Regional directors this week signaled to the company proposing to build 3,000 residential units in southern Britannia Beach that they may not have the appetite for a project that size.
The company, though, appears willing to prepare a revised proposal that will meet the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) board's stipulations.
At their monthly board meeting in Pemberton on Monday (Oct. 28), directors voted to tell Taicheng Development Corp. to put a formal proposal in front of the SLRD board that doesn't require an amendment to the Area D Official Community Plan (OCP) so the board can meaningfully discuss the future of the land.
The current OCP calls for up to 1,000 residential units in southern Britannia Beach. Taicheng, which owns a 500-acre site formerly known as the Makin Lands, is seeking an OCP amendment to allow for a 3,000-unit, mixed-use development, but has not yet submitted a formal proposal to the board.
On Monday, at least two municipal directors voiced concern about the size of the proposal. Whistler director Jack Crompton and Squamish Mayor Rob Kirkham made it clear they want the SLRD board to stick with limits placed on South Britannia in the current OCP.
“I think we should convey to the proponent that we are OK with receiving an application but it should adhere to our OCP and that we're not interested at this time in entertaining an OCP amendment,” Kirkham said.
“I have concerns that a proposal of this size will cause concerns for both the proposal and the existing projects that are ready to go ahead or at certain stages of approval in Squamish.”
Crompton said he'd like to see future development focused in established communities like Squamish.
“I'm not in support of amending the OCP to allow for growth in a location that could potentially damage a very important municipality within our regional district,” said Crompton.
“I'm not in support of amending the OCP to allow for growth in a location that could potentially damage a very important municipality within our regional district.”
Added Kirkham, “I think growth like this should be directed toward established and complete communities and I'm quite concerned that all these aspects and pieces of this puzzle… any combination or number of them are enough to cause this project to fail.”
On Friday, Taicheng spokesperson Mary Chen emailed a brief statement to The Chief indicating a willingness to work within the 1,000-unit limit.
“Taicheng understands the concerns from SLRD members and staff. As a Canadian developer, we are working hard to shape a project that will contribute to the economy of Sea to Sky corridor,” Chen wrote.
“All comments, suggestions, advices [sic] and opinions are very useful information for us to improve our development concepts. We will reassess the pre-application, discuss [the] Master Plan with our consultants and figure out a formal application that works with the intent and spirit of [the] local community.”
SLRD planner Kim Needham recently met with municipal planners from throughout the corridor and all agreed that the Taicheng density vision isn't appropriate at 3,000 units.
“There was some concern that perhaps the development was not necessarily in keeping with the OCP and RGS [Regional Growth Strategy] in terms of the intent and spirit,” said Needham. “They felt it was more extensive than perhaps what was being suggested.”
She said the planners felt the sort of development envisioned by Taicheng is out of place and likely too much for what the site could bear.
Maurice Freitag, who represents Area D at the board table, was not present at the meeting but his alternate, John Turner, said, “If there's no balance here, it is not going to work.”
The board passed a motion indicating that it wants to see a development proposal from Taicheng that doesn't require an OCP amendment and that the board won't spend any more money on consultants or staff time until a proposal is submitted.
Crompton, meanwhile, expressed concerns about the amended OCP for Area D. He said he wanted the plan to include a note indicating the board doesn't support the proposed Garibaldi at Squamish development. Crompton tried to formalize that through a resolution of the board.
“The OCP calls an area the 'Garibaldi at Squamish Study Area,' which may be perceived by some to give it some land-use designation,” he said. “The goal of the motion was to clarify that it is a piece of land that is like any other and not intended to be used as a destination resort. That study area designation does not confer any land use.”
Crompton, though, couldn't garner support for his motion, so the OCP will continue to identify Brohm Ridge as a study area and potential future four-season resort within Area D.
Crompton's attempt to erase any mention of Garibaldi at Squamish from the OCP follows a meeting during the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in which Crompton, Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden and RMOW CAO Mike Furey met with B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak to discuss Whistler's concerns about the proposed destination resort.
The board voted to contribute $100,000 to the Centrepoint project in Squamish. Former Squamish mayor Corinne Lonsdale fronted a presentation on behalf of Sea to Sky Community Services (SSCS) in making the pitch for the contribution from the regional body.
She noted project supporters need to raise $3 million and so far slightly more than $1 million has been committed.
In making the request, Lonsdale said SSCS serves people from Mount Currie to Britannia Beach and the supported living housing spaces and office spaces in the Centrepoint building will be an asset for the whole region.
The SLRD board committed to contributing $50,000 in 2014 and another $50,000 in 2015.