Signal Hill looking to avoid costs 

Developers assume no dyke funding is coming

Developers of the Signal Hill neighbourhood assume there's no public funding coming for dyke improvements and are proceeding accordingly.

Building the neighbourhood of approximately 1,000 homes is contingent on improvements to a dyke that traverses the property. Authorities currently feel the dyke isn't safe and over $1 million is thus needed to improve it.

Some months back the Pemberton Valley Dyking District applied to the provincial government for a grant through the Building Canada program that would pay for 90 per cent of improvements, with developers Bruce van Mook and Garth Phare making up the balance.

The results of Building Canada applications were recently announced, with money coming to the Village of Pemberton to build its bike park and skate park but there was no mention of anything for the Dyking District.

Signal Hill's developers now say they are committed to paying for the necessary dyke improvements but they want concessions from the Village.

Van Mook sent an e-mail to the Village prior to a Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday that said he and his partner would be willing to pay for improvements to the dyke, as well as a bus staging area, park, community garden and a bridge over Pemberton Creek.

In exchange they don't want to pay a Community Amenity Charge and they want these improvements to come in place of Development Cost Charges, which could currently cost them about $2 million.

Speaking to council at the Tuesday meeting, he said the project "cannot progress on a maybe," meaning he couldn't wait to see if any funding would come from the government and that he'd have to look at other options.

Councillor Susie Gimse tried to assuage his concerns about Build Canada, telling him that not all the funding had been given out yet.

"Only 25 per cent has been awarded," she said. "There still is a significant amount of money to be awarded. The question is, that funding I believe, I'm not too sure what percentage of that funding has been awarded to date, it might be worth looking into."

Van Mook then went on to say the Community Amenity Charge isn't something the developers can do and that they do, in fact, hope improvements to the dyke and the four amenities can function as credit towards the Village's development cost charge.

"In order to get us to fourth reading and beyond so we move the development forward, we need to talk about what options are on the table so that we can cost it out and see that it works, that it fits what we call our cost envelope per unit," he said.

Van Mook went on to say that the community amenity charge hasn't been leveled against other developments in the village and he wants the same treatment. The charge is only leveled against properties that require a rezoning bylaw but not to developments that already have their zoning.

The Signal Hill developers nevertheless don't think it should apply to them - and that proved a sticking point for council because changing the precedent around community amenity charges could require a policy change, according to Mayor Jordan Sturdy.

"(If) we're throwing the community amenity charge out the window, that's a policy decision that may have to be amended or considered," he said.

The developers left with council considering the options they put forward.

Council then entertained a small update on discussions around the Regional Growth Strategy, which was recently the subject of an Elected Officials Forum that was a veritable who's who of Sea to Sky politicians.

Most members of councils in the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District attended to discuss their issues with the strategy, which some politicians believe could undermine the autonomy of municipalities in making decisions around land use.

As it stands, the strategy could require unanimous approval by all municipalities and adjacent regional districts if any one of them were to entertain a major amendment to the document. Major amendments could include big land use decisions like the GEMS school or Garibaldi at Squamish, but no one is certain at present what constitutes a major amendment.

The District of Squamish was first to sound an alarm about the strategy when it became the region's first municipality to reject the document.

Pemberton Council received a small memo from Regional District planner, Lisa Griffith, that outlined the changes that Squamish is seeking to the controversial strategy. It wants member municipalities to prepare "Regional Context Statements" that clarify the relationships between Official Community Plans and the Regional Growth Strategy.

It also wants a requirement that municipalities consult with the regional district if they make any changes to the strategy or to community plans.

Gimse noted that the province is "not happy" that communities in the Sea to Sky region are "fiddling around" with the Regional Growth Strategy.



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