Gibsons is abuzz with talk about an upcoming meeting for Target Developments' Shoal Bay development on Gower Point Road - and the sheer number of inquiries the Town has received has led them to cancel the public hearing scheduled for Dec. 5 and hold a public information meeting instead.
"We're getting lots of questions at municipal hall, and a lot of information out in the community is misleading," said Gibsons chief administrative officer Paul Gipps. "There's a real need for people to learn more about the development, so we're holding a public information meeting where people will be able to ask the developer questions."
Gipps said the venue for the meeting will still be the Cedars Inn in Gibsons. The Town has re-scheduled the public hearing for Dec. 17 at 7 p.m. at the Cedars Inn.
For Gibsons residents Ric Careless and Bill Wareham, it's an opportunity to further their message - that there's a better way to develop the waterfront. If the community comes out strongly against it at the Dec. 17 public hearing, councillors in Gibsons have promised to turn down the rezoning application. Careless said they're concerned about the precedent this could set with major developments like an eight-storey hotel adjacent to the Shoal Bay site and a marina expansion coming down the pipeline.
"We think Gibsons shouldn't just have the best water - we should have the best waterfront," said Careless, an environmental solutions consultant who's obtained the Order of B.C. for his wilderness conservation work. "I think if [developer Grant Gillies] is willing, we could work within the height restriction to produce a top-calibre development that's a true win-win for Gibsons," said Careless, who said he speaks for other residents in wanting to see a neighbourhood plan in place for downtown Gibsons, before the development. "We're out of sequence - a waterfront plan should have come right after the official community plan (OCP).
His vision of the neighbourhood plan, he said, includes increasing density as you go upslope, "like False Creek in Vancouver has," he said.
Shoal Bay is proposed to consist of two four-storey buildings separated by a garden covering an underground parkade, all on a one-hectare lot. The development would have 109 units and some retail, office and commercial spaces that will be restricted to under 1,000 square metres.
Gibsons planner Chris Marshall made sure Gillies met more than 20 specifications in order to receive first reading of the development bylaw, and the development is set to make the first significant contribution towards Gibsons' new affordable housing fund.
The project as it now stands will be about 15 metres tall, twice the 7.5-metre limit called for under the OCP. Wareham, who's the acting director of the David Suzuki Foundation's marine conservation program, also sees room for improvement in the LEED Silver certification the building aims for.
"If we are to be a model community for sustainability, we're not going to achieve it through LEED Silver," he said. "A hundred smaller units is when you really begin talking about energy savings."
Wareham is wary of the Town's approach to mitigating the expected impacts of climate change - namely, the sea level rise expected along the B.C. coast. This could put the parking garage under water, Wareham speculated.
The Town of Gibsons has made an effort to keep citizens informed of the development. While requirements under the Local Government Act say the Town had to send public hearing notices to all land owners within 50 metres of the site, town staff have also sent the notice to all addresses and post office boxes within Gibsons. It's an unprecedented move for Gibsons, said director of corporate services Jim Gordon.
Careless hopes Gibsons residents will recognize that while the developments do offer more than most, Shoal Bay residents will demand a little more. "As far as I'm concerned, the value of that property is so extraordinary, we can afford to wait for the right development," Careless said.