In a small victory for George critics, Gibsons council voted 4-1 Tuesday to defer an application to convert a house on the site of the proposed waterfront hotel and condo development into an information centre.
The three-year temporary use permit for 397 Gower Point Road would also have enabled the George developer to use the house as a sales centre if council ultimately approves the rezoning and development permit applications for the project.
Speaking in favour of the request at the July 15 council meeting, Coun. Gerry Tretick said he had been “bombarded” on social media by opponents of the project.
“And it’s their right — I don’t dispute that,” Tretick said. “But I think it’s also important that the public get good, solid information so that when they do decide at a public hearing, they have both sides of the story.”
Coun. Dan Bouman pointed out the project still did not have approval from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for dredging; that contamination issues on the site were not resolved; that council had not yet received reports on the project’s impact on the aquifer and economic benefits; and that water lease and road acquisition issues were also outstanding.
“Considering how far we are away from any approval or go-ahead, I don’t see the need,” Bouman said.
He added that information presented by the developer thus far reflected “an extreme best-case scenario,” and said a pro-George letter campaign that attacked “naysayers” was part of a strategy “to overwhelm and intimidate.”
“I don’t want to create a venue for what I consider to be likely misinformation that’s going to assist in this campaign of polarization,” he said.
Coun. Lee Ann Johnson said a George information centre “has no reason to exist” because nothing has been approved.
“This is not an information centre in an objective sense,” she said. “It is an information centre to act on behalf of a proponent.”
Approving the temporary use application, she said, would invite lobbying efforts in advance of council deliberations.
“There needs to be a level playing field. An information centre makes the field sloped. It’s inappropriate at this time.”
Coun. Charlene SanJenko, who last month with Tretick and Mayor Wayne Rowe voted in favour of starting the process by notifying neighbours of the permit request, said she thought then that council would have received some of the staff reports on the project by this time.
“In principle I’m in favour of an information centre,” SanJenko said. “But at the point we’re at tonight, without these reports in front of us, I agree with Coun. Johnson that our timing is a little off and I suggest we bring it back at some time in the future.”
Rowe, who noted he had expressed some uneasiness about the timing of the request last month, agreed that he would feel more comfortable if council dealt with it after some of the staff reports had been presented.
Rowe said there was “really nothing to stop the proponent from going into a commercial space” and setting up an information centre there.
The motion to defer the application carried with Tretick opposed.
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