The developer behind the Paradise Trails project said he was “absolutely shocked” back on July 24 when he learned that a District of Squamish (DOS) staff report was recommending that fourth and final reading on the proposal be defeated at that evening's council meeting.
After Tuesday's (Sept. 4) vote to pass fourth and final reading on rezoning and Official Community Plan amendments left him feeling “elated,” Michael Goodman admitted there were conversations that led to the item being pulled from the July 24 agenda. But he declined to reveal anything about the nature of those conversations.
Asked whether a lawsuit was threatened, leading to DOS officials' sudden about-face on the 82-lot subdivision and equestrian centre in the Paradise Valley that has been in the DOS development-approval hopper for five years, Goodman said emphatically, “Absolutely not.”
The controversial project received third reading, with conditions, from a previous council way back in 2008. Since then Goodman and his planning staff have been back and forth with district staff countless times in attempts to meet those conditions.
The process has been contentious. Goodman has more than once gone to the media to complain that DOS staff, which in 2008 recommended against third reading, was making things unnecessarily difficult and costly for the developer. DOS officials responded back then that they were merely doing their due diligence in mitigating any impacts from the project.
On Tuesday, Goodman said that while he's gratified to see some at municipal hall push to make the approval process less onerous, “I think there are some real issues with how these things are dealt with in Squamish.”
Goodman admitted that mitigation work — specifically the location of a berm that's needed to safeguard the one- and two-acre estate lots and accompanying structures from flooding — remains. He declined to say when construction on the project might begin, insisting that it depends on how quickly those details can get worked out.
Alluding to the amount of effort it has taken for he and his partners to get this far, “we've got staying power” to see the project through, he said.
In voting to approve it, some lawmakers admitted they still have reservations about the project.
Coun. Patricia Heintzman said that in reading the smart-growth provisions in the district's OCP, she found “small areas” where Paradise Trails is in alignment but others where it is not.
“I still think it's a bit of a fool's errand, this whole development, but I am going to vote in favour of it while holding my nose,” Heintzman said.
After the unanimous vote in favour of the project, Heintzman admitted that mistakes were made during the process.
“I think we should look back on this and almost do a post-mortem because we should never have a project take this long. We should never approve third reading on something with this many conditions.
“I've always supported the equestrian side of this, but I have other concerns about this and there's no question that we can do it better.”
Public safety issues have long been among the concerns with the development. The property is prone to flooding, comes with a high wildfire risk and has a single road access route, the July 24 staff report stated. It also requires its own water and sewage treatment facilities.
Coun. Doug Race voiced concerns about a potential for a natural disaster to put area residents at risk and said there's still work to be done in that regard. But he said he was voting in favour because he believes third reading represents “agreement in principle.”
Coun. Ron Sander said the project could offer “something we don't have in Squamish” at the moment.
Those in Squamish’s equestrian community were excited when the project first came forward five years ago, Coun. Ted Prior said. “Five years later, there’s still excitement among the equestrian community and I’m looking forward to seeing this,” he said.