Squamish could see construction begin on one of the town’s first supportive housing developments as early as next summer.
On Tuesday (Nov. 6), the Squamish United Church and Sea to Sky Community Services Society’s (SSCS) proposal to develop five downtown lots into a new church and community services building received unanimous support for first and second reading by the District of Squamish council.
The building, called Centrepoint, slated to be built at Fourth Avenue and Victoria Street, would include a community hall, three storeys of SSCS offices, program rooms and eight supportive housing units for people with developmental disabilities. Down the road, the facility would have the option of expanding to incorporate a fourth and fifth storey for more social housing, said Peter Gordon, chair of the United Church’s board of trustees.
Four years’ worth of planning has been poured into the project, he said. Proponents aim for the centre to be one of the foundation projects of downtown Squamish, Gordon told council.
“This is one of those nights that has been a long time coming,” he said.
The centre will consolidate some of SSCS’s 13 different facilities throughout the Sea to Sky Corridor, saving the society money and increasing service efficiency, said Lois Wynne, the organization’s executive director. The society currently spends $200,000 a year on rent in four different downtown locations, she noted.
“This building is an opportunity to create some sustainability. It allows more flexibility in how we serve our community,” she told The Chief, noting possessing assets will aid the society in gaining financial independence.
The social housing units will range from studios to one- and two-bedroom units. Many different Squamish organizations are currently seeking supportive housing in the community, but the project unfortunately won’t be able to accommodate them, Wynne said.
“It is impossible to do it all at once,” she said. “Eight units isn’t going to do it for what the need is.”
Differing hours of the facility’s use by user groups and shared parking allow the site to meet the municipal bylaw parking requirements for both the proposed three-storey and future five-storey building, stated a development services report to council. A total of 33 spaces will be provided on site, more stalls than are currently available on the property, Gordon said.
“We are building in an awful lot of bicycle space,” he told The Chief.
Although district staff recommended that council approve the proposal’s first two readings and move the project to a public hearing, district planner Elaine Naisby said the proposed facility’s traffic will impact the local neighbourhood. Municipal staff have heard adjacent residents’ concerns regarding sightlines, building height and on-street parking.
“Another concern is noise during the day, particularly from the daycare,” Naisby said.
Coun. Susan Chapelle, who lives behind the proposed project, said she wants to see the centre go ahead, as it would provide multiple benefits to the community.
“If you are living downtown, you have to expect density,” she said.
The public hearing on the project is set for Tuesday, Nov. 20, at 7 p.m. at municipal hall.