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Council defers Habitat land decision

Habitat for Humanity Sunshine Coast will have to wait a little longer before starting to build its first house.

Habitat for Humanity Sunshine Coast will have to wait a little longer before starting to build its first house.

With a packed gallery on hand Tuesday night, Gibsons council voted to defer a decision on the Habitat for Humanity land donation to its planning committee meeting March 8.

Tuesday's meeting began with two delegations, neither of which was in favour of council disposing of the Headlands Road property.

Skyline resident Ron Pepper and Camelia Way resident Bev Burgoyne made separate presentations raising concerns over the size of the lot, drainage and flooding issues, road and safety concerns and the loss of a valuable piece of park area, which they contend is vital to the neighbourhood.

"I want to be clear that our opposition should not be mistaken as being opposed to Habitat," Pepper said. "We know the need for affordable housing is great, but we are opposed to this narrow strip of land being used for this project. There are many issues that have not been resolved."

Pepper said the piece of property in question has been a neighbourhood park for 40 years and it looks like the "town is giving away a park used by many families and kids to just one family."

"Each resident who has moved into this area has been told that this is a park and an undevelopable piece of land," he said. "It's a great park, but a lousy building lot.

"Due process by the town was not done here. Our home was missed when notice was given of this open house meeting in November. Coincidence - I think not."

Towards the end of his presentation, Pepper then shifted the focus to Coun. Kenan MacKenzie.

"In the Feb. 4 edition of Coast Reporter, there were two advertisements for Kenan MacKenzie saying he was a gold supporter for Habitat for Humanity," Pepper said. "It's our feeling that through this support, Coun. MacKenzie must declare a conflict of interest; he must leave this meeting and not influence the voting. I'm calling upon you as a taxpayer in Gibsons to do the right thing.

"We ask that council begin this process again and do it properly. We're happy to assist Habitat for Humanity in a fundraising drive to purchase another piece of property on the Sunshine Coast. Just don't take our park."

Burgoyne was up next. She admittedly tried to bring a lighter tone to the discussion as she came armed with a homemade cardboard map to aid in her presentation.

She too raised issues of safety and the way council handled the process.

"I encourage you to travel the road, to see how hard it is to drive this stretch, how hard it is to walk this stretch," she said. "Make a considerate decision, not the fastest or the one that brings immediate glory to council. Believe me, we will hold you accountable in November."

Prior to council's discussion on the matter, MacKenzie decided to leave the meeting.

"I don't believe there is any reason I'm in conflict," MacKenzie said. "I will excuse myself, but not happily."

Following the meeting, MacKenzie told Coast Reporter he would seek legal opinion on the matter.

"I think we've heard enough opposition tonight that we need to go back to work with the residents and try to come up with some different options," said Coun. Angela Letman. "I don't agree with some of these concerns, but that being said, there are issues."

Coun. Tucker Forsyth disagreed.

"I do respect the opinions and views of the residents, but I didn't hear anything to change my mind," he said. "I don't see any solid reasons why a house couldn't be built there."

Mayor Barry Janyk, who cast the deciding vote to defer the matter, said council has to do the right thing.

"I see no reasons, at least based on science, planning or philosophy, that a home should not be placed on that site," Janyk said. "However, one of the goals of Habitat for Humanity is to create amenities that are welcomed by the community. We need to listen to the community. There should be no one opposed to this project, and clearly there is. We need to defer this matter, have further discussion and pursue other options for the good of this community, this council and Habitat for Humanity."

Council voted two to one to defer. Letman and Janyk voted in favour, with Forsyth opposed. Coun. Andrea Goldsmith was absent from the meeting.

"I am disappointed that the decision has once again been deferred," said Habitat for Humanity board chair Ed Hawkins. "We sincerely thank the Town of Gibsons for being the first to step forward with the possibility of a land donation. While lot 12 is not ideal, it is buildable and it is the only land option offered at this time."

Following the meeting, Letman said she has set up two meetings with representatives of the group within the next few weeks to explore other possibilities.

"I hope to have something to report at the planning committee meeting," Letman said. "I am hoping for a win-win-win solution for the town, the neighbourhood and Habitat for Humanity."