On November 12th the Town of Gibsons received a revised George hotel and residences project proposal. Shockingly, version 2 is even taller than the original version rejected by the Town this past summer.
At 125 feet (one-and-a-half times the height of the trees on the Hyak site), the hotel would be more than 3 times higher than Gibsons Official Community Plan allows.
This time proponent Klaus Fuerniss and his consultant Art Phillips are placing intense pressure on the Town through a well-financed public relations campaign to approve this version as quickly as possible.
Phillips has stated they intend to press the Town to use the “notwithstanding clause” in the Official Community Plan to override zoning height and size regulations. Using the “notwithstanding clause” to permit such an excessively over-height hotel would trample over and negate the dedication of so many citizens who worked through consensus to create the Harbour Plan. Not only would such an exemption from the rules have major impacts on views in the harbour and on the seaside village character of Gibson’s Landing, but it would also set a precedent that could seriously undermine the Town's planning and zoning bylaws.
Even though the town’s Planning Department has only recently received the developer’s materials, because of the pressure they are under they have indicated that they will report to Council on the George hotel by mid-December.
Now is the time to send a message to Town Council and staff that you expect them to evaluate the most recent (i.e., version 2) George hotel application with nothing less than due diligence and rigour and that you expect them to hold true to the planning rules and regulations that govern development in our town—those set out in our Official Community Plan and Zoning Bylaws.
Your message is important. Please feel free to use and share any or all of the information in this email and please send your messages to Council a.s.a.p. and no later than December 9th.
Send emails to Mayor and Council with cc’s to senior staff at the addresses below:
Every letter counts!
A well-considered and/or heartfelt letter of your own is always preferable, but if you don’t have time, please consider submitting even a simple one-line email that reads something like:
Please ensure that the George hotel proposal receives rigorous evaluation and that the proponent plays by the rules of our OCP.
FYI: GABC LETTER TO COUNCIL
The letter below has been sent to Mayor and Council from GABC. Please feel free to use all or any part of it.
Dear Mayor Rowe and Gibsons Town Council:
We are deeply concerned that the George hotel and condominium application may be rushed due to pressure from the developer and that its assessment may not receive the necessary due diligence.
How this application is dealt with could dramatically affect the village character of Gibson’s Landing and could set a precedent for the integrity of our town's planning and zoning bylaws. At stake are the height, scale, character, and view protection criteria that ensure responsible, quality development in Gibsons. Also at issue is our elected officials’ responsibility to respect both their constituents and the bylaws that regulate our town under the Local Government Act.
Specifically this project:
o is more than triple the allowable height
o is double the anticipated density
o blocks residential property views
o privatizes Winn Road and the foreshore
o shades out Winegarden Park
This project is not the first controversial development to be proposed on the village waterfront. In 2008, strong public opposition over the potential loss of views and village character resulted in the Town’s rejection of the then proposed Shoal Bay condominiums (65 feet high/114 total units). To avoid further such controversies, Harbour Planning was undertaken over a three-year period. The resulting plan was adopted unanimously by Council in 2012.
As you well know, this community has invested a great deal of money and effort into planning for the future of our Town. Many citizens worked collaboratively through the Harbour Area Planning process to establish the principles that future development would have to conform to in this special, sensitive place. A maximum height restriction for waterfront buildings was a prime issue for the public throughout the planning process. The height issue was dealt with through planning, by the creation of subzones in the Harbour Development Permit Area # 5. In the zoning bylaw, DPA5 subzones H and H1 clearly establish building height maximums (7.5 m) and lot setbacks on this proposed project site.
Given the careful thought and specificity that are in these documents, the George hotel developer's proposed use of the “notwithstanding clause” is disrespectful. The fact that this clause was never part of the citizens' consensus process—rather this clause was inserted into the Harbour Plan without input from or notice to the public—is particularly disturbing. We are deeply offended that the George hotel proponents are now pressing the Town of Gibsons to circumvent the Harbour Plan rules through the opportunistic misuse of this dubious “notwithstanding clause.”
Given the import of the history of the Harbour Plan and its intentions, it is essential that you ensure that all developers play by the rules, honour the Plan, and abide by the zoning bylaws that support it.
Therefore, please direct staff to require the developer to PLAY BY THE RULES by ensuring that:
· The “notwithstanding clause” in the Harbour Plan is not used as a rationale to override the OCP and zoning bylaws.
· The scale and character definitions in the OCP and zoning bylaws are upheld.
· The George hotel application is evaluated against current zoning bylaw criteria.
· All the issues identified by the planning staff around George v.1 and any new issues that have arisen from the George v.2 application are resolved by the developer.
· This project will pose No Risk to Gibsons Aquifer.
Suzanne Senger, President
Gibsons Alliance of Business and Community Society