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Britannia Beach surf park, housing development headed for public hearing

SLRD directors gave the proposal second reading at a July 26 board meeting

If all goes according to plan, Canada’s first surf park could open in the Sea to Sky corridor as soon as 2025. But that’s dependent on what the community has to say about the project.

The surf park is part of a proposal for a major mixed-use development in Britannia Beach, which is now headed to a public hearing after a rezoning application received second reading at the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District’s (SLRD) July 26 board meeting.

“We know that the public are excited about the project,” said Tony Petricevic, head of development for applicant Tiger Bay Development Corp. “This is our opportunity to prove to the board that the public wants this project, and to show them with that support.”

In addition to the Wavegarden Cove surf pool, plans for a new community on the shores of Howe Sound, dubbed “South Britannia,” include 1,050 new multi-family dwellings—at least 150 of which will be non-market, affordable units—plus commercial space, tourism accommodations, a skate park and pump track, community centre, daycare, space for a school, sports field, new trails, and a publicly-accessible oceanfront park at a revitalized Minaty Bay.

Plans call for the development to be built out over four phases. Phase 1 would see the construction of the surf park, pump track and skate park, followed by the first round of townhomes and condos, more commercial space and public access to Minaty Bay in Phase 2. Some community amenities, like parks and a community centre, wouldn’t appear until Phase 4.

The July 26 report marked SLRD staff’s seventh presentation to the board regarding Tiger Bay’s application since June 2020.

After purchasing the land more than a decade ago, developers submitted a revised rezoning application in July 2019 proposing a mixed-use development, including a surf park, on an 87.6-hectare parcel about 14 kilometres south of Squamish. That application received first reading in December 2021.

The application initially appeared in front of the SLRD board for second reading this June. Elected officials opted to delay that decision until a future meeting, and instead sent regional district staff back to the applicant to clarify 11 main concerns the board raised. Presented with detailed answers to those questions, SLRD directors appeared mostly satisfied when the application returned to the board table for second reading on July 26.

One lingering concern was potential impacts an influx of new Britannia Beach residents could have on amenities in Squamish, especially if facilities like a community centre and playfields are only slated for Phase 4, long after most Britannia South residents will have already moved in.

Through taxes, new Britannia Beach residents would pay the same fees to the District of Squamish for use of its amenities as the rest of the SLRD population. The 1,050 new units would translate to roughly $100,000 annually for the Brennan Park pool, SLRD director of planning and development Kim Needham estimated in her report to the board. Though Squamish Mayor Armand Hurford acknowledged there is “a lot to like” about Tiger Bay's proposal, he didn’t “accept that argument that just creating more folks to pay into the fund is enough to offset the load [the development] will put onto our services.”

Squamish Councillor Chris Pettingill was the sole SLRD director to oppose sending Tiger Bay’s rezoning application to public hearing. He echoed Hurford’s concerns, noting “affordable housing is more than just the roof, it’s … where you work, your access to public community amenities, and I don’t see that here. I think that has a knock-on effect of putting a lot more burden on neighbouring communities to fill in the pieces that are missing.”

In Pettingill’s view, the proposal that appeared in front of the SLRD board doesn’t fit the definition of a “complete community,” where “most of the people who live there work there, most of the people who work there, live there,” he said.

Area D director Tony Rainbow countered that position. Factoring in the substantial development that already exists in Britannia North, plus employment opportunities stemming from the surf park and commercial space, “that’s a pretty good community, where a lot of people will be able to live there and work there and play there,” Rainbow said.

As Petricevic pointed out, the pump track, skate park and year-round surf pool developers plan to build first also represent “a huge draw" for the entire corridor.

“From the get-go in Phase 1, there's going to be a lot of recreational facilities available, not to mention mountain biking trails, which we're already looking at trying to build," he said.

At the July 26 board meeting, Squamish Coun. Jenna Stoner proposed an additional motion directing SLRD staff to explore the potential for cash-in-lieu of critical amenity contributions to Squamish from the developer, and bring the results of those discussions back to the board prior to the application’s third reading.

That motion passed, despite opposition from Rainbow and Area C director Russell Mack.

Petricevic confirmed construction timelines for some of the development’s amenities, including facilities like a community centre, could shift between phases following a public hearing. 

The public hearing has not yet been scheduled, but Petricevic said officials are eyeing potential dates in September or October.

Following the hearing, Tiger Bay’s rezoning application could return to the SLRD board for third and final reading in short order. The bylaw would then be subject to approval from B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation before heading back to the SLRD for formal adoption.

Petricevic anticipates it will take approximately two years of work to open the surf park once building permits are issued, and at least another three years to break ground on Phase 2. 

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