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An overview of Squamish’s proposed zoning bylaw overhaul

Following two council readings of proposals, residents may voice their opinions on July 28

Many properties in town are on their way to having their current zoning overhauled, as District of Squamish staff have proposed extensive changes to create what they consider to be better alignment with the goals of the municipality’s Official Community Plan.

These changes are intended to accomplish a variety of things, from encouraging a diversity of housing forms to stopping commercial water bottling plants from setting up shop in the municipality.

Except one proposed change regarding community amenity contributions, all of staff’s recommended changes to the zoning bylaws and OCP were given first and second reading on July 7.

This omnibus of changes passed first and second reading in a series of unanimous 6-0 votes. Coun. Doug Race did not vote, as he was not present during the meeting.

Some***(please see footnote) of these changes are expected to go before a public hearing on July 28 at 6 p.m. In-person attendance will be barred due to COVID-19 restrictions, but the public is encouraged to watch online at the District’s website, where it’s expected they will be given the chance to speak via video-conference.

All the following proposed changes passed two readings.

A. Lowrises in Valleycliffe and Garibaldi Highlands

The District is seeking to rezone two large greenfield parcels in Valleycliffe and the Garibaldi Highlands areas to allow for low-rise apartments or neighbourhood commercial up to a maximum height of eight metres.

To make this change, staff are proposing to change these blocks of land from RS-1 to RM-5.

RS-1 zones allow for houses.

Staff said in a report that this would help meet the OCP’s goal of creating “a range and mix of housing options for residents of all ages, incomes and abilities.”

These rezonings would affect North Crumpit at PID 031-026-494 north of Valleycliffe, as well as the Newport Ridge lands at PID 018-598-021 in the Garibaldi Highlands.

[A Parcel Identifier or PID is a nine-digit number that uniquely identifies a parcel in the land title register of in B.C.]

Staff say the owners of both properties were “strongly opposed.” In the case of the Valleycliffe property, the report to council said the owner offered a voluntary no-build covenant with a four-year expiry clause instead of rezoning the area to RM-5. However, staff say that this is not a long term solution for what they consider to be a “misalignment” of current zoning with the OCP.


B. Parks on Crown and private lands in Valleycliffe 

To slow residential development in Valleycliffe, the District is aiming to swap houses for parks and resource operations on some unsurveyed Crown and private lands.

This would turn some lands in the Valleycliffe area from RS-1, which allow for the creation of houses, to P-3 and RE. It applies to lands east and north of Cherry Drive in Valleycliffe.

P-3 permits park, recreational and institutional uses, while RE allows resource extraction.

The changes are being made because the OCP intends to have those lands either as parks, resource, or future residential areas.

This bylaw affects lands that mostly reside outside the growth management boundary, which is the zone where the municipality wants to concentrate development.

“Future residential neighbourhoods are not intended to be a source of population growth until substantial development of existing residential development areas has occurred,” reads the report.

C. Aspen East Node

The District is seeking to turn the lands around the eastmost end of Aspen Road into an area zoned for a neighbourhood node, which could create a bustling area of apartments and businesses.

Rezoning the area from RM-2, which is multiple unit residential, to a C-13 neighbourhood node commercial land would allow the creation of apartments, retail stores, fitness centres and various neighbourhood commercial enterprises.

Staff say this would be highly compatible with the OCP’s intent to turn this area into a residential neighbourhood, which would accommodate growth in the community.

D. Stifling density in Brackendale flood-hazard

To discourage density in flood hazard areas, the District is proposing to rezone some areas in Brackendale by the Squamish River.

Three properties in the area “could allow further residential subdivision but... are subject to significant flood hazard and located in a restricted densification area,” a staff report reads.

“The lands in question are the most hazardous properties in the Squamish River floodplain and certain types of development of these properties could pose a significant hazard for those who would be in the area during a flood.”

District risk assessments show that there is an unacceptable level of risk to loss of

life even if the Squamish River dike was upgraded to a 1-in-500-year standard, the staff report said.

Therefore, the District is proposing to rezone the properties on 1000 Laramee Road, 1050 Laramee Road and 1050 Depot Road into Agriculture 3, or AGRI-3, lands.

This would permit agriculture, houses, horse stables, indoor riding arenas and kennels.

Staff say that in two cases, owners were opposed to the proposed changes.

Owners of the two of the parcels “strongly object” to any rezoning that would result in the loss of development opportunities associated with current zoning and do not believe the rezoning process has been appropriate.

One of those two disagreed with how staff interpreted the flood hazard laid out by the integrated flood hazard management plan and believes District policies don’t support the rezoning.

The third owner is asking for a minimal parcel size of four hectares.

They believe it will support the creation of more affordable rural properties.

E. Ecotourism by Highway 99

Staff are proposing to create a new ecotourism area on a parcel of land currently zoned for resource operations.

The land is located on a parcel on the east side of Highway 99, north of the Squamish Adventure Centre and south of Brennan Park.

The OCP intends for this area to be a conservation and ecological reserve. The plan also encourages restricted densification due to a flood hazard.

As a result, staff are proposing that the land be rezoned as a C-12 ecotourism area.

This use would allow for organized or self-guided tours utilizing infrastructure such as trails, boardwalks, walkways or bridges.

Buildings would not be permitted.

According to staff, the landowner is strongly opposed to the proposed rezoning and that it be shelved.

F. Ban of commercial water bottling

Staff noted that the zoning bylaw currently does not explicitly ban commercial water bottling.

As a result, they are proposing an amendment explicitly stating that this use would not be permitted in any zone.

G. Preserving grocery stores in downtown

The District is proposing a change to zoning on the lands where the Save-On Foods and Nesters Market groceries are located to preserve the area for grocery stores.

“Some redevelopment scenarios for these areas could result in dense residential developments with significantly limited, small commercial space that would not support a grocery store,” reads a staff report.

As a result, staff are proposing to lower the floor-area ratio in those lands to 0.5, down from 2.8. This would limit the amount of density allowed on the land.

Staff say the landowner of 1301-1347 Pemberton Ave did not appear concerned with the proposed amendments, but the owner of 1200 Hunter Place expressed a preference to maintain the existing zoning.

H. University residence changes

The development lands surrounding Quest University may undergo some zoning changes, as staff have proposed amendments to suit council’s vision for the area.

Previously, council asked staff to ensure the remaining 450 housing units allowed for the area are built in central locations serviced by transit with walkable access to daily services.

They also asked for a diversity of housing types and a walkable community, among other things.

To accommodate these requests, staff are proposing zoning changes that would, among other things, place 424 units in an area designated as Area 3. This is between Helfand Way and the Legacy Ridge development.

Of these units, 340 will be apartments, 30 will be townhouses and the remaining 54 will be triplexes and fourplexes.

Ten per cent of those units overall will be used as rental units.

Among other things, proposed amendments would have it that triplex and fourplexes must have at least one of the units placed vertically above the other.

Staff say the intention is to further differentiate triplex and fourplex dwellings from townhouse dwellings.

Staff say that many of the landowners did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the proposed amendments. Representatives from Quest were generally supportive of the proposed amendments, they said.

I. Tourism-centred zone by the business park

An ‘adventure highway commercial’ zone in the business park area may soon become a reality.

This new C-11 zone on 39300 Discovery Way would allow for tourist-serving and light commercial-industrial uses such as alcohol beverage manufacturing, commercial recreation, entertainment, fitness centre; indoor recreation and tourist bureaus.

Large format retail, however, will be banned, as the municipality hopes to concentrate those developments in downtown, Garibaldi Village and at various neighbourhood nodes.

Staff said they intend to keep large format retail near dense neighbourhoods.

The landowner’s representatives, according to staff, said they would prefer more flexibility in the zoning to accommodate uses such as market rental, and other employee-serving amenities.

The owner indicated that inclusion of these uses would help accommodate a less car-reliant development, according to a report.

Concerns were also raised regarding the speed of the zoning updates.


***UPDATE: July 23, 11:15 a.m. 

- The District has told The Chief that bylaws concerning Section D, the Brackendale flood hazard zone, will not be discussed next week. Since the municipality did not meet legislated requirements for public notice for these bylaws, a hearing for this section will have to be delayed until the fall. 

- Bylaws concerning Section F, the water bottling ban, will also be deferred until some time in the fall due to a need to amend technical language in this proposed regulation.