A Gibsons environmental consultant has urged the province to intervene in the site assessment process for the proposed George Hotel and Residences — but Mayor Wayne Rowe said Tuesday that the province is already in charge of the file.
In a May 9 letter to the Ministry of Environment, Andre Sobolewski, president of Clear Coast Consulting Inc., lodged a formal complaint “that contamination at the Hyak Marine property has not been properly assessed and that the proposed George Hotel development presents an unknown, and potentially significant, risk to the environment.”
The letter asked the Ministry to intervene “to ensure that a proper assessment and remediation of this property be undertaken.”
Sobolewski said the assessment conducted for the developer by the consulting firm Balanced Environmental omitted the now-banned anti-fouling agent tributyltin (TBT) from its analysis of foreshore sediments, even though it is the most potent toxicant at the site and was detected in an earlier report.
He said his own tests found high levels of TBT in two out of five samples.
“Given the high toxicity of TBT, this omission by Balanced begs disbelief,” the letter said.
He also described Balanced Environmental’s plans for mitigating the potential impact from dredging as “vague,” adding that he was “not confident that the proposed measures will mitigate the possible release of a toxic plume of hydrogen sulphide or will prevent contamination of the eelgrass beds outside the harbour breakwaters.”
Since the contaminated sediments are in Squamish territory, he said, “the Squamish Nation will also likely be very concerned that these planned activities could impact the herring, salmon and other marine life present in these waters.”
Sobolewski said the Town appears to be trying to fast-track the project.
“For people like me, who are concerned about the potential contamination of the aquifer, such an expedited process gives no confidence that due process will be followed and risks will be avoided,” he wrote.
Receiving Sobolewski as a delegation at the June 17 council meeting, Rowe thanked him for providing the information, but pointed out the Town was not appraising the project’s environmental impact.
“The information you provided is very helpful … but I want to be absolutely clear,” Rowe said. “It is the Ministry of Environment that will set the standards and the remediation required. It’s not the Town.”
Chief administrative officer Mani Machado said a staff report was being prepared “that will bring a lot of clarity” to the issue.
Also on the George file, council agreed to start the notification process for a three-year temporary use permit request to allow the first floor of a house at 397 Gower Point Road to be used as an information centre for the proposed hotel and condos.
Councillors Dan Bouman and Lee Ann Johnson deemed the application by Hyak Marine Services premature when it came before council’s committee of the whole on June 10, and Rowe admitted he felt “uneasy about seeing this at this particular time.”
Rowe, however, said he could support the staff recommendation because the permit application would come back to council on July 15.
“I personally don’t have a problem with notifying neighbours, and I’ll leave it at that,” Coun. Charlene SanJenko said.
Coun. Gerry Tretick said he saw nothing wrong with the applicant providing a place for people to get information on the project.
“The more information that’s available to the public, the better,” he said.
The motion passed 3-2 at both committee and Tuesday’s council meeting.
The centre would be open five days a week between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. and would have a free-standing sign “comparable to what would be allowed in commercial zones,” planning staff said in a report.
“If the rezoning and development permits from the George Hotel and Residences are successful, the information centre would be turned into a sales centre, using the same internal building layout as the information centre,” the report said. “Alternately, the use of the property would revert back to single-family residential use.”
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