Qualicum Beach Mayor Brian Wiese has no plans to call a special meeting to discuss an alternative to the town’s plans to demolish the historic St. Andrews Lodge.
Wiese relayed that message in an open letter addressed to his fellow councillors, posted to the town’s website on Wednesday, Nov. 4.
The letter followed Coun. Teunis Westbroek’s request to the mayor on Nov. 3 to hold a special meeting to discuss ways to save the lodge. The mayor pointed the decision to demolish the building was made by the entire council on Oct. 28, which also denied a motion to rescind the decision. Wiese along with councillors Westbroek and Scott Harrison voted in favour while Robert Filmer and Adam Walker were against.
“That reaffirmed the direction of council – to demolish the lodge,” Wiese said. “Yet here we are, less than a week after that decision, and some members of council are looking to reconsider the decision again. This is not how the democratic process works. We as a council have made the decision and staff are following the direction of council, as they are legally required to do. Our role as a council is to make the hard decisions. This is a decision we have made, reviewed and reaffirmed.”
Wiese also explained the decision was reached based on 16 months of public outreach and feasibility studies.
“A decision was made after all other avenues were exhausted,” Wiese wrote. “We received no viable responses to our requests to relocate the building. The one proposal we received for the re-use of the building would have required significant grant funding to be viable, and competed directly against several of our other strategic initiatives, including the roundabout and turf field upgrades. The proposal was also received days before the grant deadline, with much of the information necessary to apply for the grant missing.”
Westbroek acknowledged in front of protesters at the lodge on Tuesday, Nov. 3, that he changed his mind after feedback from the community and would now prefer to see the heritage building saved.
Wiese indicated he did request a meeting on Nov. 2 but members of council could not agree on a time that was ideal for all members to attend. It was eventually cancelled. And after much consideration, Wiese said he made a difficult decision not to hold a special meeting. As a compromise, Wiese indicated his plan to propose a notice of motion at the next available opportunity.
“That the town would support collaboratively working with a society to raise funds and to construct of a replica of the former St. Andrews Lodge on town-owned land,” Wiese stated. “Whether this compromise would be acceptable to my fellow members of council remains to be seen.”
Bill Preston, co-chair of the Qualicum Community Education & Wellness Society, was disappointed with the mayor’s decision.
“He seemed to have lost touch with the idea that when you’re elected, you’re a public servant,” said Preston. “And he seems to think that all the decisions and orders that council is making. once you made a decision you can take in new information and change your mind. That’s why so many people are frustrated.”
Preston said the QCEWS has made a proposal to council that offers options to work together to preserve the lodge and also fundraising initiatives.
Preston is puzzled by the town’s reluctance to deal with them.
“Why are they so hell-bent to have this done so quickly?” said Preston. “Why are they pressing on this even though there’s such an outcry against demolishing that building?”
A report concluded it would cost the town approximately $700,000 to renovate and upgrade the building. A public consultation survey also indicated most residents would not support preservation if the cost is significant.
Preston said they will be out at the lodge again Thursday, Nov. 5 to stage a peaceful protest.