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Gibsons issues George permits

Harbour Development
Artist’s rendering of the proposed George Hotel and Residences project.

The Town of Gibsons says the final two development permits (DP) for the George Hotel and Residences Project have been approved and the building permit paperwork is “ready for pickup.”

DPs covering geotechnical hazards and aquifer protection (Development Permit Areas 1 and 9) were reviewed and approved by engineering and planning staff after the last DP requiring a council vote (environmentally sensitive areas, Development Permit Area 2) was approved on July 31.

Gibsons’ chief administrative officer, Emanuel Machado, said with the Town permits in place, removal of existing buildings and site preparation can begin – although some approvals may still be needed from the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and the provincial ministries of Environment and Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

The July 31 council vote, however, is now being challenged in court. Gibsons resident Marcia Timbres, the petitioner in previous court actions along with the Gibsons Alliance of Business and Community (GABC), filed papers with the Supreme Court of B.C. on Aug. 28.

Timbres’ argument that the council decision should be set aside hinges on the Ministry of Environment’s approval of a site remediation plan to deal with contaminants from past industrial activity. 

In the court documents Timbres’ lawyer claims that, in responding to an appeal filed by her and GABC, the Ministry of Environment said it had not issued a formal decision on the remediation plan, merely a letter indicating support.

The court petition goes on to argue that, as a result, the conditions set out in the Local Government Act have not been met and the council decision is illegal.

Developer Klaus Fuerniss told Coast Reporter this week that work could begin as early as the fall, “dependent on weather conditions and contractor scheduling.”

Site remediation work is expected to take two to four months, with a construction timeline of around 34 months and a completion target of late 2020.

He also said he expects the legal challenge will not stand up.

“The previous two claims made by this group were dismissed at a great deal of cost to the Town of Gibsons. We expect this one to be dismissed as well,” Fuerniss said.

Mayor Wayne Rowe and Town officials have been increasingly outspoken about the costs stemming from moves to block the George project.

A recent Town press release announcing the dismissal of a Human Rights Tribunal complaint tied to the project claimed the cost of dealing with that case alone came to more than $80,000.

A July 2016 review of the George application process claimed that responding to complaints and FOI requests related to the project had “pulled significant staff time away from other Town priorities” and that the FOI requests alone required 388 hours of staff time and cost $21,000, of which $6,100 was recovered through fees.

The Town is planning to release a report this fall “summarizing the status and costs of the various George Hotel-related claims filed since 2013.”

According to Machado, the initial building permit fee and Development Cost Charges amount to $1.34 million. Fuerniss’s company will also have to post a $2.6-million bond.

As well, $100,000 in community amenity funding, earmarked for redevelopment of Winegarden Park, has already been deposited with the Town.