For the second time in three months, the proponents of a mega-development proposed near Squamish have either been forced to, or seen fit to voluntarily, scale back their plans.
Unlike the Garibaldi at Squamish (GAS) proposal, the South Britannia scheme hasn’t been around long enough for copies of the original master plan to have been buried under eons’ worth of glacial till and started to compress and congeal into fossil fuel. While both have been promised as “mixed-use” developments, the project proposed on 200 hectares just south of the current community of Britannia Beach isn’t, at its heart, a resort development. GAS clearly is — or at least that’s being pitched as the project’s centerpiece and the reason current and future generations will want to visit and/or invest there.
Before last October, Taicheng Development Corp. — which in March 2012 purchased the former Makin Lands for $31.5 million — were pushing regional leaders to amend the Official Community Plan to allow them to build up to 3,000 residential units. And while it’s certainly true that the current 1,000-unit limit was arrived at in rather random fashion, it seems to this writer that the SLRD board made the right decision in asking Taicheng to downsize its proposal to fit the OCP. Either way, in spite of what the proponents may say, the proposal hardly qualifies as “smart growth”; 3,000 units just seemed grossly out of proportion. Taicheng has vowed to return with a more modest proposal.
On the GAS front, you’ve got to hand it to Wolfgang Richter for having been unswerving through the eons… er, decades that Garibaldi Alpen/GAS has been before the public. Heck, he’s even back in the good graces of the Aquilini family after a judge, in 2004, quashed an earlier court decision declaring Luigi Aquilini and Bob Gaglardi the project’s controlling partners, pushing Richter out.
This week’s revelation that GAS proponents are abandoning plans to develop the lower parts of the 4,900-hectare site is clearly a move to pull some of those who have opposed the project back into the fold. And while Richter uses the word “boutique” to describe the product he’s seeking to build, make no mistake: it’s still a massive project. Environmental issues aside, the key economic question remains: Will it be, as Richter claims, a “destination” resort that will greatly increase the size of the regional tourism pie?
— David Burke