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Squamish fast-tracks temporary Olympic bus depot

No opposition to temporary commercial use permit


With no public opposition Squamish Council unanimously approved a temporary commercial use permit for a series of lots on the corner of Queens Way and Industrial Way that will house roughly 130 buses during the 2010 Olympics.

As well, the application included facilities for washing and refueling buses, security, a lounge and food and beverage service for drivers. There is also a park and ride lot with stalls for 212 vehicles that can be used by Olympic workers, volunteers and spectators.

There was a public comment period attached to the permit, but other than a request for clarification there was no opposition to the application.

According to District of Squamish planner Chris Bishop the landowner had already undertaken paving and other work with the understanding that it was at his own risk and expense if the permit was not accepted. Otherwise he said the temporary permit - which expires at the end of May 2010 - meets all district regulations, including environmental considerations.

"The lighting, noise control and waste management objectives are spelled out, as well as compliance with the anti-idling bylaw," he said. "VANOC is eager to comply with the interest of being the cleanest Games ever."

As well, the site will include measures to prevent against any fuel spills, and the permit mandates soil sampling after the Games to ensure that there is no contamination that might require mediation.

Duncan Lowe, who has a unit next to the site, had a question regarding the number of buses and the peak times for travel. Bishop explained that roughly 70 buses will leave the area in the morning, starting at 6 a.m., and roughly 45 buses in the evening. Traffic will otherwise be steady through the day outside of peak periods.

The permit application was passed unanimously, with Councillor Corinne Lonsdale reminding people that the site includes temporary jobs for the community and that opportunities to work at the site will be posted this week.


Anthem compromise wins council praise

Council praised Anthem Properties and local stakeholders for reaching a consensus on proposed landscaping on municipal lands that allow the property to be seen from the highway.

The issue came to a head at the Nov. 3 regular council meeting after a lengthy debate over the wording of a previous application - and whether the proponent meant to consult with stakeholder groups before moving ahead. In the end council voted to defer any authorization until stakeholders have had their say.

That ruling prompted the developer to sit down with stakeholders, namely representatives from the Squamish Trails Society, the Squamish River and Watershed Society, the local Streamkeepers chapter and the Squamish Environmental Conservation Society, and hammer out a new agreement for the narrow stretch of municipally-owned land.

The new agreement will thin the existing vegetation in some areas while cutting some other sections and planting grass and vegetation to provide view corridors onto the property from the highway. It will also protect the Discovery Trail, which will be paved and upgraded by the proponent. Other trails will branch off onto the property.

The site in question is located on 39400 Discovery Way and will include a new Holiday Inn Express that is nearing completion, plus another eight acres where two restaurants, retail and other commercial space is planned. The site is zoned as Specialized Highway Commercial despite the fact that the land does not border the highway, and the proponents insist that the property and businesses need to be seen from the highway right of way to attract passing vehicle traffic.

"I want to congratulate everyone in the process," said Mayor Greg Gardner. "It's been lengthy and it's a unique outcome in my experience driving along commercial properties in North America (that so much vegetation was kept)... It's an attractive frontage and people will notice that."

Council approved the plan unanimously. It will now require the approval of the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans to move ahead, as the property also includes a waterway.


Warehouse application derailed by OCP

Squamish Council found itself in the awkward position of being asked to give the first two readings to a proposed warehouse development along Government Road that is currently zoned for "light industrial," but which has been identified in the new Official Community Plan (OCP) as residential. Since the amended OCP has not been officially adopted as a bylaw, District of Squamish staff were compelled to move the project forward.

Given the amount of public opposition to the warehouse proposal Councillor Paul Lalli said he could not support the staff recommendation to give the application its first two readings.

"Primarily because we went through an extensive OCP review and we did designate that area as residential," said Lalli, explaining that they looked at the history of the area before reaching a decision. "This neighbourhood made it very clear they want to protect that area as residential and based on that I cannot support the recommendation."

Councillor Corinne Lonsdale went one step further and tabled a motion to refuse the recommendation, which eventually was passed.

Councillor Doug Race echoed Lalli's sentiments, but also questioned whether the site, adjacent to the rail yards and the West Coast Railway Heritage Park, was really suitable for residential development.

Mayor Greg Gardner opposed Lonsdale's motion for that reason.

"For me it is quite clear it's more appropriate to industrial use," he said. "There is industrial land to the south, the railway, across the way is more industrial land..."

Gardner added that the area by the tracks has also been rezoned in the OCP to heavy industrial, which means more truck traffic in the area in the future.

"At least I would like to go to a public hearing, which is why I'm opposing the motion."

Patricia Heintzman backed the mayor in opposing the motion if it meant having a public hearing.

Lonsdale said that was not necessary.

"I'm opposed to having people reorganize themselves and get another petition with 200 names... we've been there not even a year ago here in council chambers. It's not fair to ask them to do it again."