A couple of hundred people rallied at the Gibsons waterfront on Saturday to show their support for those asking questions about the proposed George hotel development and to demand their democratic right to be heard on this potentially massive project that threatens what they love about their town.
Supporters and onlookers braved the cold weather to seek information, get answers to questions town hall isn’t providing and send a message that many people are concerned about the huge scale of the proposed development on the Gibsons waterfront.
One woman who stopped by said she just wanted to know how tall the proposed hotel and condo complex would be and was shocked to hear that at 125 feet — or even 85 feet, if the latest unofficial reports are to be believed — it would tower over the tallest trees nearby. That’s three times the height currently allowed on the site. The development would be the largest building on the Sunshine Coast.
Many of those who stopped by on Saturday signed a petition against the project as it’s currently proposed.
Those who spoke — including ordinary citizens of Gibsons — talked about the charm and small-town character that has made our town the destination it is today and their fears that the George project will dwarf and overwhelm the natural beauty of the harbour, turning us into Anyplace, Noplace, B.C.
Speakers also voiced their concern at the acrimony the debate has created among neighbours in the community. Longtime resident Jane Degnan spoke at the rally about being attacked in the local paper for personally delivering a letter to businesses in Gibsons expressing her discomfort over the pro-George signs displayed in their windows and her decision not to shop at those who have chosen to add to divisions in the community this way.
Those who came out Saturday did so in part because they wanted to show that not everyone unquestioningly supports the project. Many people in Gibsons have valid concerns about how a project of this magnitude could set a precedent for development along the waterfront and harm the future of our town.
Inside the nearby Christ the King church, over 100 people stayed to take part in a genuine town hall meeting on the project, where thoughtful questions were asked, information was shared and everyone was encouraged to get involved keeping our local council answerable to the citizens.
Several people voiced frustration at the inability of average folk to address council about their concerns on the project — because staff and Gibsons Town Council refuse to add them to the list of delegations. Many people voiced frustration that the only information getting out to the public so far seems to be coming from the developer and that the town refuses to recognize valuable input from other sources.
Ironically, most people who came out Saturday said they’d support a hotel on the site — as long as it complied with the existing Official Community Plan and doesn’t ask for massive changes to the rules.
A number of people spoke about their concerns over protection of the aquifer and about possible environment hazards in developing on a contaminated site that has housed fuel tanks and a boat repair facility.
Others voiced doubts that the project will lead to anywhere near the kinds of jobs being promised by the developer, saying they fear a number of those will go to people outside the community or to temporary workers.
Despite those concerns, everyone who came out to the community meeting agreed the debate over the George needs to remain respectful of everyone in the community — something that is not always happening now.
One message from Saturday’s rally is that many other citizens share your concerns. Now we need council to hear that message too. We urge everyone concerned about the George to show up on Tuesday evenings and let your council members know you have questions that haven’t been adequately addressed.