In 2008, the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District — after five years of work by district staff and directors representing its four member municipalities and four rural electoral areas — adopted something called the Regional Growth Strategy.
Not surprisingly, the word “sustainable” is used a lot in the first few pages. In fact, Goal No. 1 of the strategy reads, “Focus development into compact, complete, sustainable communities.” The introduction takes an excerpt from B.C.’s Local Government Act in asserting that the strategy’s purpose is to “promote human settlement that is socially, economically and environmentally healthy and that makes efficient use of public facilities and services, land and other resources.”
Those are fine words, ones that clearly allude to the principles of “smart growth,” which Wikipedia defines as “an urban planning and transportation theory that concentrates growth in compact, walkable urban centres to avoid sprawl.”
We’d say the Squamish Oceanfront development plan fits that description. It’s “brownfield” development near an existing urban centre that could, if done properly, enhance prospects for the existing community’s long-term future.
The development of some 1,000 homes planned (but not yet built) at Porteau Cove? Not so much. The plan by a Chinese company to develop some 3,000 homes and a commercial area in the southern part of Britannia Beach? Even less so. Yes, it’s also “brownfield.” But clearly, those 8,000 residents won’t all find employment in Britannia Beach, which means that by and large they will — like a lot of people who live in Squamish already — commute to work somewhere in the corridor, most likely Vancouver. Sprawl, anyone?
But right now those other mostly residential developments have something the Squamish Oceanfront doesn’t — namely, investors willing to put up money to make them happen. Perhaps — just perhaps — that will change in the coming months, if and when a developer willing to take a chance on the Oceanfront steps forward. Either way, given the current climate in Squamish and vicinity — that any sort of investment in our community has to be a good thing — it’s likely that when the South Britannia developers come forward with their plans in early 2013, they’ll be welcomed with open arms.
And the high-sounding words contained in those regional planning documents our public officials worked so hard to draw up and adopt will be just that: words.
— David Burke