With all members of Gibsons Council in attendance at the Feb. 1 online meeting, council voted to host four weeks of public engagement starting later this month on redevelopment concepts supported by the Holland Lands/Cultural Corner Select Committee. That committee includes representatives of the organizations that have facilities located on the property that surrounds the Town Hall. The group favours a coordinated rather than facility-by-facility approach to redesigning the area to improve public use. Committee chairperson Coun. Aleria Ladwig said there was “broad support for the transformational approach,” on two conditions. The first is that sale of a portion of the lands to a community-minded developer for a housing project be considered to assist with and raise capital needed for redevelopment. The second is that work only proceed if community support for any redevelopment plan is secured.
While the engagement process still needs to be finalized, council received its first comment on the matter during the meeting’s public inquiry period. Town resident Donna Thomas said, “I don’t believe that any of the Holland Lands should be for sale, period. I would like us to use Holland Lands to demonstrate support for the First Nations concept that the lands do not belong to any of us, but to all of us…to share the land is one thing, but to sell it is another.”
Ladwig suggested an open house event to review public input received be scheduled for late March. Recommendations on next steps for the potential redevelopment could then be forwarded for council consideration in April.
Poverty reduction strategy application endorsed
Gibsons added its support for a regional application to the Union of BC Municipalities Poverty Reduction Strategy grant program’s second phase. Appearing as a delegation at the meeting, Sechelt Mayor Darnelda Siegers advised council that her jurisdiction and the Sunshine Coast Regional District are already on board and that by applying as a region, the Coast is eligible for a grant of up to $150,000. If awarded funding, Sechelt will coordinate the work to start implementing the eight recommendations of the Coast’s Poverty Reduction Plan. That document was developed in 2021 with a $93,000 grant from the program’s first phase. The focus of the coming year’s work would be setting up a local “action on poverty reduction coalition,” launching a communications campaign to tackle poverty awareness issues, as well as coordination and enhancement of programs that support better digital access for those who need but cannot afford it.
Watershed Security Strategy and Fund
A video clip of Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy George Heyman’s Jan. 26 announcement about public engagement on the provincial watershed security strategy was played at the meeting. Mayor Beamish said that presentation was “a call to arms and an opportunity” for the Town to have input into and to access funding to protect its watershed. “We have a need, and we need to make it our priority…we cannot afford any damage to our watershed as we don’t have an alternative.”
Residents were encouraged to visit the Town’s website or engage.gov.bc.ca/watershedsecurity/process before March 18 to provide their comments. Beamish said that official comments from the Town would be considered at a future council meeting before submission to the province.
Although not in attendance at the council meeting, chief administrative officer Emanuel Machado was welcomed back to work by Mayor Beamish at an online committee meeting hosted earlier in the day. Machado had been on leave from his position for health-related reasons since April 2021.
Seawall seepage testing
Council agreed to ask staff to have “unidentified” seepage leaching into the ocean from the Town’s seawall area tested by Vancouver Coastal Health. This action came in response to concerns raised in a letter from a member of the public and expressed at the meeting by Coun. Annemarie DeAndrade about potential “toxicity” in that run-off. Mayor Beamish noted that past testing had shown that the seepage was not contaminated and originated from “natural sources.” Once updated test results are received, council agreed to consider installing signage at the site to inform the public of the contents and source of the seepage.