A staff report expected later this month will clarify the roles of the Ministry of Environment and the Town of Gibsons in the site assessment process for the proposed George Hotel and Residences.
The issue surfaced in May when environmental consultant Andre Sobolewski filed a formal complaint to the Ministry, asking it to intervene because contamination at the Hyak Marine property posed “an unknown and potentially significant risk to the environment.”
When Sobolewski presented his concerns to council last month, Mayor Wayne Rowe said the Ministry, not the Town, would be responsible for setting the standards and level of remediation required for the site.
The issue was raised again at Tuesday’s committee of the whole meeting, when Coun. Dan Bouman said the mayor’s assurances appeared to be contradicted by a May 22 letter from a Ministry official, senior contaminated sites officer Vincent Hanemayer.
In the letter, sent May 22 to both the Town and proponent Klaus Fuerniss Enterprises, Hanemayer said the proposal had “been recently brought to our attention” and noted the Town had opted out of the site profile process.
“As such, we do not receive site profiles for sites undergoing redevelopment in the Town,” the letter said. “The Ministry has advised the Town of the need to develop a process to replace the site profile process should the Town be concerned about issuing permits on potentially contaminated land.”
The letter also identifies a separate process that involves submitting a notice of independent remediation or off-site migration and goes on to “strongly recommend” that the proponent “review the requirements” for giving notice.
“It seems — and I emphasize that word ‘seems’ — it seems to be a different interpretation of things from what council is hearing from the mayor and the chief administrative officer,” Bouman said.
CAO Mani Machado, however, said there was nothing in the letter that contradicted his or the mayor’s past statements.
“I said in the past that we have been in contact with the Ministry, so has the proponent, and we stand by that,” Machado said.
On the site profile process, he said the Town had opted out many years ago, and a staff report on the pros and cons of that process, requested by Coun. Lee Ann Johnson last month, would be presented before the end of September.
The environmental assessment process for the Hyak site, he said, was “a complex subject” and would be spelled out in an upcoming staff report.
Contacted Wednesday, Machado said a separate geotechnical report on the George has taken longer than expected, mostly because two independent consulting teams were working on the project.
“Because we have two parties reviewing each other’s work, it’s taken longer,” he said, adding the Town was “demonstrating an abundance of caution” on the file.
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