One of the major owners of undeveloped land in Squamish says it won't flood the housing market in the near future if it's allowed changes to the Official Community Plan (OCP).
Washington state development company Merrill & Ring (M&R) told Squamish Council through a letter that the company's Squamish Highlands development plan calls for 25 to 50 lots to be developed in the first phase of its housing project north of the Garibaldi Highlands no earlier than 2006.
"Successive phases would be of a similar size with build out over a projected fifteen year period," Don Corson, M&R's vice-president of planning and development, wrote in a letter dated May 24. "We currently expect a total of 1,100 to 1,200 homes to be developed on District Lot 510/509 depending on market and final neighbourhood planning outcomes with the community and staff."
M&R's Squamish Highlands project is proposed for the two lots, located north of Perth Drive and Thunderbird Ridge.
Corson wrote that the first 25 to 50 lots might be developed in 2006 at the earliest.
The letter was prompted by concerns expressed by council members and the Sea to Sky University (SSU) after M&R indicated it wanted council to consider a rezoning of the land in question from limited use to residential neighbourhood.
Mayor Ian Sutherland said that a meeting between council and David Strangway, Peter Ufford and others with the SSU project is tentatively set for June 22.
Meanwhile, M&R is pressing ahead with plans to submit documentation so it can move forward with its goals.
"We believe including District Lot 510/509 into the OCP for residential development will bring numerous direct and indirect benefits to the community," Corson wrote.
Sutherland is fully prepared for M&R to take their project to the next step.
"We don't have the ability to say we can't see it," Sutherland said.
While council has no way to dictate the submission of rezoning requests, council does have the ability to deny first reading of OCP amendments and zoning bylaw amendments. Once M&R gets its proposal beyond the staff level, council gets to decide if the time is right for the project.
In October 2002, Sutherland, then a councillor, opposed applications by M&R along with Bob Fast of Coast Aggregates for OCP amendments to start the process of opening up their lands for potential development. Then-mayor Corinne Lonsdale halted the process because of public pressure over how the amendments would impact SSU.
Early in 2003, with Sutherland in the mayor's chair, council decided to review the OCP and M&R was told that the status of DL 509 and 510 would be considered as part of the review. The OCP review is behind schedule and because of that, council voted this month to review the M&R lands using a process that runs parallel with the OCP.
That decision caused the SSU to voice concerns. The SSU warned council that if large tracts of land become available for development in competition with SSU lands then the opening date of the university might be further delayed.