Tofino isn’t ready for another resort in Cox Bay.
That was the sentiment council delivered last week when it officially, and unanimously, voted to kill a proposal from Parkbridge Lifestyle Communities that would have seen a 275-unit resort and roughly 20,000 sq. feet of commercial space developed across five lots on the Pacific Rim Hwy. and Maltby Road.
Four of the lots are currently zoned for campsites and council expressed a desire for Parkbridge to go that route rather than pursue zoning for a new resort.
“The nature of the discussion, in my mind, was not this proposal right now,” said Tofino mayor Josie Osborne.
“We made it very clear that it wasn’t anything to do with Parkbridge and that we valued them as a long term partner. But, what they’re proposing, at this time, was not something that we see taking place.”
Coun. Greg Blanchette said the scale of Parkbridge’s proposal was “completely overwhelming.”
“I would be willing to entertain something smaller scale, but not at the scale proposed,” he said.
Coun. Cathy Thicke said Tofino needs to come up with a vision for Cox Bay.
“This is the jewel in our crown, this bay. This is world class,” she said.
“We have an opportunity here and once we’ve stepped into what someone else’s vision is of Cox Bay it is done. It is over. If we want to put our stamp on it, then we need to come forward with our vision…We need to decide what it is we want rather than react to what a developer wants.”
She said a longterm plan must be hashed out and put in place.
“There’s so much pressure on that beach. I really feel that, as a council and as a community, we need to decide what we want to see. Otherwise we’re going to just get into pros and cons and opinions between councillors and staff and there’s going to be public pressure,” she said.
“What is the capacity? How many people can you have at that beach? Do you want it to look like Miami? I certainly don’t…Five years ago I said, ‘We make this a good place to live, and it will be a great place to visit. But, if we just make it a great place to visit, nobody’s going to want to live here.’”
Coun. Dorothy Baert agreed.
“The opportunity these people [Parkbridge] have is to really bring a connection between the things that we are seen to aspire to and actual aspirations,” she said. “What they’ve put forward really doesn’t excite us, but there is an opportunity to excite us, and the community, going forward and they should pick that up.”
Coun. Al Anderson argued Parkbridge’s proposal fit well within Tofino’s Official Community Plan.
“They were expressing a vision that’s in our OCP. If we have a new vision, let’s say it,” he said.
“If council no longer sees that as being the vision, then we’ll have to wait until the OCP is updated. But, in the meantime, we’ll have to do our best to express our community’s vision for it.”
Coun. Duncan McMaster said his opposition to the project was based on the lack of amenities Parkbridge offered, specifically in terms of affordable housing, and he doubted Tofino’s current council would get onboard with any proposal unless those amenities were addressed.
“Unless they demonstrate a project that has more community benefit, they’ll probably keep on getting pushed down the list,” he said.
“They’ve got to demonstrate, if they want to get near the top of the list, that there’s going to be some benefit to the community.”
Coun. Ray Thorogood said the district needs a firmer understanding of its water capacity before approving any new resorts.
“We’ve got to know our water capacity. That’s first and foremost in my mind,” he said.
“We’ve got to get that in line first and then we can know where we can go with tourism development.”
Blanchette noted Parkbridge could launch a campground under their property’s current zoning and suggested they be encouraged to do so.
“We’ve noted around this table and elsewhere about the need for a campground, which is an existing possible use and I certainly would not be opposed to them bringing that forward, even on a temporary basis,” he said.
Baert agreed and added Parkbridge could build social capital by putting a campsite together.
“It doesn’t have to be 600 units, but something that’s reasonable and viable and could help take some of the stresses off our community right now because it has zoning as a campground,” she said.
“Young families and traveling students and so forth also want to enjoy and visit this place, not just people who can pay $400 a night.”