Squamish Oceanfront Development Corporation (SODC) officials need to hammer in a “sold” sign on the community's most discussed waterfront by May. If they don't, they'll miss their first debt repayment deadline.
Last year marked a change in course for the arm's-length District of Squamish subsidiary that manages 59 acres of the community's oceanfront. At council's direction, officials stopped working on land improvements and focused on selling the property, SODC board member Greg Smyth said.
As a result, spending on property development fell from $2.19 million in 2011 to $850,012 last year. The SODC also hired international real estate company Cushman and Wakefield to market the property.
“If we hadn't [shifted direction] we would have spent lots of money getting the bylaws approved,” he said.
The SODC's overall bill sits at approximately $9.41 million, which includes environmental cleanup of the former wood treatment chemical plant and the cost of creating an overall plan with the community. The debt is secured by the property itself, with the loan's first principal payment of $3 million due on May 5, 2014.
“We hope to have a sale by that date,” Smyth said. When questioned whether the SODC was currently in negotiations, Smyth noted it was confidential and he couldn't say.
Even if officials extend that deadline, the SODC's money would likely dry up within two years. Last year the corporation bumped up its line of credit from $9 million to $11 million, while reducing the municipality's guarantee against the debt from $9 million to $8 million.
In 2012, the SODC spent approximately $1 million. If officials continue down that path their piggy bank will be empty by the end of 2014.
“The sale should happen well within two years,” Smyth said.
A large chunk of the project's annual list of expenses is interest — $287,963. Ongoing monitoring and treatment of the former industrial site costs an estimated $60,000 per year. The expenses dropped drastically since the SODC was treating the area for pollutants, SODC chair Bill McNeney said.
“We haven't had to turn on the pumps in two years,” he said of the chemical levels that trigger treatment.
Groundwater monitoring for contaminations from the property's former industrial uses will be a part of any sale negotiation, McNeney said.
In March 2013, SODC officials reported “worldwide interest” in the mixed-use development and said they next planned to sit down and evaluate potential development partners. Project manager Jonathan Silcock said at the time that the objective was to start work as soon as possible, perhaps sometime this year.
The process has taken longer than expected as potential proponents asked for extensions and SODC officials required clarifications on agreement terms, McNeney said. Officials have also run into challenges with people being away on vacation, he noted.
SODC officials had aimed to have a package to show district officials in July. That’s been pushed back to September, McNeney said.
“We are still happy that it is moving along,” he noted.