Thursday’s All-Candidates’ Meeting sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce put on display some of the candidates’ platforms and attributes—and seemed to obscure others.
In an interesting move, the slate of Wayne Rowe, Charlene SanJenko, Stafford Lumley, Silas White, and Jeremy Valeriote soft-pedaled support of the George project. Local pundits speculated that they have been getting the same message from voters as they go door to door as the rest of the candidates have reported hearing—the George is TOO BIG.
Candidates Dan Bouman and LeeAnn Johnson, both councillors seeking re-election, had platforms consistent with their Council record on the George. Candidates Katie Janyk, Suzanne Senger, and former mayor Barry Janyk were also clear on their opposition to the size of the George. None of these candidates is opposed to a hotel on the site, as long as it is in compliance with the painstakingly arrived at distillation of the townspeople’s values in our Harbour Area Plan/OCP and bylaws. Each in their different way indicated that a 35-foot hotel designed to fit the form and character of the Harbour area would be welcome.
Now, the line of those who have accepted and approved 125-foot zoning for the waterfront is that the height of the George is “negotiable,” nothing has been decided, they’re waiting on geotechnical reports, and so on. Despite previous statements and actions by the members of the slate, they all spouted a remarkably similar line on the George—Height is suddenly “negotiable.”
The facts are that Rowe and SanJenko endorsed the form and character of the George on April 1, 2014, manoeuvring the 125-foot height and the massive design through Council approval, in effect acquiescing completely to the developer. (See Regular Council Meeting Minutes of April 1, page 3: Motion: “THAT the updated form and character of the George Hotel and Condominium be endorsed and that the updated design be used to inform the drafting of a zoning amendment bylaw.” CARRIED. OPPOSED: Councillor Bouman and Councillor Johnson).
So despite the claims by Rowe and SanJenko to be open to negotiating the height of the George, they have already endorsed it—the 125-foot height has already been approved. The time to negotiate was before approving it.
The zoning amendment is already proceeding although problems around contaminants in the harbour, risks to our drinking water aquifer, ownership of Winn Road, and the takeover of the Town’s Winegarden Park recreational water lease, among other issues, remain unresolved. In fact documents released under Freedom of Information requests reveal the amendment has been written since January 2014.
The zoning amendment bylaw—drafted in consultation with the proponent—not only enables the George project but will also establish a precedent for other properties in Gibson’s Landing.
The format of the meeting had all questions being addressed to and answered by all candidates. Most of the questions were prepared or pre-vetted by the Chamber; only two questions came unvetted from the floor. Although the George seemed to be the biggest issue on people’s minds, questions prepared by the Chamber revolved around candidates’ experience, vision for economic development, and views on restructure/amalgamation with Areas E and F. The pre-vetted questions from the audience included two George-related questions that were an amalgamation of the many submitted on the subject. Of the two freely asked questions from the floor, one was about the height of the George.
Negotiable? Or do they just want us voters to think so?
We urge you to watch a re-broadcast of the meeting on Coast Cable and draw your own conclusions. You can catch it at one of the times below:
All Candidates Meeting Rebroadcast Times
COAST CABLE CHANNEL 11
Tuesday, Nov. 4 - 6 pm Wednesday, Nov. 5 - 2 pm, 10 pm
On Youtube @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ORQPcW6guE
Gibsons Alliance of Business and Community, a registered sponsor under LECFA—gibsonsalliance.com