Notes from the end game 

The last maneuvers of Squamish council

With pockets empty and responsibilities many, the Squamish Oceanfront Development Corporation (SODC) secured a vital $500,000 after the outgoing council passed a motion to borrow on the subsidiary’s behalf.

“I would just like to make a comment that I have concerns — as do we all — about the money we’re borrowing and investing in this property,” said Councillor Corinne Lonsdale, who usually frowns on the district taking loans to pay for operations. “I’d just like to say that this time we have to accept the $500,000.”

Pacific Western Bank will lend the dollars, which Director of Planning Cameron Chalmers said is enough to carry day-to-day operations through to the end of the current planning process, a district-led initiative that composes itself through public and stakeholder input. However, Chalmers noted that the pace of planning could be affected by peninsula landowners pulled taut by current market pressures.

Outgoing Councillor Raj Kahlon was unimpressed. “$500,000 is not going to cut it,” he said. “And that’s my opinion.”

The daily costs of operating the Oceanfront lands are roughly $2,000. After a number of false starts, the district this year assumed control of peninsula planning under the auspices of Create the Oceanfront, which is being framed as the definitive approach to developing those lands. Though a master plan is not yet established, the general consensus calls for an equal division between commercial, residential and civic land uses.

However, the ongoing effort is not without controversy, be it site contamination from the area’s industrial past or competing visions for detailed land use. The process figured large throughout the election campaign, with some candidates fearing a return to heavy industry, others seeking to define both light and marine industrial business opportunities, and SODC chair Tom Bruusgaard saying that the board would consider any land use proposal.


Gimme shelter

Something sketchy this way comes, and Michael Hutchison doesn’t know how else to put it.

“I don’t know how much development is coming to Squamish next year,” said the president of Bethel Lands Corporation in an effort to gain support for a purpose-built rental housing strategy.

According to Hutchison, construction jobs will soon thin, though they won’t likely leave a legacy of truly affordable housing, and the situation is prime for so-called P3 partnerships. Hutchison would like to strengthen a financial proposal to the province with moral support from council. There’s a $10 million fund that developers can leverage through successful applications filed before Nov. 30.

“What I would like from council is a letter of support,” he said.

He’d also like development cost charges (DCCs) deferred for 15 years, a move he said would enter the district into a true partnership scenario. Without district support, said Hutchison, B.C. Housing will not come to the table.

“Usually, municipalities don’t have to put in cash and they don’t like to put in land, so usually they put in something — and that’s a deference of DCCs.”

Hutchison claimed his project would generate $8 million in economic activity. Further, it would provide housing options for lower income brackets.

“What we’ve never been able to find is a way to reach this lower bracket,” he said. “So purpose built rental housing is designed to hit that target. That’s who we’re trying to get to.”

Council approved support, but, in the absence of a more holistic picture, made it conditional. The new council, which takes power in December, will have to seek additional information. The district’s affordable housing strategy, which was slated for adoption on last week’s agenda, was also deferred to the incoming council.

“That was a quick punch,” said Councillor and Mayor-elect Greg Gardner.


Go forth and study

After a long hiatus from obvious district attention, Garibaldi at Squamish (G@S) once again came through council chambers, as a long-awaited impact study was commissioned.

“The issue of a socio-economic impact study has been a long-standing issue,” said Chief Administrative Officer Kim Anema.

However, a call for proposals only produced one pitch. MMK Consulting Inc. was awarded the contract. Last February, G@S agreed to fund the study, and the district has spearheaded the development of terms of reference. The study is supposed to address a number of shortcomings in materials submitted to the Environmental Assessment Office.

MMK Consulting bills the study at $173,575. G@S has so far pitched in $100,000, but the district won’t fully commit to the study until the remaining funds are transferred.

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