Proposed changes to the huge South Britannia development have been deferred for one more month of consultations.
At the Squamish Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) board meeting on Monday (Aug. 26), the board was requested by staff to provide input on information regarding preliminary zoning and an Official Community Plan (OCP) amendment application by the proponent, Taicheng Development Corp.
Three key points were raised in a presentation at the Committee of the Whole on July 17, 2013 — the tripling of housing density in South Britannia from 1,000 units (as per the Area D OCP) to 3,000 units, the high proportion of apartment units (48 per cent) and whether or not Minaty Bay should remain in the OCP as park or have portions of the park redesignated for residential or hotel use.
Taicheng are now willing to leave the park as per the OCP, which was the preferred option by SLRD staff. The other two points, however, were contentious for the board given that the types of units and the mix were stepping away from what a recent market analysis suggests as desirable unit types.
Area C Director Susan Gimse said it was time to make some decisions.
“The vision that we developed, that we all support, the Regional Growth Strategies and our OCP documents, does have a number in it and the proponent could start working on that number right now,” Gimse said.
“(The proponent) has asked to go from that number to a bigger number, and in my mind that’s the conversation we should be having.”
Area D Director Mo Freitag, who represents Britannia Beach, was first to express his hesitation at giving direction on the number and types of units on the spot.
“At this point I would have to say I’m really uncomfortable giving a definitive answer as to how many units I would recommend a developer build,” Freitag said.
“We haven’t been to the public in quite a long time. I would like to see more information on things like water availability. We should be asking (the public) again what they want.”
Whistler Director Jack Crompton reiterated that the Taicheng development was the largest proposal that he had ever seen and that the board should not go forward without some comment from area representatives. Crompton made a motion that the Taicheng development be referred for comment to a committee made up by planning staffs from all SLRD member organizations.
“We have a huge amount of information right now that could be handed to a committee of people that could give a regional lens to this.”
Freitag said he was concerned about the timeline on when the board would expect an answer back. Directors Patricia Heintzman and Ted Craddock supported that, suggesting a finite timeline for the decision.
Squamish Director Rob Kirkham agreed with Crompton, highlighting that the amendment to the OCP is a public process that takes time.
“I appreciate that it’s an awful lot of money being invested into making an application for an OCP amendment, but I also say too bad,” Kirkham said.
“I don’t think I should be putting up my hand (and voting) at this stage of the game without getting an application for an amendment and going through the public process.”
The board adopted Crompton’s motion on the condition that the committee meet and report to SLRD staff by no later than Oct. 28.
The motion was disappointing news to the proponent.
“This slows us down completely,” said Ron Lea of Folio Architecture, the project’s architect.
“The Official Community Plan dates back to 1994, the Regional Growth Strategy was updated in 2008. (The RGS) also reflects where current thinking is in terms of compact communities, smart growth and sustainability. It’s the OCP that’s reflecting old ideas — single-family dwellings of five units per acre. We’re proposing something that’s more in the order of 12 to 15 units per acre.”
Lea said the density is key to the success of the community.
“We would like to have submitted (the OCP amendment) by now. The information has been available to the SLRD staff and to the directors. ”
Pipeline plan discussed
A delegation from Fortis B.C. presented to the board the company’s proposed Eagle Mountain-Woodfibre pipeline project, which would see the existing 52-kilometre pipeline from the Coquitlam watershed to Woodfibre twinned.
The current pipeline route around Squamish is out of date because of the community’s development over the past two decades and the current route would not be feasible to twin west of town. The new proposed route would run through the Squamish estuary.
Freitag questioned whether there would be jobs created with the pipeline construction, noting that that company brought in workers from elsewhere to build the Whistler-Squamish pipeline in 2007. Project Director Art Kanzaki said Fortis will strive to have earlier contractor involvement for sourcing labour locally and skill development of that labour.
“The balance is between finding the qualified resources and putting this together in a cost-competitive manner, then trying to find that optimum point that addresses such concerns that (Freitag) raised,” Kanzaki said.
Kirkham was curious about the public consultation plan for the project and whether a specific timeline was in place, noting that a lack of information leads to public speculation. Carol Greaves, Fortis community relations manager, said plan is to be presented in Coquitlam and Squamish in October. More open houses are planned next spring, she said.
‘They’re gouging us’: Heintzman
Kirkham is seeking an update from SLRD staff on what can be done about the appearance that the regional transit tax is being applied to areas in the Sea to Sky Corridor.
“I think we should be going to the Province and trying to approach them again to organize something for the area. We’re being charged higher fuel prices than Vancouver Island,” he told the board.
The goal would be for that Transit Tax to be directed back into the community much like the hotel tax.
“They’re gouging us, pure and simple,” Heintzman said of the two-cent-per-litre price difference compared to the Lower Mainland.
“Even if we could figure out some cost sharing, at least it would be going into transit, public funds and infrastructure.”
The board resolved to come up with a strategy to approach provincial officials, including liaising with the local MLA Jordan Sturdy