Dear Mayor and Council,
I am submitting this for your consideration as part of the public hearing scheduled for February 28, 2012, on the Gibsons Harbour Plan, 2011.
I would like to congratulate all the participants who brought the plan to this juncture, since it does have many fine points to it. Amongst other things, these include:
A) The plan recognizes the distinct character of Gibsons Landing and contains language that is intended to protect this existing character.
B) The plan also emphasizes that the mass and scale of new development must be within the parameters of existing built forms.
C) The importance of protecting eelgrass beds, and the ecological health of the surrounding ocean is recognized.
D) Protecting the Heron rookery next to the Marina land is emphasized.
E) Climate change, higher average temperatures, projected lower precipitation levels, and sea level rise are considered, as well as storm surge, and the effects these will have on our built and natural environment.
F) The importance and protection of the town's aquifer is recognized and the question of the availability of water, balanced against future development and increased usage, is discussed.
G) Important economic activities such as tourism, fisheries, permanent and transient moorage, vessel fueling, and vessel maintenance are discussed, (both existing amenities, and the lack thereof).
H) Recognizing how the natural topography enhances views, and protecting upland resident's views, is emphasized, as well as important considerations such as roof forms, and green roofs as well as sustainable building practices.
These and many other good points are discussed and illustrated as well, such as transit, parking, walking paths, and maintaining and enhancing the general livability and quality of life.
1) The plan mentions that, while there are many charming examples of built form, Gibsons Landing lacks a "coherence" and that this lack of "coherence" affects the area's "brand". My comment about this, is to be careful about too much "coherence" since there is much to be said for distinct architectural styles, materials, forms and colours. (Although do I absolutely agree with the avoidance of the use of vinyl siding.)
2) The plan talks about the use of floating markets, homes, and other such floating amenities. I feel that this should not only be accepted, but strongly encouraged, as long as these are done within the scope of sound environmental practice. Done properly, this could make the area more interesting and distinct, which would play off of our beautiful natural setting.
3) While the plan recognizes the importance of the existing fueling facility at Hyak marine, (and the rarity of such amenities in the greater geographical area), and bemoans the lack of any vessel maintenance facility and the resulting significant economic loss to the local economy,
at the same time, it designates the Hyak marine site, (Which was a working facility until the owners let it fall into disrepair.), as "Residential/Tourist Accommodation". This is a significant and important contradiction that is quite problematic. Figure 5.4, on page 35 shows a massive building on the site of the present Hyak marine property, and this does not appear to synchronize with the values couched in the wording regarding protection of views, and respecting the mass and scale of the surrounding built forms. Either the wording in the plan is correct, or figure 5.4 is correct, but they cannot both be correct. If figure 5.4 is correct, than the wording in the plan is meaningless. The wording must be interpreted respectfully, in its original intent.
4) Similarly, figure 5.4 also shows three massive building complexes along the waterfront, between the marina lands and Hyak marine. This projected development as shown, is in contradiction with: protecting the Heron rookery, projected sea level rise and storm surges, protecting upland residential views, respecting existing mass and scale, and protecting the aquifer, all mentioned by specific wording in the plan. The intent of the wording must be respected.
5) Shown on Gower Point Rd, across the street from the above potential buildings, also on figure 5.4, is a series of three massive building complexes that appear to be an almost continuous wall of buildings. This is also in contradiction to the wording, and does not seem to respect the language that is contained in the document.
6) The three "potential" developments I mention above do not appear to respect the intent of the wording, except in one respect. The drawings in Fig. 5.4, seem to be respecting a three meter "view corridor" every thirty meters, (this approximates to about ten feet, for every one hundred feet of building), mentioned elsewhere in the plan. The term "view corridor" is an oxymoron. Either one has a "view", or one has a "corridor", one cannot have both. While there is much language talking about protecting and "enhancing" views, the figures shown, and the potential heights possible, as well as the use of great masses of buildings, and the specific wording of "three meters for every thirty meters", all point to clear contradictions. I would suggest that this also contradicts resident's expectations, since most of us would rather see a "Room With a View", rather than a "Room With A View Corridor".
7) All of the potential buildings discussed above appear to be out of keeping with existing mass and scale, as well, they are potentially out of harmony with the natural topography. No competent theatre manager would allow "standees" in the front row of the theatre, while expecting the audience in the seats to the rear, to remain sitting. A good manager would recognize that the laws of physics will apply, and that the "sittees" will demand to stand too. Once standees are allowed in the front row, the laws of physics must apply, with the result that physics will inevitably overcome and drive any wording in the plan, since the wording will eventually conform to the laws of physics, rather than the reverse. Again, the intent of the wording must be respected from the outset; once the balance regarding mass, heights and scale are violated, the resulting imbalance will become a permanent feature driving development dynamics in Gibsons Landing, irreversibly.
Proposal 1: Floating at Shoal Bay
Any development that does occur on the near-shore portion of the shoal bay lands, between the marina, and Hyak marine, that these buildings are designed in such a way that they "float" on the boggy land surface. In this way, the buildings will be in harmony with their surrounding conditions, as well as perfectly ready for inevitable sea level rise. This could be done in a very attractive and interesting way, as well as being in harmony with the surrounding ecology, and existing mass and scale.
Proposal 2: An Oceanographic Institute at Shoal Bay
That this particular site (the Shoal Bay lands) be given very serious consideration for establishment of an Oceanographic Institute. I strongly encourage the present council and the citizens of Gibsons to realize the potential that such an institute could play in not only transforming this particular site into a function that is perfectly in keeping with its environment, but also has the potential to draw very real interest and a dynamic vitality to Gibsons Landing. The vision for this Oceanographic institute, could be that it may also be coupled with some tie-in with the Maritime Museum. As well, it could involve contributions from both the Sechelt, and the Squamish Nations. The institute could work with, or under, the auspices of the University of British Columbia, or other major university, to further, and enhance, research and education on the state of the oceans that surround us. So, the institute could perform both a public education function, as well as be a place of scholarly research on marine studies. The specific siting of the Shoal Bay lands, challenging as they are, regarding climate change issues, (being boggy and at sea level), are a perfect venue for showcasing how a community could excel at dealing with the very serious issues that will shortly confront the entire world. As well, Gibsons Landing, situated at the point of two major bodies of water, that together, are part of the Salish Sea, is also perfectly situated for the location of such an institute, especially given the proximity to Vancouver. The establishment of an Oceanographic Institute here, could be the single most important factor in driving the re-invigoration of Gibsons Landing, and deserves consideration and inclusion within the Gibsons Harbour Plan.
Thank you for your attention to these matters.
All the best,