Squamish construction down 

With construction activity slowing, the recession has come to roust in Squamish - and, in a way, it's a good thing.

According to a new report released by the planning department, development permits in 2008 fell to 343, down from 755 the year before. Building permits, meanwhile, dropped to 156 from 352. The slowing trend began around the time of the economic crisis, said Cameron Chalmers, head of the planning department.

"There are still some projects getting financed," he added. "But the threshold is higher. Diligence is higher."

And yet for the planning department - very thinly stretched - fewer permits means more time to focus on policy. From the Official Community Plan to the Create the Oceanfront strategy, from the Community Energy Action Plan to the Downtown Neighbourhood Plan, there's no shortage of pressing policy to complete.

"We've got an extremely aggressive load of policy work," said Chalmers. "This is giving us a very important opportunity to get that work done before the markets pick up again at the end of this year or early next year."

In a presentation to council, Community Development Director Mick Gottardi sung a similar hymn, noting that September, October, November and December were dire months for developers.

"It's a very significant change of behaviour, and one we need to keep in mind for 2009," he said. "As council knows, the economic climate is different. And I think we have to be cautious when we're projecting revenue in our 2009 budget requests."

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