Squamish Oceanfront comments released 

Feedback from the public launch of Squamish’s renewed Oceanfront planning process will be released to the public today, with highlights including public access to ocean shores, environmental protection and the need for gathering places.

“Truthfully, as you’re aware, we’ve done a lot community engagement,” said Cameron Chalmers, Squamish’s director of planning. “I can’t think of anything I’ve heard while I was there or that I read in the report that I would call a big surprise.”

What the comments do provide, Chalmers continued, is a “recipe book” to go forward with. The new plan will be submitted to council in spring 2009.

The comments come from some 300 people who attended the June 28 re-launch in Stan Clarke Park and visited various online portals, such as the one the district set up on Facebook.

In broad strokes, residents supported the principle of mixed-use development, which could see commercial and residential projects blended as one. While the report notes that not all people support the idea of housing on the Oceanfront, a good many see the peninsula contributing to Squamish’s affordable housing issues. However, there was a mix of views on actual building design, from density to height and style.

The June 28 event consisted of activities and placards, none of which initially highlighted the site’s mercury contamination issues. John Buchanan, a member of the Squamish Environmental Conservation Society, brought with him pages of a report detailing some of the damage, and he taped them to one of the placards. The issue was mentioned high up in the press release accompanying the new report.

“We are more than aware of it,” said Chalmers. “A significant amount of money has been spent there. There’s ongoing work that needs to be done, and the certificates of compliance have been issued for parts of the site. There are other corners of the site where certificates are needed. This is a brownfield site. That’s being handled.”

“It wasn’t something we highlighted on the boards,” agreed consultant Peter Whitelaw, “so we’re just looking at making sure we’re really clear on what that story is and what the impacts will be.”

Sustainable building principles also emerged as still more pronounced, though they’ve always been a major part of the vision. Along with consultant HB Lanarc, the district has been looking to such developments as Victoria’s Dockside Green, which was also built on previously contaminated land.

“What we’re going to try to do with the Oceanfront here is try and achieve as much we can from these other projects and try and achieve as many of our sustainability goals,” said Chalmers. “One of the questions we’re looking to explore is how far can we push to make this thing climate neutral.”

Public input will be gathered throughout the fall. Now that the broad strokes have been painted, the district will try and zero in on specifics, including land use.

The district is spearheading the new planning process, rather than in previous efforts that saw planning unfold haltingly.

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