LTC sends Vortex plan to APC

Heated discourse at public Islands Trust meeting

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Even though the proponent of a development on the former Fulford Inn site did not get what he asked for at last Tuesday’s Salt Spring Local Trust Committee meeting, trustees urged him to stick with the process to see the property revitalized.

South-end resident David Fullbrook, who is the developer behind The Vortex concept, was clearly frustrated with his Trust experience so far when his development variance permit application was being discussed at the public meeting at the Harbour House Hotel.

He was critical of a 111-page staff report that he did not have an opportunity to see and discuss with staff before it was submitted to trustees for consideration.

“Fundamentally about this report and the flaw of this report is that any developer who is in this business awhile is going to try to seek some kind of cooperative understanding with the planning authority and try to find a way to bridge gaps and compromise and mitigate and find agreement, and this report is not a reflection of that process,” he said.

Report-writer Shelley Miller recommended against issuing the DVP for several reasons, ranging from septic system location to the proposed number of signs to the size of the accommodation units.

Fullbrook said he felt “sandbagged” by the report and maintains that most of the issues could have been resolved before the report came to the meeting, but he was not given a chance to do that. He also said Trust staff want him to rezone the property, which would be a much lengthier process than the variance to the existing Commercial Accommodation 2 and Rural zoning he is seeking.

The Vortex envisions construction of 17 commercial guest accommodation units, a restaurant, three units for retail sales and a public gathering space for concerts, events or markets on the high-profile property that once housed the Fulford Inn at the head of Fulford Harbour.

Fullbrook, who is an experienced developer as the principal and founder of Merchant House Capital, said he wants to create a heart for the south-end community again and a place that tells Salt Spring’s various stories, but he has lost faith in the Islands Trust’s process.

“How do you expect us to continue investing in this process when we’ve been through three planners, and we’ve been upset all the way along and then when the final report is issued it is so inaccurate?” he asked LTC chair Peter Luckham, who was encouraging the applicant to work with staff to resolve outstanding issues and questions during their heated exchange.

Both trustees Peter Grove and Laura Patrick said they wanted to see the site developed, but needed more information and assurances on topics such as First Nations consultation and sea-level rise adaptation before proceeding.

“I only see opportunity here, not failure,” said Patrick.

“This is a big project,” said Luckham. “It is not going to be easy and straightforward.”

The LTC moved to refer the question of accessory uses and the proposed accommodation unit sizes to its Advisory Planning Commission for advice.

He urged the applicant to work with staff to resolve the other outstanding issues and address trustees’ concerns.

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