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Transportation issues front and centre

Residents were out in force Tuesday night at the Gibsons Legion to voice their concerns over the Upper Gibsons Neighbourhood Plan.

Residents were out in force Tuesday night at the Gibsons Legion to voice their concerns over the Upper Gibsons Neighbourhood Plan.

Issues around water, sewer, demographic trends, goals and objectives were all discussed at the three-hour-plus open house. The main issue of contention centred around transportation and, specifically, the proposed relocation of the traffic signal from Shaw Road to Sunnycrest Road.

Municipal planner Chris Marshall, director of municipal operations Bryan Shoji, assistant planner Kim Liske and all members of council were on hand at the open house to answer questions and hear comments.

For the first two hours of the meeting, the public viewed detailed sandwich boards prepared by the Town, which attempted to summarize the plan. Following that, Marshall, along with Glen Shkurhan, a consultant with Urban Systems Ltd., who prepared the plan, presented a Power Point presentation to the audience. There was also time for a question and answer session.

More than 120 people packed into the Legion. Almost everyone in attendance spoke against the move or voiced their displeasure with boisterous applause in support of the speakers.

"The impact on Shaw Road has not been thought through," said one resident. "This is about what the community wants, not just what council wants. I live on Shaw and the reality of increased traffic on O'Shea will be terrible if this change is made. Keep the light on Shaw Road."

Another resident asked why a second light couldn't be considered.

"I don't know who dreamed this up and for what purpose," he stated. "Removing the light at Shaw Road is the biggest piece of stupidity I've ever heard of."

In response, Marshall said the Ministry of Transportation "outrightly rejected any more lights on Gibsons Way."

Another resident asked if there was anyone at the Town or on council who could help residents try to "influence" the ministry to re-consider their decision. She also asked why the Town wasn't considering a highway extension or bypass to address the transportation concerns.

"We [Town of Gibsons] went to lobby the ministry about a possible highway extension and get a cost estimate," Marshall said in response to the questions. "It's around $17 million. We're a small community in the eyes of the ministry and we're probably 15 years away from being considered. If the Town, Sunshine Coast Regional District, District of Sechelt, Sechelt Indian Band, residents and the business community all came on board and lobbied hard, then we could possibly be moved up on the province's list.

"We're very low on the priority list. We need pressure from the whole Coast in order to make this happen."After hearing Marshall's answer, the same resident who posed the question then asked everyone in attendance to raise their hands if they wanted the light to stay. Everyone in the audience raised their hands. "Okay, council, there's your answer," she exclaimed.

Resident Bill Beaton was the next to speak. Beaton wrote a 10-page letter to the Town with several suggestions and recommendations. "I have reviewed [the plan] in detail and must state that I was very impressed and excited with what lies for this area of Gibsons once the plan gets final approval," Beaton said in his letter. "It is a good plan, except for, in my opinion, one minor but critical aspect. That is the removal and relocation of the stop light."

Beaton also expressed his views in a letter to the editor, published in Coast Reporter May 5, and reiterated a few points at Tuesday's meeting.

"I made a point of trying to knock on every door in the area. At 83 years old, I certainly got my exercise," Beaton said. "The main thing I heard was no one knew about this issue and when I told them about the light, the main thing I heard was what the hell is the mayor and council thinking. This whole issue must be re-looked at and reconsidered."Another issue related to transportation was also touched on.

Brad Benson said that as it stands now in the plan, Shaw Road would go right through White Tower Park."I'm very concerned about the potential impact for hikers who use this valuable network of trails," Benson said. "Trails are precious in Gibsons, and I feel very strongly that they have to be preserved."

The Upper Gibsons Neighbourhood Plan area is 46 hectares (114 acres) in-fill site located between the northern border of the Town and the Upper Gibsons commercial area.

In March 2004, the Town of Gibsons issued a request for proposals to complete the plan in accordance with the municipal official community plan (OCP) and additional direction specific to the plan area.Last June, the consulting firm Small Town Initiatives submitted their final copy of the Upper Gibsons Neighbourhood Plan entitled "A Framework Plan for the Upper Gibsons Neighbourhood." The plan they presented was six months overdue, and although property owners and the public were happy with the concepts and land uses it described at that time, the plan did not provide details as to how the plan would be serviced, accessed, phased or implemented. As a result, the Town hired Urban Systems to provide the details of how the proposed land uses and planning concepts in the Framework Plan could be implemented.

Urban Systems worked with the Town, staff and an advisory select committee to prepare the Upper Gibsons Neighbourhood Strategic Servicing Plan document.

In a follow-up interview with Marshall Wednesday morning, Marshall said all the comments made and questionnaires filled out by attendees would be taken into consideration.

"My guess is that all of this information will go back to the advisory committee to discuss," Marshall said. "I think it's pretty clear that the committee will have to make other recommendations to council."

Marshall said he could not say when the committee would meet again or when information would go back to council.

For anyone wishing to obtain further information, a complete copy of the plan is available on the Town website at

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