Three major development projects known as Shoal Bay (SB), Tugboat Landing Marina (TLM), and the Gibsons Landing Harbour Authority (GLHA) Expansion Plan emerged in rapid succession. In the absence of a Harbour Plan, the Town was concerned about the potential collective impacts of these proposals, so they hired Coriolis Consulting Corp. to consider options for how to proceed with these projects. In their report entitled “Approvals Process for Three Major Development Proposals in Gibsons Landing,” Coriolis said that while they were “hesitant to suggest yet more planning”... the lack of a plan would “create tension in the community.”
The consultants’ report said that while they were hesitant to suggest more planning, the lack of a plan would create tension in the community
When the “four storey” (54-foot tall) 109-unit condominium complex known as Shoal Bay came to public hearing in 2008, citizens argued that the project was not in accordance with the OCP on a multitude of issues. When 75% of residents told Council of the day that they were not willing to sacrifice their small town character for the purported economic benefits offered by development of this scale, the overwhelmingly negative response sparked major controversy. The seeds of dissent that sprouted over this project caused rifts between community interest groups that persist to this day.
At the same time, the Gibsons Landing Harbour Authority was seeking grants for expansion. To some, the Authority seemed intent on moving forward without further public consultation despite criticism that they had not sufficiently consulted the public in the first place.
Tugboat Landing Marina
In addition, the proposal of an eight-storey hotel and convention centre to replace the boat haul-out facility on the Hyak Marine site directly adjacent to Winegarden Waterfront Park in the harbour was dismissed by the planning department because the magnitude of the proposal was in complete contravention of the Town of Gibsons Official Community Plan. However, the proponent remained intent on seeing his vision realized. After undergoing a number of revisions, the Tugboat Landing Marina proposal has re-surfaced in the form of a 70,000-square-foot “four-storey” (height unspecified) 120-room hotel and spa with a 100+/- seat conference facility, 33 resort condo units, related cafe/restaurant services, and “underground” parking on land, as well as increased and upgraded facilities on the water. The building footprint shown on the latest plan covers most of the land from the southern edge of Winegarden Park across Winn Road to the boundary of the properties across the street from the little post office. This project is slated to come forward in 2012.
Just as Coriolis predicted, the lack of a definitive plan had entangled citizens in divisive arguments and eroded the social fabric of the community.
A Paradigm Shift?
Gibsons’ OCP was built on a theme of “maintaining the small town atmosphere of Gibsons,” so these major projects had residents asking some hard questions about the future of their town and the potential of “a paradigm shift,” as described by then-Councillor Bob Curry, if these projects were to move forward. The Town recognized that in the absence of an area plan not only would divisive scenarios in the community repeat themselves when TLM, the next SB application, and the GLHA expansion came back to the table, but prospective developers would still be unsure about what development in Gibsons can look like. No one wanted potential developers spending huge amounts of money only to be shut down at the eleventh hour by concerned citizens, and citizens were tired of having to fight to protect their small town values. It seemed that a clear and specific harbour plan could provide a possible win-win situation for everyone.
Town of Gibsons Harbour Plan, Tuesday, February 28th, 7:00 pm at the Cedars Inn.