Oceanfront presents first progress report 

DOS secures long term financing for Squamish Oceanfront Development Corporation

As per their new agreement with the District of Squamish (DOS), the Squamish Oceanfront Development Corporation (SODC) presented its first monthly planning process update at a Committee of the Whole meeting last week, covering the period from March 23 to May 5.

The agents responsible for developing the plan, Ground Control Enterprises and GroundEffects Development, spent the past five weeks reviewing plans, reports, studies and other documents related to the project, which encompasses 60 hectares of land on Howe Sound that is slated for a mix of residential and commercial development as well as new parks and public spaces that complement arts and culture, knowledge-based industries, new attractions, and tourism and recreation.

An infrastructure consultant has been retained to review the relevant documents, including community feedback, which will be presented in a SODC "Step 1 Report" that should be complete by May 23.

The agents also implemented a business development plan.

One aspect of the plan required action from council on Monday, as the underwriter of the planning process. At a special meeting on Monday council approved loans of up to $4.2 million for the project, which will be set against the estimated $500 million value of the development. DOS staff recently recommended an increase from the original loan of $2.5 million to include debt, the increase in property value and other considerations.

Part of the reason for the monthly reports is so council and staff can review how that money is being spent, and the DOS reserved the right to cancel the contract at any time if they feel the money is being spent unwisely.

The business plan project budget is $880,000, which falls between the $600,000 to $1 million estimated at the start of the process. Approximately two thirds of that covers consultant costs, with the remaining third covering the project team costs.

Council approves five-year financial plan

After weeks of intense meetings Squamish council at last gave fourth reading to an amended financial plan that allows for an across the board property tax increase of 2.9 per cent - far less than the 17.5 per cent increase first proposed by staff, and more than the four per cent decrease recommended by the Finance Standing Committee.

According to the District of Squamish, an average single family home assessed at $451,652 will see a 4.7 per cent increase worth $76.54. A strata unit assessed at $288,826 will see a 2.8 per cent increase of $29.97. An average business property assessed at $526,177 - down significantly from the previous year - will see a decrease of 2.67 per cent and will pay $142.72 less.

The total operating budget for the District of Squamish in 2009 is $23,350,490.

This is the first time in many years that council has unanimously approved a budget.

Squamish council endorses trail planning

On Monday Squamish Council endorsed the start of a Trails Master Plan process, beginning with a series of workshops to draw up the terms of reference, scope of work and a timeline for the project.

Council directed staff to make the plan a priority in April, with the goal of adopting a completed Trails Master Plan by fall of 2009.

The plan will include recommendations for commuter trails, the Sea to Sky Trail and recreational trails on public lands with a focus on access, outdoor recreation for locals and visitors, and economic development.

The council workshop will include a review of existing plans and documents at all levels of government, as well as research from other jurisdictions. It also involves the creation of a steering committee or stakeholder working group to develop a draft policy that can be put forward for discussion and consideration. The public is a stakeholder in the process, and will be consulted as the plan is developed 

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