Friends of Gospel Rock Society

What's wrong with the neighbourhood plan?

Written by  Saturday, 04 August 2012 17:20

The Gospel Rock Neighbourhood Plan is heading for public hearing on October 11th, 2012. The plan is flawed and incomplete. It removes current protections, it provides no amenities, and it leaves several fundamental issues unresolved.

 

Ecosystem Protection:

Currently, all of the Dryland Forest in the Gospel Rock neighbourhood is protected by a Greenbelt designation, by environmentally sensitive and geotechnically sensitive development permit area designations (DPAs), and by a prohibitive tree-cutting bylaw. The Official Community Plan (OCP) states that the neighbourhood plan should enhance protection of sensitive ecosystems. Yet, in the plan, less of the sensitive ecosystem is protected, specifically on the waterfront and on the ridge.

The Waterfront:

Currently, waterfront development is not allowed. In addition to the Town’s Greenbelt designation, the BC Ministry of Environment has included it in the provincial Sensitive Ecosystem Inventory (SEI). However the plan acknowledges neither of these designations. Instead, in the plan the existing protection of the Greenbelt designation has been removed, and the waterfront is slated for cluster housing development.

Density:

Under current zoning the total density of this neighbourhood is less than 300 units. The plan allows for more than 1100 units. As a comparison, the entire town of Gibsons currently has approximately 2000 residential units in total. Far from being a protected natural area, this plan will turn Gospel Rock into a high-density neighbourhood.

Access:

Ingress and egress from the neighbourhood are critical requirements of planning; however no viable access has been determined in the plan.

  • Access to Block 6 & Block 7 is from Chaster Road, requiring the re-designation of a riparian area on the eastern arm of Seward (Kullander) Creek. With no other designated access, residents of Elphinstone will feel the brunt of all construction and residential traffic in and out of this area.
  • Safety is at risk. The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) and the Fire Department require two access routes into a neighbourhood, for safety and security reasons. The plan has only one access for up to 200 residences. In the event of an emergency, residents of the area will face potential hazards.
  • Secondary access to the new neighbourhood is shown at Kearton Road even though the SCRD, MOTI, and the Agricultural Land Commission have said that this access is not acceptable. Wording in the plan suggests a desire for north/south access at Inglis & Shaw Rd as an alternative; however, owners of affected properties have expressed opposition to this routing.
  • Access at Bayview Heights Road, is described as “not preferred” however,without north south access, there is no other real way in to this lot. Access at the top of Bayview Heights would cut across a critical wildlife corridor and pose the potential for landslides, thereby endangering people and property down slope.
  • Access from Gower Point Road to waterfront lots is dangerous and poses a threat to pedestrians, cyclists, and local traffic. If these lots are developed, the road would require major work and possible blasting in the sensitive ecosystem.
  • Traffic impact and transportation demand management analysis is a requirement of a neighbourhood planning process in order to assess traffic patterns and trip reduction strategies. This analysis has never been done.

Equitability:

  • The plan shows no benefits for the majority of area landowners, taxpayers, or residents of Gibsons and Elphinstone.
  • The plan is blatantly imbalanced between neighbourhood area landowners. Three landowners have been given substantial “up-zoning” (quadrupled density) while others were brought into the plan area after the fact and against their will. The Block 6 & &landowners have had their zoning increased x 8 while other landowners have had their density decreased by 1/3 How is this fair?
  • Under existing laws, policies, and statutes, riparian, environmentally sensitive, and geotechnically hazardous areas are protectable, yet this plan trades off these areas as if they were developable lands and it trades them off with no benefit to the Town. The OCP states clearly that the town should not trade off these areas as if they were developable.
  • An economic analysis of community benefits vs. trade-offs for the Town has never been done as part of this plan. What are we getting? And what are we giving up?

Amenities:

The OCP requires a Parkland Development Cost Charge Bylaw as part of this neighbourhood plan. In 2007 Holland Barrs came up with two plans: a plan with waterfront development that included $3.5 million in amenity contributions and a plan with no waterfront development, a bigger park up top, and no amenity contributions. The current plan has waterfront development, increased density, and no amenity contributions. Despite promises from the mayor to develop an amenities policy specifying what developers must provide for the community when rezoning is approved, NO SUCH POLICY EXISTS.

 

We still don't know how excavation of this area will impact the Aquifer!

 Agriculture:

The plan offers no designated areas for food production yet shows potential development of roads through agricultural lands against the wishes of the ALC. The OCP requires that this issue be dealt with in the plan.

 

Town of Gibsons Guiding Policies:

The Town of Gibsons OCP (with its Smart Growth principles), Bylaws, and Development Permit Areas, which formed the basis for the goals and objectives of the GRNP, have been ignored in this plan. If this plan is adopted, it will irrevocably alter our OCP and influence future development in the GR neighbourhood and throughout the Town.

Whatever Happened to Buying the Land?:

The OCP clearly states that the Town of Gibsons should assist community attempts to buy Block 7. Instead the plan has included waterfront development, effectively raising the speculative value of the land far beyond the reasonable reach of community fundraising efforts, contrary to the OCP requirement.

 

Process:

Public Input:

Despite years of community feedback through charettes, committees, survey, public meetings, hearings, and open houses, the contentious issues around developing the Gospel Rock neighbourhood have been ignored and left unresolved in this plan.

Stakeholder Input:

The Sunshine Coast Regional District, the Ministry of Transportation, the Agricultural Land Commission, the Sunshine Coast Conservation Association, Gibsons Volunteer Fire Department, Elphinstone Elector’s Association, the Gibsons Alliance of Business and Community, Voice on the Coast, and the Friends of Gospel Rock Society have all provided feedback to the Town of Gibsons expressing that their issues have not been resolved in this plan (with many offering workable solutions), yet Council is pushing ahead with it as is anyway.

Developers Stalled, Usurped, and Dragged Out the Process:

When certain landowners did not get what they wanted (i.e., waterfront development), they opted out, stalled the process, and insinuated potential legal action. They pressured Town Council to rescind a motion to refine a democratically chosen plan. Since then, we have gone backwards in planning, the Town’s time and money has been wasted, and now the lengthy duration of planning is being used as rationale to push the plan through.

RIGHT NOW - Subdivision application under current zoning submitted for Block 7:

One week before Council voted to send the plan to a public hearing, the Block 7 landowners submitted a subdivision application under current zoning. Yet Council is pushing ahead with a plan that gives away current protections. What is the point of pushing ahead with a plan that gives it all away at this stage?

 

Dereliction of Duty:

The Neighbourhood Plan is intended to ensure that lands are developed in a phased and sustainable manner and that the Town and its residents are included in the process of creating a sustainable neighbourhood that fits the existing form and character of the Town and the surrounding environment. The municipality has a legal and moral responsibility to act in the best interest of the community as a whole by upholding the values reflected in the OCP and by securing benefits on our behalf. Instead, Council has offered us a flawed and incomplete plan without any proven benefits to the Town and citizens.

 

What Isn’t Wrong with This Plan?

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