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Residents blast plan at public hearing

The neighbourhood came out, but they didn't like the plan. An estimated 350 people filled the gym at Elphinstone Secondary School on Oct.

The neighbourhood came out, but they didn't like the plan.

An estimated 350 people filled the gym at Elphinstone Secondary School on Oct. 11 for the public hearing on the Gospel Rock neighbourhood plan, and the vast majority of presenters were there to register their firm opposition.

Waterfront development -identified as the public's number one issue - was on the ropes from the start, with Lorne Lewis, the Sunshine Coast Regional District director for Elphinstone, opening the hearing with a direct attack on its inclusion in the plan.

"The issue that to me is a glaring error in this plan is the proposed development on the waterfront," Lewis said. "That will put at great risk drivers on the road. I don't see how, without considerable engineering, that access can be given safely to and from those sites. To me it's unpalatable and unsafe to have those there."

Other speakers echoed Lewis's concern during the three-and-a-half-hour hearing, with many focusing instead on the damage waterfront development would cause to the shoreline and marine ecology.

Several speakers compared Gospel Rock to Vancouver's Stanley Park, saying council should support efforts by the community to purchase all or some of the properties for that purpose.

"What we want is a park and what we would like is the political will so we could raise money to get the park," said Sharon Danroth of Pratt Road.

"As a business I'm willing to fundraise. We can buy the property," added Deborah Geoffrion of Gibsons Way in Area F. "This can be the Stanley Park of the Sunshine Coast. It is absolutely magnificent. There's so much there. It's so backwards to think of developing parts of it. That place is incredible. It should be protected."

Many speakers said the plan went against Gibsons' official community plan (OCP) and its own mission statement.

"Looking over the stated goals of the plan, I haven't heard such Orwellian doublespeak since I read Nineteen Eighty-Four in high school," said Seamus Korner.

The plan is "not only non-conforming to the OCP, but inconsistent with itself," said Lola Westell of Maplewood Lane.

Catherine McManus of Gower Point Road expressed concern about creek erosion and said the plan fails to identify seep wetlands on the site.

Traffic and access issues were also raised as major concerns by residents of the immediate area who opposed the plan.

Judith Hammill of Arbutus Reach called the plan a great disappointment.

"There will be problems for future landowners and future councillors, though that might not be you if you vote for this plan," she warned.

Lynn Chapman of Henderson Road in Roberts Creek said adoption of the plan as presented "would be a grievous error and failure in leadership."

Brad Benson of Marine Drive was one of many speakers to blast the plan's wildlife corridor provisions.

"We're all tired of this, we want this over, but we just keep getting fed back the same substandard product," Benson said.

Dale Peterson of Forbes Road pointed to the impact that 1,100 new residences would have on Gibsons' water supply.

"At 2.5 people per unit, water consumption will be 75 million litres a day. Add watering lawns and gardens and it's 150 to 200 million litres a day," he said.

Other speakers also flagged water as an issue.

"Who will pay for the consequences of future water shortages?" asked Samara of Winn Road.

Michael Maser of Pratt Road in Area E said accepting the plan would be "reckless" and putting "speculators' interests above the interests of the communities at stake -Gibsons and surrounding areas."

Among the few to speak in favour of the plan was Mark Coleman of Marlene Road in Roberts Creek, who said he's been one of the owners of Block 6 for seven years.

"I support the plan," Coleman said. "I think it's a thoughtful, sensitive plan that has had a lot of input from different sources. I applaud the mayor and council for getting us to this point. We just want some resolution on this matter. It's being going on too long."

Coleman called the plan a compromise and said he didn't believe there was anything "controversial" about what was planned for his property.

"What people need to realize is that this is private property and it's going to get developed in one way or another," he said.