ECONOMIC REASONS THE APPLICATION SHOULD BE REJECTED
This application fails to ensure public lands are managed to benefit the public and ensure sound economic development. The ‘economic benefit’ claims the applicant is making are inaccurate, exaggerated, or outdated and don’t account for millions in taxpayer subsidies required to build this project and long-term negative impacts on the tax base. The Province needs to make sure it is not complicit in enabling violations of BC law to provide financial benefit to a private business and misuse of public funds, by approving this application.
Direct Impacts of the Disposition of the Lease to a Private Developer
- No public discussion has ever been held about whether this public park/recreation lease should be disposed of or developed into a commercial operation, or what the economic pros and cons of this may be for the Town. Yet, in a letter sent to FLNRORD on May 10, 2018, the Town of Gibsons secretly abandoned its interest in DL 5327 to The George without public consultation or a legal agreement for any compensation to the Town in place; no service delivery or revenue sharing agreement(s) agreement for were in place – that we know of.
- If, once consulted, the Public agreed to turn this park land water lot into a commercial marina, it would still be economically unwise for the Province to give this public asset away to a private business owner. Instead, with permission from FLNRORD, a sublease agreement could be made between the Town and The George akin to the Gibsons Marina lease, and/or these Crown lands could all be incorporated into the Gibsons Marina lease held by the Town. That way, revenues generated would flow to The Town and its taxpayers, with protections to ensure development for public (not private) use, including tourism, recreation, and other commercial uses which benefit the public and existing local businesses. The only way to ensure these Crown lands are managed to provide long term benefit to the public is for these lease areas to remain public assets for use by the public.
- The BC Government policy for commercial Crown leases explains that Crown land sales may occur through an application process if the proposed site meets specific criteria and the use is considered suitable by government agencies and other affected interests. And, “Fee simple disposition is preferred for long-term general commercial use, golf course developments and filled areas for marinas and yacht clubs.” Given this policy and all we know of the applicant, it seems likely that if this lease is granted to The George now, the land will eventually be sold to him and public use would end. Privatization of these public assets would NOT benefit the public.
Negative Impacts to The Public and Existing Local Business
- Professional economic impact analysis has already demonstrated the proposed economic benefits of The George project to be primarily negative and to centre primarily on a pie in the sky convention centre proposal. The convention industry is virtually dead due to technology (i.e.the accessibility of teleconferencing and the popularity of webinars and apps as well as growing global awareness about the impacts of GHG emissions from travel in a climate era). Even before the convention industry died, Gibsons was never big enough or accessible enough to be a viable location for a conference centre. Locally, many citizens believe this proposal is a scam – a clever story to win local support to amass and privatize public lands.
- The applicant lists as an economic advantage that the George Marina space “would certainly be key factors in increasing the number of travelers to support the tourism-oriented retail and restaurant economy of Gibsons Landing.” This is simply not accurate. Economic impact analyses of the project have demonstrated that The George Marine Hotel Complex is likely to be self-contained in terms of provision of restaurant and other services that tourists might make use of and that, with off-site attractions available all along the Coast, with neglible spill-over to existing Gibsons Landing businesses.
- In September 2014, a critique of the Town-commissioned economic analysis was submitted by an accredited economic development analyst. The report showed projected direct economic costs to the Town include reduced DCCs, servicing costs to be absorbed by the Town, reduced amenity and affordable housing contributions, loss of a public road, and loss of Gibsons Marina A-Dock. The total estimated amount of these direct economic costs (including value of lease and potential revenue from Crown leases) could be anywhere between $5-10 million.