Gibsons Landing merchants who are publicly supporting the George Hotel and condo project are defying a resident's threat to boycott their businesses.
"I don't do things because bullies decide to do stuff like that," Jennifer Allen, owner of Dorado Beauty Bar at 316 Gower Point Road, said Wednesday. "I won't be bullied, is what I'm trying to say."
Area resident Jane Degnan said she hand-delivered seven copies of a letter earlier this month to Landing businesses that were displaying pro-George posters in their windows. Two of them, she said, later removed the posters.
"Due to the 'We Support the George' poster displayed in this store window I will no longer patronize your business," Degnan wrote in the letter. "I support our official community plan, which does not allow a development of this size on the waterfront. You, of course, are entitled to your opinion, but using your place of business to promote an agenda alienates many customers and adds to the divisiveness our community is experiencing over this project."
The letter went on to say that Degnan's patronage represents a large circle of family and friends. "We are of the same mind. We will not support any business that politicizes the shopping experience."
It concluded, "You have made a business decision to endorse The George publicly. Now you can wait for The George to support your business."
In an interview, Degnan said she took action because a similar "politicization" of some Landing businesses took place during the last civic election and she regarded the tactic as upsetting and divisive.
"This is not about the George," she said. "When I go shopping, I just want to shop."
She added that when one of the pro-George businesses removed the poster after receiving her letter, "it was heart-warming."
On Tuesday, Coast Reporter counted 10 businesses in the Landing that were continuing to display the George poster.
One merchant, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said she decided to put up the poster - and keep it up - to counter misinformation that's being spread in the community by the organized anti-George forces.
"I maybe wouldn't have put the sign in the window if it wasn't for the Gibsons Alliance of Business and Community (GABC). That website and Facebook page is so false," the merchant said. "If accurate information was going out there and we weren't being misrepresented, I probably wouldn't have done it. That's why I do it."
The merchant said the information put out by GABC has presented a distorted version of council meetings and misrepresented the process, ignoring the fact that council has ordered in-depth aquifer studies and visualizations of view impacts.
"I see people I know that are starting to believe all that," she said. "They don't check. They believe that the Town isn't doing this and the Town isn't doing that."
At Dorado Beauty Bar, Allen said she displayed the poster "just to support growth on the Coast," and viewed Degnan's letter as "empty threats," since Degnan "does not patronize my business anyway."
Since her letter surfaced, Degnan said, some people have suggested that it's part of a broader campaign by George opponents, but that is not the case, she said.
"I speak for myself. Please give me credit. We've been shopping in the town since 1975 when we brought our children here."
On Wednesday, meanwhile, GABC forwarded a letter to its email list by Degnan and her partner, Fernando Ferreira, with "A call to action" as the subject line.
The letter is an invitation to community members to attend a forum at the couple's Seaview Road residence this Friday, Jan. 31, to discuss "how best to focus our energy in order to stop" the George project.
"The citizens of Gibsons are up againstan aggressive, determined and well-funded publicity campaign in support of this development," the letter said. "Let's put together a thoughtful, respectful and equally determined citizen-based campaign to oppose it."
The George proposal is in the early application stage.
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