OCP Review Process: A Behind-the-Scenes View - Changing the OCP to Fit the George?

It all started with the George Hotel and Condo’s development application… On May 1st, 2013, the Director of Planning sent a letter to Klaus Fuerniss Enterprises Inc. (the developer),  rejecting the George Hotel and Condo’s development application. The planner thereby created a formal record of the many reasons “The George” does not comply with the Town of Gibsons Official Community Plan (OCP).

(Oops! A legal record, how inconvenient. How to fix it?)

On May 7th, 2013, the Mayor, Chief Administrative Officer, developer Klaus Fuerniss, and his assistant Art Phillips met with the Planner to discuss the George, specifying what the project needed to go ahead. 

Three weeks after the May 7th meeting, on May 29th, 2013, the Director of Planning submitted the terms of reference for the Official Community Plan “Update” to Committee of the Whole. 

On June 4th, 2013, Council approved the terms of reference and the process to change the OCP began. 

The Mayor and Chief Administrative Officer met once again with the developer and his consultant on June 21st, 2013. Yet  council and the public were never told of these meetings. 

A staff report on the George did not come to Council until July 23rd, 2013. Wording in the report (based on the May 1 letter) had been watered down and deleted.  

Is it a coincidence?

  • That the OCP was opened up for review mere weeks after the director of planning created a legal record of the George hotel’s development application’s non-compliance with the Official Community Plan?
  • That the elected people and the public were never told about the May 1 letter and its OCP implications or about the meeting(s) between mayor and developer? 
  • That at the presentation to the Committee of the Whole on November 12th, (in front of a packed gallery), the developer’s consultant Art Phillips told the Town that the George hotel development application was literally “based on the Notwithstanding Clause in the OCP”? 
  • That at the first OCP public meeting on November 25th, the public was outraged by the idea that the notwithstanding clause could be used to allow for something the Harbour Plan clearly does not allow and demanded the notwithstanding clause be removed from the OCP—to protect the form and character of the Landing. 
  • That very specific changes made to the OCP, specifically (among others) the removal of the key protective clauses before and after the offending notwithstanding clause in the DPA 5 guidelines, undermine the town’s ability to implement the Harbour Area Plan height and massing restrictions and protect the scale and character of the village? 
  • That members of the OCP Steering Committee and the public have expressed deep suspicion throughout the process that the OCP is being manipulated to allow the George? 
  • That it took citizens many months and hundred of dollars to piece this story together through information released via Freedom of Information requests; and that when queried, the mayor first denied attending and then conveniently “forgot” what they had discussed in the May 7th, 2013 and June 21st, 2013 meetings? Or that the mayor has absolutely NO RECORD of these meetings? 

Coincidence? What do you think?