Wednesday April 23, 2014

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Setting the stage for our future

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Our politicians are entrusted to make decisions on our behalf ó many times tough decisions that will be unpopular to some, but are in the interests of the greater good for us all.

In the 10 years that I have lived and worked on the Sunshine Coast I have attended many different meetings where politicians have had to make decisions. Iíve witnessed the grandstanding by some, the thoughtful comments by others, and the passion by residents. It can, at times, be great theatre. But itís also sometimes very frustrating.

I have seen a lot of good things, but Iíve also seen a lot of lost opportunities because the politicians of the day didnít have the conviction to realize that you canít always appease everyone. You have to sometimes take a chance, take a risk.

On Tuesday night I sat in the gallery as council received a detailed report from Gibsons director of planning Andre Boel on the next steps involved in the often-contentious George Hotel proposal.

Boel outlined in great detail how the project has gotten to this point and what the next steps in this process will be.

I have been at many of the public open houses and discussions regarding this project. Iíve seen the drawings and Iíve listened to the presentations. Iíve read every letter and email that we have received on the subject ó and if you are an avid reader of this newspaper, you will know that our letters to the editor section has been packed with letters from each side. And I dare say, will continue to be packed in the months to come.

There has been a lot of talk about whether the project ó a hotel and a residential complex ó meets the objectives of the official community plan and the Harbour Area Plan. Well, that can be put to rest, because Boel confirmed that Tuesday. And that fact was echoed by several members of council.

Recommendations passed by a 3-2 vote also call for a geotechnical study of the site and a study of potential impact on the aquifer ó all things I agree with and see as essential to the projectís success of gaining approval.

One that has not been included, but was asked for by several in the audience, was an independent study of the economic†benefits claimed by the developers. There is documentation available on this subject, and Mayor Wayne Rowe said as this process moves along, it might still be part of the discussion.

For those seeking that economic validation I pose this question: would you expect another business, say a restaurant, that moved into the community to complete a study to see if there was enough economic support to ensure that they could be viable in this community? No. Itís up to that restaurant to market itself on its good food, service and price point to earn your respect and your dollars.

Itís the same with this project. It was confirmed Tuesday that in order to be an economically viable project, at least a 100-room hotel would have to be built, hence the size, another controversial point that has been hotly debated and will still be debated before this is through.

And another aspect that I want council and others to think about is the added influx of tourism dollars that this project will bring.

Many might not know that last weekend we had 15 youth sports teams from off-Coast competing in a boysí basketball tournament and a pair of hockey tournaments. They utilized our two arenas and one of our school gyms. This represented hundreds of players, parents and friends who spent money in our community.

On Sunday I ran into a group from Langley who wanted to grab a bite before hitting the ferry line-up. They came into Grammaís Pub in Lower Gibsons, but because some were not 19, they could not stay. They were a tad taken aback by the fact that several eateries in the area were closed. They did not want fast food.

So imagine if we had a destination hotel like The George where all the teams could have stayed ó together instead of spread out through Sechelt and Gibsons ó†and could have had team dinners and receptions and enjoyed even greater Coast hospitality. Now imagine all those people returning home and talking about how amazingly they were hosted, and next year even more teams want to come here. Imagine the economic spinoffs ó imagine the possibilities. I really want this community to think about our future and where we want to see this community go. Do we want to have a prosperous future or stay lagging behind in the past?

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