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Citizens still not satisfied with project

The majority of citizens at a recent public information meeting for Pacific Spirit Properties were opposed to the height, size and placement of the six-storey building that would sit upon the last substantial piece of waterfront property in Sechelt.

The majority of citizens at a recent public information meeting for Pacific Spirit Properties were opposed to the height, size and placement of the six-storey building that would sit upon the last substantial piece of waterfront property in Sechelt.

About 80 people showed up to hear more and offer their input on the development at a public information meeting Wednesday night held in the Seaside Centre in Sechelt. A sometimes visibly upset audience made it clear they didn't feel the development should go ahead in its present form on the waterfront property at the corner of Teredo Street and Inlet Avenue.

The development would have 95 units dispersed through two separate buildings, both with commercial space on the bottom floor. It would be six storeys high, although it would appear to be five storeys from the waterfront as the lower level would be hidden beneath the ground from that angle, similar to the Beach House development next door.

The development boasts 64 per cent of site coverage as publicly accessible space complete with walking and wheelchair accessible trails, a tree preserve and an amphitheatre. And the buildings are set back considerably farther from the oceanfront than the nearby Beach House and Driftwood Inn.

But the setback isn't good enough, said a few people in attendance.

Under the official community plan (OCP) it is stated that new buildings situated on the waterfront must be at least 300 feet from the ocean shoreline. Pacific Spirit Properties is about 90 feet from the shoreline.

"That is one area where this development falls short and does not meet the OCP," said development planner Angela Letman.The OCP also states that buildings on the waterfront should not be over three storeys high. However, there is a section that says height can be increased to a maximum of eight floors if 10 per cent of the lot area is dedicated as public open space for each additional floor.

Many in attendance were upset with this point, saying the OCP was never meant to allow buildings on the waterfront over three storeys high because it would significantly block views and close off the waterfront to the public.

"There is no requirement for public space on any proposal. What we're looking at today is kind of a trade off. We have had significant input from many in the community who want to see this piece of property as a park and this is as close to that park as feel as we can get," Letman said.

One woman in attendance asked why the property could not be purchased by the town as a park and saved for recreational uses in Sechelt.

"Council has looked at purchasing this area as a park several times, and each time it's been found to be too expensive. Right now it would cost somewhere between $5 and $6 million. The District's annual operating budget for all our parks is $7 million, so council would have to borrow a large amount of money to purchase this property. That would mean a significant hit to the taxpayer," Letman noted.

Some called for a referendum to decide if that is the best course of action, but Letman reminded all in attendance that Wednesday night's meeting was not meant to discuss other uses of the property, rather to hear more about the development already proposed and have specific questions answered.

Some were visibly upset with this remark, with one man asking, "When do we get to have our say on what we want there?"More questions were asked around parking (which met requirements), noise control for the commercial businesses on the ground floor and traffic control.

Director of the architecture firm responsible for drawing up the plans for the development, Brian Shigetomi, noted a traffic impact study would show the best traffic control measures to be used and that sound abatement measures could be integrated into the plan.

The other question on many people's minds was whether fire protection for the six-storey building was possible as our local fire department does not currently have the ladder trucks necessary to fight fires in buildings over three storeys high.

Shigetomi noted the fire department has endorsed the plan, providing increased fire protection measures are in place. Measures such as sprinklers, cameras to see which areas are affected by fire and internal fire hoses would be added to the development to meet the needs of the Sechelt Fire Department.

In the end, the audience still didn't seem satisfied with the development proposal, saying they wanted to see something scaled down at the site that fit more closely with the feel of the community.

Some asked for comment from local government officials in attendance, asking if they were for or against the development."The reason we're here is not to campaign against or for this. It is an opportunity to ask any questions the public may have and get a clear idea of what is being proposed," said Mayor Cam Reid. "If you're asking for our political position, we're concerned and we are listening. This is a legal process. Every developer has the right to go through this process and we are here to listen. We're all here to make sure we do things as correctly as we can, not just for today but for the long term."

Proponents of the plan collected feedback forms from those in attendance and said they would take all concerns into consideration while continuing through the proposal process.

Pacific Spirit Properties is expected to be before council again at their next council meeting Feb. 7 where first reading and referral to a public hearing may take place.