Gibsons council has voted to have the Town opt in to the Environmental Management Act’s site profile process now, ahead of the province’s move to make opting in mandatory for all local governments.
The mandatory opt-in is part of the changes to the act passed by the Legislature in 2019.
Site profiles are essentially questionnaires filled out by landowners about past uses and possible contamination. After reviewing the profile, the municipality can choose to forward it to the province, which decides what happens with respect to further investigations and remediation.
The Town’s decision to opt out of receiving and reviewing site profiles in the 1990s was one of the central issues in legal challenges from Gibsons Alliance of Business and Community (GABC) over the development permit approvals for the George Hotel and Residences project and a related Environmental Appeal Board (EAB) case.
Although the courts decided in 2018 that the Town was interpreting its responsibilities in light of having opted out, GABC’s legal actions and EAB case were one of the reasons the province decided to review the system and end the opt-out provision.
At the Jan. 28 council meeting Mayor Bill Beamish credited GABC with bringing the issue to his attention and requesting the Town opt back in as soon as possible.
Beamish also said he had encouraged the council of the day to opt in when he was the chief administrative officer in the early 2000s.
“We should want to know where the contaminated sites are in the community and we should want developers to address those sites before development,” Beamish said, adding that the current process, even with the Town involved, is “not very rigorous.”
“I’m hoping that the new process will be better,” he said.
The District of Sechelt is also one of about 40 local governments that had opted out of the site profile system.