Gibsons council will be asked to more than double the town’s maximum allowed building height for the George Hotel, the project’s lead architect said Tuesday night.
About 100 people, at least 20 of them standing, packed the extended council chamber for a pre-application overview of the waterfront hotel and convention centre proposed for the foot of Winn Road.
Randy Knill of DA Architects said current height limits on the harbour-front property are set at 7.5 metres (24 feet) and 10 metres (33 feet), while the building is expected to rise “66 feet, within a couple of feet” — or about 20 metres.
“We are going to ask for variances to that height for this building, which is a large building, and also there will be some minor variances regarding setbacks,” Knill said.
Knill said the Gibsons official community plan allows council to vary the height of buildings on an individual basis after considering issues of scale, permeability, view protection and enhancement, sun shadow impact, and village context and character.
“We think that on those criteria the project measures up quite well. However, obviously, the height and the aquifer … are two of the real issues we have to address right off,” he said.
On height, Knill said the building was designed to resemble a “jumble of buildings sitting on a hillside” rather than one monolithic structure, so that it will blend in with the houses sloped around it.
“Instead of having some big square corporate footprint box, we’ve played around with the floor plan and managed to soften the edges and soften the roof plan … so the building really steps back,” he said.
During his presentation, Knill showed images of the superimposed hotel as seen from a variety of locations in Lower Gibsons.
“Yes, this is a big building,” he said. “But you only really see it as big from quite a ways away. When you’re up next to it, it really has the character of a small building because of all the architectural devices we’ve thrown into it.”
A shade and shadow analysis, he added, concluded the building would not have an adverse impact on adjacent properties during any part of the day.
On the potential impact on the town’s aquifer, lead consultant Art Phillips said early indications have been promising.
“We know the most sensitive issue to the Town of Gibsons is the aquifer, and while the report is not complete, I asked the engineer if he could provide me with some preliminary information, and he said we will be able to design this building and foundation so it will not have an impact on the aquifer,” Phillips said.
Engineering and other studies will be submitted with the formal application, likely by the end of the month, he said.
“Then it’s just a matter of staff processing the application and bringing it forward.”
In addition to variances, the property will have to be rezoned to a newly created land-use designation. If council, after the public hearing process, decides to approve the project, it will take about 18 months to construct, Phillips said.
The project would also see the developer acquire the end of Winn Road. When asked by Coun. Dan Bouman what access of “equal or better quality” would be provided in exchange, Phillips said the access would occur alongside Winegarden Park and the dedicated land would be on the waterfront.
Knill said the hotel’s lobby concourse would be “in essence an extension of old Winn Road” and “as part of the pedestrian route would be a perfect way to experience Gibsons.”
The development would also look at reorienting Winegarden Park so the amphitheatre faced the opposite direction, Knill said.
Before that could happen, Coun. Gerry Tretick said, “I would think there would have to be more discussion with the people who use the park.”
Phillips said a public meeting would be held to discuss changes to the park, adding that a letter of support from the Rotary Club, which has a bandshell on the site, will be included with the application.
The hotel project originally came before council in 2010, but was put on hold pending the completion of the harbour plan, Phillips said.
Proponent Klaus Fuerniss attended Tuesday’s presentation, sitting in the front row of the gallery, but did not speak, nor did members of the public address council on the issue during the regular council meeting that followed.