A decision on a proposed condominium slated for the Davis Bay waterfront is on hold until a third public hearing is held.
The District of Sechelt must hold a third public hearing after staff forgot to notify all the residents in the area by letter of the second public meeting, held on Feb. 17.
At the Feb. 17 meeting, council heard an overwhelming "no" from a capacity audience at the Sechelt Public Library community use room.
This second public hearing was the result of a legal challenge filed by former Sechelt mayor Bruce Milne, a resident of Davis Bay who is directly impacted by the height of the proposed building.
He says the action was necessary to provide more information on the development to those most closely affected by it. He maintains the district has not yet disclosed all the records involving the proponent.
Although public records of the interaction between the developer and the district are open to public inspection at any time, Milne says he wants copies of closed-door communications.
In addition to Milne's legal challenge, he has filed a request through the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act to obtain those emails exchanged between the developer, councillors and staff.
"I have not yet received those files," Milne said this week.
District of Sechelt municipal clerk Joni Heinrich said Milne has been provided all the communications he requested and that no records of private communication between councillors and the developer have been found.
Regardless of the existence of these "private documents," Milne says he does not plan to pursue another legal challenge against the district, because he feels council has heard the public's concerns with the building, which include height, density, septic, community suitability and the setting of a precedent in the neighbourhood.
More than 60 property owners attended the most recent public hearing, and 103 letters, most protesting the development, were read into the record. Of those 103 letters, 91 were against the proposal, nine were for it and three were undecided.
The results were much different than those garnered from the previous public hearing on Nov. 17, 2004, where 17 letters were received, nine of which were for the proposal and eight against it.
Milne questioned council's "apparent assumption" that those who didn't speak at the last meeting were in favour of the project, therefore seeing public support and moving the condos ahead in the approval process.
"I don't think this council's decisions are usually rational. They can't be if they think they can say someone is in favour of a project if they have not spoken.
"They need to hear our voice loud and clear and decipher fact from fantasy," said Milne at the public hearing.
The development, known as The West, would take up the empty lot beside Pier 17 and provide 44 one-bedroom units and 16 two-bedroom units that are being marketed as ideal for seniors.
In order for the proposal to go ahead, the developer, Chris Moore, must first be granted a height variance for his three- and four-storey structure and a rezoning to allow the condo to be built.
"We've gone through nine evolutions of this project at a cost better than $200,000 to prove to this council and this community that this should go ahead. Now we are at the mercy of this community whether it will happen or not," said Moore.
Milne doubts the project will be granted approval by council after the uprising of opponents at this most recent public hearing but adds, "We'll have to wait and see."
Although Milne filed the original legal challenge causing the development to come to a second public hearing, he says he has no plans to challenge them again.
"I think they have heard what we have to say," said Milne.
But the district doesn't want to take any chances, and, according to administrator Bill Brown, they are embarrassed at the oversight of not mailing out notices of the Feb. 17 hearing to residents affected by The West development.
Though most were made aware of the meeting through advertisements in Coast Reporter and word of mouth, the district wants to make sure it adheres to strict governmental guidelines and corrects the error.
The result is a third public hearing scheduled for March 8 at 7 p.m. at the Sechelt Public Library community use room.
Heinrich confirmed that records of this third meeting would be combined with the information and public comment presented at the last two meetings.
Once council has finished hearing from the public at this March 8 meeting, it will receive a report from staff and then decide whether or not to give its final stamp of approval to the proposal.