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Stonehurst bylaws stall at a technology troubled council meeting

Third readings of bylaws to allow the redevelopment of the Stonehurst site didn't pass but members of the public hoping to catch the meeting online were left in the dark as to what was said because of technical issues.
Artist rendering of the proposed Stonehurst re-development as presented at the April 25 Public Hearing

UPDATED - May 4, 9:15am

Third reading of bylaws related to the proposed Stonehurst redevelopment were unanimously defeated by Gibsons council on May 2.

Mayor Silas White told Coast Reporter both the rezoning and official community plan amendments remain at second reading and that there could be further discussion between the community and Pacific Ray Developments(PRD) on the future of that site. 

White said,  "At the meeting, I did speak to the fact that [PRD owner Babak Trafreshi] has made an investment in a very important piece of property in the town and that as the owner of the property we want to continue to work with him to come up with a development that will fit the official community plan, in our council’s interpretation and will be of benefit to the community."

The OCP and zoning bylaw amendments proposed are for the historic Stonehurst site to be redeveloped to allow a condominium and boutique inn at 529 Gibsons Way. Those amendments would also enable redevelopment on adjacent town-owned Lot 23 on School Road, involving a proposed purchase of the upper half of the lot by the developer. Plans for the lower half included rezoning for use as an expanded town park.  

Meeting technology troubles 

Debate and voting on that decision did not include Coun. Stafford Lumley.  White said Lumley was out of town and had planned to participate in the meeting remotely, but that function of the town's meeting technology failed.  The YouTube live stream also failed, leaving about a dozen individuals expecting to view the proceedings watching a screen displaying only the town logo. That frustrated those who had counted following council’s debate on the proposal that had drummed up a lot of local attention. 

The YouTube meeting’s chat feature was available and many attendees stayed connected for close to an hour waiting for the live stream to start. In the chat function public comments including, “This strikes me as very wrong”,  “To not be able to see and hear what is going on is frustrating. This is completely unacceptable”, “I wish we could see/hear this meeting!” and “Gibsons needs to fix their tech problems” were posted.

A video recording of the one hour meeting was posted on May 4 to the town's YouTube channel.

Addressing tech issues a priority

"The biggest thing on my mind this morning is that we need to put a lot of other things on hold at the town to fix the problems with our audio-visual system interface with YouTube," White said in a telephone interview on May 3.

"It is extremely frustrating and it’s becoming a distraction to council when we are trying to make important decisions on behalf of the town as we need to be making those in a way that is accessible to the public. It has reached the point where it just doesn’t work.  We can’t have any more meetings until this is fixed."

Live streaming of council and committee meetings is a feature promoted by the town on its webpage. In March 2022, council endorsed spending $63,600 for council chambers audio-visual equipment upgrading for the purposes of live streaming and hosting hybrid meetings, allowing both in-person or remote participation. That included installation of cameras, streaming equipment and upgraded microphones and speakers.  

The new system was in place by February 2023 and functioned with minor glitches up to April 25. On that evening a hybrid public hearing on the zoning and OCP amendment bylaws impacting the proposed redevelopment of Stonehurst was able to be completed, but technical issues caused a number of delays.