This week, Squamish marks two significant anniversaries. Today through Sunday (Oct. 17 to 19) is the 10-year anniversary of the 2003 flood, and Sunday marks seven years since Qualex-Landmark pulled the plug on the memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the District of Squamish to develop the oceanfront land.
The flood, of course, taught us that we can’t let down our guard when it comes to flood-hazard protection. We need to be as prepared as we can be — both in terms of infrastructure and of emergency preparedness — to prevent loss of life and property.
The lessons learned in the Qualex-Oceanfront affair were far more stinging. In fact, some of us may have forgotten that a mere two weeks after Qualex nixed the MOU that council had amended in a 4-3 vote at the 11th hour, a group calling itself Citizens Oceanfront approached Qualex and Squamish council, hat in hand, seeking to rekindle the discussion. Qualex president Roger Navabi said the company was flattered but that the council “had supported something completely different to what was agreed to.”
The lesson — that you don’t make significant changes to a plan at the 11th hour — should be all too fresh in the minds of our town’s leaders as they pursue a new deal with a different developer.
It’s not surprising, though, that many are still skeptical that development of the 59-acre property will ever take place — or if it does, it will either a) bankrupt the community or b) fail to kick-start the transformation of the downtown peninsula into an attractive place to live, work, shop and play. The latter is, after all, a pretty big order to fill. But that’s the vision that’s been spelled out by the community and successive councils.
Some will argue that last week’s selection development partners for the oceanfront is merely a prelude to more disappointment. Certainly, it’s surprising that it has taken seven years to get back to this point, and that it took 18 months from the issuance of a request for expressions of interest to announce a preferred development team.
It’s expected to take another few months for the two groups to negotiate a land-sale agreement and kick-start development. While we’d all love to see the process move a bit more swiftly, it seems that in both flood-hazard mitigation and major, publicly driven land developments, slow and steady wins the race.
— David Burke