The George Hotel: Too Big, Too Risky, Breaks the Rules

 The George: Too Big, Too Risky, Breaks the Rules

Since 2006, Klaus Fuerniss Enterprises Inc. has repeatedly proposed a hotel on the waterfront in Gibsons Landing. The Town of Gibsons consistently rejected these proposals because they were too big, broke the zoning rules, and contravened our Official Community Plan (OCP). Now, this developer is back with the biggest proposal yet: The George Hotel and Residences.

The present iteration of The George features 118 hotel rooms and 40 luxury condominiums, spread over two buildings of 10 and 8 storeys respectively. It proposes 2 levels of underground parking, marina facilities that encroach on both the Gibsons Marina and Town of Gibsons Recreational Water Leases, and replaces Winn Road with a funnel-shaped pedestrian walkway in the shade of two imposing buildings. Tanks for marine fuel would be buried under the parking level, resting on the protective cap of our precious drinking-water aquifer. 

George proponents have said that Gibsons is dying. In fact, government statistics show Gibsons with increased numbers of new businesses and building permits, a growing labour force, and shrinking unemployment. Gibsons and District Chamber of Commerce, in its recent quarterly report, is enthusiastic about the state of business in the Landing. (Chamber of Commerce Quarterly Report – see Year End Perspective PDF pg 20).

The George’s slick advertising campaign touts inflated business, employment, and tax benefits to the Town, while dismissing citizens’ concerns about OCP and zoning contraventions, loss of village charm and character, aquifer endangerment, impact on existing tourism business, blocked upland views, encroachment on public lands, drain on infrastructure, and the spectre of a town-subsidized, half-empty white-elephant condo/convention centre complex towering over our tiny harbour.

GABC is pro-Gibsons. We welcome positive change, anticipate regulated growth, embrace progress, and support responsible development – all within the context of Gibsons’ Official Community Plan GABC constitution.

We can support a hotel on the waterfront in Gibsons Landing – as long as it respects the OCP and protects Gibsons’ Aquifer. Nor are we anti-waterfront-hotel. We The GABC board and our members represent businesses and residents alike. We recognize the need for a vibrant economy in a livable community: neither of these values should trample the other.

Gibsons’ Official Community Plan By-Law is our road map to the future. Years in the making, and regularly updated with community input, it states what Gibsons citizens envision for their town. It details acceptable land uses, building forms, and environmental and other considerations to guide Council in making sound planning decisions (p19. 1.1 Purpose of an official community plan).  The Harbour Plan component of the OCP By-Law has very specific goals that strike a balance between village ambience, environmental and natural asset protection, and economic viability ( Harbour Plan: Goals and Objectives  p30). The Town of Gibsons Zoning By-Law for Development Permit Area 5, within which The George falls, also has very specific requirements for height, which the current proposal exceeds in the extreme. Regulations for areas H and Sub H (zoning bylaw - Pg. 45, 510).

The reasons for Gibsons’ world-wide fame as a tourist destination – its spectacular setting, quaint seaside village character, year-round outdoor recreation opportunities, and its pristine drinking water – are the same reasons most Gibsons residents live here. The OCP recognizes these values and the need to preserve them, for both residents and visitors. Official Community Plan Pg. 20 1.4 planning issues and interests . Several of the values outlined in the OCP – values which make us special – values that draw visitors – are seriously jeopardized by the current George proposal.

Recent Provincial Court decisions have held that local governments are bound to uphold the provisions of their OCP By-Laws when considering development proposals. Ft. Langley article

That is all GABC is asking. We ask that Council abide by its own bylaws, and adhere to the provisions in the OCP and Harbour Plan with respect to The George. The Gibsons OCP does not permit a development of this scale on this site.   

GABC is committed to helping Gibsons be the best it can be. Gibsons deserves good quality development that stimulates our economy while recognizing and valuing what makes us unique. Gibsons deserves responsible and responsive government that lives plays by the rules and thoroughly examines all aspects of development proposals, including citizen concerns.

Gibsons doesn’t deserve The George: Gibsons Deserves Better.