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A process that sticks?

Renewed Oceanfront strategy trundles into next phase

It seems an odd quality for a thing so commonplace, but the sticky note can be the seat of some pretty powerful phenomena. For the Squamish planning department, sticky notes have factored into the renewed communications strategy informing development of oceanfront peninsula, a process called Create the Oceanfront.

Dana-Marie Battaglia has faith in the sticky. She saw it in action when the process launched in June. Residents ambled around a tent in Stan Clarke Park, some sitting with consultants, others pouring over placards.

“That was awesome, sitting with the consultant, and it’s cool to come back and see the things people were talking about laid out.”

Last week, during a second public house on the Oceanfront, the sticky was again in use. This new process is district-led, something Director of Planning Cameron Chalmers can’t stress enough, especially given the on-and-off planning history of the area.

“The community ought to have faith and participate and express themselves clearly as much as they want to through the district,” he said before a presentation last week.

Chalmers will be before council in January, when he’ll present some targets and the skeleton of a policy, and the sticky fruits of these open houses will factor into his department’s presentation. Backing that up will be opinions reaped from the Create the Oceanfront homepage and Facebook site, as well as insights gathered from a series of stakeholder workshops.

“Over the coming weeks, we’ll be working on developing a kitchen table workbook,” said Chalmers. “People can go to the site, take material and talk to their families, talk to their friends, take it to the office.”

No decisions have yet been made, but land use will be mixed; some combination of residential, commercial and civic. Previous policy statements have called for an even split between the three, and, while not yet a guarantee, that balance appeals to some residents.

“As long as there’s a synergy between the three — and there’s no reason there can’t be — then I think it can work,” said resident and Squamish Terminals manager Doug Hackett. “I’d hate to see it become all one of any of the three.”

At this stage, that seems an unlikely possibility. Chalmers said the community, despite its new residents and shifting character, seems committed to a vision fundamentally similar to the one proposed four years ago, though the desire for employment lands has grown somewhat.

“It became exceedingly clear that that needed to be front and centre,” said Chalmers. “But over the past four years, there’s been an increasingly strong desire to see municipal amenities.”

To balance those amenities, whether public parks or buildings, a residential component is crucial. “There’s a financial reality,” continued Chalmers, “and we need a mix of land use.”

Erstwhile town councillor Sonia Lebans is wise to that reality. “If we can convince people of a couple higher buildings — that would give us more space,” she said. “To me, it’s a people’s place, and there’s many ways to you can do that.”

To be stressed in all this, said Chalmers, is that the district is leading the process. As such, connectivity between residents, council and staff plays an integral role. Battaglia has faith in the process.

“I think this is the one,” she said.

Hackett, meanwhile, is a little more cautious.

“I’m going to see how it plays out.”