Mayor Wayne Rowe promised Gibsons citizens that we would get a Public Information Meeting in which our questions would be answered and our concerns would be addressed, prior to the Public Hearing on the contentious George hotel, condos and marina development project.
We kept the pressure up and held out hope for an open public meeting, where citizens could ask questions and discuss issues with unbiased experts, consultants, town of Gibsons staff and elected people.
Imagine our surprise (ahem) when we found out that — instead of providing access to balanced information — the Town of Gibsons has chosen to co-host a promotional event for the developer in the guise of a “Public Information Meeting.”
Instead of a transparent non-partisan public meeting, the Town will sponsor a drop-in style “open house” where citizens will be met by the developer’s consultants and the developer’s promotional material. Town of Gibsons staff will be on hand to deliver the developer’s message to our community.
Rather than being given the opportunity to pose questions in a town hall format, discuss issues and hear other people's concerns and ideas about the most contentious and divisive proposal ever to hit our community, we will be shuffled along to look at pretty display boards, ask questions, and have one-on-one chats with the George developer’s consulting team, and the same Town staff that told us that a 125 ft tall building on the waterfront "complies with our Official Community Plan" — the same Town staff that says the Town can deal with the risks to the aquifer and toxic contamination later… after we gut our amazing Harbour Area Plan, approve a precedent-setting rezoning, and open the floodgates for high-rise condos along the waterfront and throughout the harbour area.
The developer’s project architects, engineers, and traffic consultant will be there, along with Town staff. The Town’s unbiased engineers and hydrogeologists (Levelton Engineering and Waterline Resources) who reviewed the proponent's reports and raised serious concerns about the potential risks this development proposes to our aquifer? Nowhere in sight.
Further, this “info meeting” just happens to have been scheduled to occur while the elected people are away at the annual Union of BC Municipalities Convention in Vancouver. So Council will not even be present to hear our concerns, field our questions, or hear the answers we could have got from the unbiased experts. When asked at the council meeting on September 15th, why council members have chosen to schedule this meeting when they cannot possibly attend, Councilor Jeremy Valeriote said he never had any intention of attending this meeting because "It would be awkward to answer questions on behalf of the developer". Why would he, or any of Council, think they'd be speaking on behalf of the developer? Aren't they supposed to be neutral? Aren't they interested in hearing their constituents' questions and the answers to those questions?
As a registered non-profit (BC) Society that aims to provide balanced and accurate information to residents and elected officials in Gibsons to facilitate discussion and good government on behalf of all Gibsons’ citizens and businesses, GABC submitted a request to the Town of Gibsons to formally participate in the George-related Public Information Session on September 24th as advocates for sound and responsible development in all of Gibsons, particularly in our jewel of a Harbour. The response from the Planner? "In order to keep the meeting neutral and informative there is no room for political organisations such as GABC to set up shop in the room."
The next time you see Council will be at the FINAL PUBLIC HEARING for this project, on October 1st. Although mayor Rowe promised our town for two years that we would have all our questions answered, this will not happen before the Public Hearing. And the Public Hearing is not an opportunity for discourse or dialogue, or to have any questions answered. Council will be present, and they must listen to us; but they will not answer our questions at the Public Hearing.
The September 24th open house is a public relations exercise, so the Town can say it "informed" the public.
If you still want more information/clarification about the George proposal, the process of rezoning and the unresolved risks this project poses to our town, please contact us.
All the best
Gibsons Alliance of Business and Community
Gibsons Alliance of Business and Community Society is an incorporated non-profit society in the province of British Columbia. We are an inclusive coalition working together to educate, inform, and support local leaders and groups in making the best decisions possible on issues of public interest.