here for the size of the community. He encouraged people to participate in their online survey at https://portalice.ca/town-hall/official-community-plan-2022 or send an email to OCP@portalice.ca to share their ideas and sign up for project updates.


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