Anyone following the saga of "The George" over the last three years will know that attempts to access information from the Town of Gibsons about anything related to the hotel, condo and marina proposal have been met with resistance.
In response to inquiries, Mayor Wayne Rowe’s rote reply has been that he "could not recall" secret meetings he attended, critical information discussed in meetings, nor which of the George project property real-estate transactions he handled for his client Klaus Fuerniss.
The Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Emanuel Machado has also become evasive about answering questions on issues of contaminated site clean-up, geotechnical reports and Ombudsperson complaints, to name a few. When asked, if the Town had received legal advice about the mayor's perceived conflict of interest with the George developer, Machado flatly refused to answer the question.
As a result, GABC has been forced to file Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to get answers to these serious questions and concerns.
A highlight from FOI released documents in 2014 was the infamous May 1st letter in which the Director of Planning detailed exactly how the George does not comply with the OCP. The letter was written eight months prior to the planner’s report professing that the George magically does “fit” the OCP. FOI documents revealed that decisions were made behind closed doors, to change the Official Community Plan and deliver “three key ingredients” for Klaus Fuerniss’ project, specifically, the A dock portion of Gibsons Marina, Winn Road, and spot-zoning for high-rises.
A recent FOI release has exposed many a strange deal done out of site of the residents of Gibsons. For example: The Gibsons Marina lease renewal negotiations went to arbitration costing the Town of Gibsons $200,000 in 2013 after the CAO attempted to claw back parts of Gibsons Marina for the George Hotel. Who knew? Find out here.
In 2014-2015, the Town of Gibsons charged GABC $6,600+ for FOI released material.
While the FOI process has been extremely expensive and frustrating, the information we have distilled from the documents has been critical to uncovering the truth behind the spot zoning for high-rises in Gibsons harbour and will be integral to supporting the legal case to overturn the George bylaws.