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Gospel Rock plans change with public meeting

Draft designs for the Gospel Rock neighbourhood plan continue to evolve after the most recent meeting of the refinement working committee.

Draft designs for the Gospel Rock neighbourhood plan continue to evolve after the most recent meeting of the refinement working committee.

The committee met in front of a packed gallery at Gibsons council chambers Monday, March 29, to hear from property owners and members of the Gospel Rock select committee, which designed the previous development options.

Though only three members of the select committee and two property owners showed up, the input from them as well as the public was enough to spark some change.

Among the more significant changes to the plans is the removal of Franklin Road as a possible entry/exit from the development.

"That was removed from the options not solely because of the opposition, because we know we're going to get opposition no matter what direction we leave this development from it was mainly because we want to ensure that the main route is the route north," said director of planning Chris Marshall.

During a presentation by Coun. LeeAnn Johnson, who is also a select committee member, she emphasized that if the development goes ahead, it only made sense from a traffic and environmental perspective to have road access on the north end, even if it means having to expropriate land.

Johnson said she was sceptical of developing the upland area around Gospel Rock that is currently covered in forest, saying the town will end up with the feel of "some version of Coquitlam."

The issue of waterfront development was also a sore point for select committee members who attended. Katie Janyk argued that the refinement working committee's draft options flew in the face of the select committee's design options, in that both new options include waterfront development shouldering park space around Gospel Rock.

Michael Rosen, the Town's hired planning consultant, said the decision to include some residential development was based on the principle recognized by the refinement working committee that the waterfront had "potential for park purposes and limited residential development." He also said the initial environmental study did not conclude the waterfront could not be developed and there was a desire from select committee members to see some waterfront housing.

The inclusion of waterfront homes is still subject to change with a new environmental study for the waterfront and upland area. Some members of the public were critical of the fact that the first study was commissioned by the landowners and focused only on legal requirements and not the local ecology as a whole.

Gibsons-based biologist Paul Van Poppelin, who conducted the first study, said he would conduct a new study that looked at the "bigger picture" and would submit the study to an independent third party for review.

Marshall said even if the study shows little in the way of environmental reasons to stop waterfront development, it does not mean the final options will still include new homes on the waterfront.

"It takes away the scientific or environmental argument, but it doesn't take away the cultural significance or community significance of that area," he said.

Gibsons Mayor Barry Janyk said the designs, as presented, are very much subject to change as the process continues.

The refinement working committee is expected to meet again at municipal hall on April 26 at 8:45 a.m.