Twelve seniors who reside at the Gibsons Garden Inn will be able to stay on at the same rates if the building reverts to its original use as a hotel, council’s committee-of-the-whole heard Sept. 11.
The owners have applied to amend the Town’s official community plan and zoning bylaw to re-establish the Gibsons Garden Inn as a full-function hotel with restaurant, meeting room, gift shop, indoor pool, spa, gym, and new exterior signage.
Constructed in 1991, the building was converted to a 52-unit congregate seniors housing facility four years later, but currently houses only 12 seniors, municipal planner Michael Epp told the committee.
“It is built primarily as a hotel and converting it to a full seniors’ facility was too costly for the owners,” Epp said. “The proponent says with any conversion to hotel use the current occupants could stay on at the same rates they’re now paying.”
Also planned are sidewalk and landscaping improvements to expand the boulevard along Gibsons Way, with a new single driveway to serve both the hotel and the Gibsons Curling Club and aquatic centre properties.
Coun. Gerry Tretick said the proposal made “total sense” to him.
“I also know that some people don’t want to see it converted back to the hotel (but) I don’t see that as a strong argument, especially when we are looking at efforts to increase tourism,” Tretick added.
At its previous meeting, the committee had received a petition opposing the application, signed by the owners/operators of the Sunnycrest Motel, the Cedars Inn Hotel, the Sunshine Inn Lodge, and the Ritz Hotel.
The petition objects to the conversion on the grounds that there is no tourism infrastructure in place to increase the number of visitors to the Coast and that the existing room inventory satisfies demand during peak season.
With combined room occupancy barely averaging 50 per cent annually, adding another hotel “will seriously jeopardize the already fragile economy of our businesses,” the petition says.
Councillors said the commitment to “grandfather” the resident seniors was an admirable gesture, but Coun. LeeAnn Johnson suggested the Town also obtain a written agreement to that effect, and a recommendation to council was adopted.
As part of the application, staff is also proposing a merger of the C2 tourist commercial zone with the C1 general commercial zone to allow for a broader range of commercial activities in Upper Gibsons.
“It puts the Town outside of dictating use and will prevent the Town from having similar rezonings in the future when hotels outlive their natural lifespans,” Epp said.
Though some details regarding signage and amenity contributions are still required, “overall the OCP amendment and rezoning are supported by staff,” Epp concluded in his report to council.
Staff was directed at the Sept. 18 council meeting to prepare a bylaw for consideration.