Squamoleans have every right to be impatient with the rate of progress on the Squamish Oceanfront project. After all, it has been in the works for a decade and the community is currently on the hook for something like $9.41 million and all it has to show for its trouble is a sub-area plan and assurances that a deal is in the works — we hope — before the end of 2014.
The sub-area plan, of course has value — but only if development of the 59-acre site that used to be home to the Nexen Chemicals plant actually takes place. It has value because it was developed and adopted by the previous council with considerable community input, a process designed to ensure that community amenities (parkland and a commercial component, not just more condos) were included.
When prospective District of Squamish/Squamish Oceanfront Development Corp. partner Qualex nixed a proposed memorandum of understanding on development of the then 40-acre site in 2006, the developer cited last-minute amendments to the MOU that it said were “substantially different” from what it had previously agreed to. It should be clear from that gut-wrenching experience that the process has to work not only for the community but also provide the promise of a healthy profits for the developers.
Fortunately, this time a basic development charette including the desired community amenities — the sub-area plan — were marketed to would-be developers as part and parcel of the land sale agreement. Unfortunately, those sorts of stipulations could also make the project a tougher sell, or at least one that requires greater due diligence on the part of the would-be private partners. It is, after all, a project with a lot more moving parts than the average 150-unit condo complex.
In March, SODC and DOS officials said a recent request for expressions of interest had attracted “worldwide interest” in the project. We were led to believe that partners might be named, and development might actually begin sometime this year.
Now, SODC officials say a sale should happen “well within two years” and that they’re confident SODC will be able to make its first debt principal payment before the current May 2014 deadline.
What about that earlier optimism? Be patient, we’re told. Sure, we’ve got some of that. But with so many delays and so much at stake, it’s running mighty thin.
— David Burke