Draft policy on Oceanfront to go public 

Weighty document lays out long-awaited plan

The north will bear fruit before the south; waste will be managed in three streams; the rule of thirds is eroding; and the role of industry continues to vex - these issues and more will come before the public March 26 as the District of Squamish (DOS) unveils its long awaited Oceanfront Draft Policy Statement and concept designs.

"We're getting to a point where we're starting to have material that will stimulate some real discussion," said Director of Planning Cameron Chalmers at a Monday afternoon committee of the whole meeting. "The interest in this seems to be picking up. There seems to be a sense of urgency."

Chalmers was joined by consultants Peter Whitelaw and Rob Barrs. Members of council congregated around them, a series of documents stacked amid the elbows and coffee cups. The draft policy is 85 pages long, said Whitelaw, and it will eventually be finalized in a sub-area plan for the industrialized husk that is the peninsula.

"Some of these policies will be specific and very fixed," he said, "and some will be loose and more flexible, recognizing that we don't even know what the situation will be in five, 10, 15 or 20 years."

That timeframe, combined with the town's increasing employment pressures, led some councillors back into the debate on what types of industry could take root in the area. So far in the planning process, a rule of thirds approach has been top of mind, with land use divided equally between residential, commercial and civic or parks. According to public feedback, however, a desire for increased job lands is taking hold. To that end, Councillor Doug Race sought to free up policy language to allow for a broader scope of industry.

"In the policy statement that we received, it states that it does not support heavy industrial use," he said. "I don't know where the dividing line is between light and heavy. Is that intended to be cast in stone? Or is it possible to consider a use that might be on the heavy industrial side of the line provided it can mix with the rest of the peninsula?"

According to Chalmers, any industrial use will have fit with its neighbours. Further, certain design features may accommodate certain uses, such as an arterial road separating two types of land use. He also said building design will ease some of the scars associated with industry, as architecture, regardless of land use, will be inviting.

Council directed staff to ease off the light and heavy terminology, instead tooling a description that forbids industry with, for example, noxious fumes.

With the north expected to reach development before the south, there was also a suggestion of permitting temporary industrial uses in certain areas of the peninsula, then removing them as the sub-area plan reaches farther south.

Among the clearest of public desires is that of environmentally sustainable development. The Cattermole Slough has been showcased by local environmentalists as a potential victim of the district's transportation plan, which would feed vehicles into the development. Council said nothing has been decided regarding the slough, and residents are encouraged to voice their views. Three-stream waste is also on the agenda, as is wetlands protection. The policy statement calls for a minimum of LEED Silver, which is the middle of a three-stage green building continuum.

"LEED Silver in my mind is kind of superficial," said Councillor Patricia Heintzman. "It's window dressing and you get a little plaque, but really it's not achieving anything significant because you don't even have to address energy to get a LEED Silver."

Whitelaw said LEED Gold, which requires energy standards, is simply too expensive for developers to consistently achieve. He added, however, that initiatives like neighbourhood energy utilities will lessen the footprint caused by the trade-off.

Trade-offs contribute to the development's guiding theme. The public has called for a number of civic amenities, whether parks, walkways or some kind of showcase building. If those are delivered, then higher density buildings will be tolerated. Four to eight storeys are what's considered, with those buildings proposed in a number of different arrangements to respect different view corridors.

"There have been discussions about some kind of extension of the peninsula to the south," referring to a popular community proposal to build a second kind of spit for kite boarders. "It's almost inevitable that if there was a continuation it would have some kind of commercial element to pay for it. It's a simple reality. If we're going to give people a heads up. If there's something out there, it won't be just for windsurfing."

The public will also be given a chance to rename Nexen Beach.

"I think we're there in terms of going to the public with design types and plans," said Mayor Greg Gardner. "I think we've come a long way in the planning process. I think we've defined some important principles, particularly with respect to employment use."

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