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Neighbours oppose BC Housing project

Residents concerned about size and scope of 84-unit rental housing project

North Yards residents are unhappy about a proposed BC Housing project, which could see 84 units of low-income housing built next door.

About 12 people attended a District of Squamish public hearing at Municipal Hall Monday (April 6) on the proposed rezoning bylaw that would allow for the high-density development.

While six letters were received in favour of the rezoning bylaw, residents expressed concerns with the project's building height, density and drainage.

Despite concerns, council gave third reading to the zoning amendment bylaw for the project's the 39776 to 39780 Government Road location.

"I will be looking out my side window at this project and while I don't discount the need for something like this, I think the size and scale is out of step," said Chris Hamilton.

North Yards resident Gareth Marshall raised concerns about the infrastructure needed to support the project. He said the proposed lots seem like the wrong place for Riverstones.

"I don't see how this building can happen without the infrastructure details secured. There are lots of other open lots that would work better for this type of development.

District planner Cameron Chalmers said drainage and storm water management plans will be required before a building permit is granted. He also said the primary means to minimize traffic impacts will be the construction of Pioneer Road, which will connect to Queens Way.

Riverstones is spearheaded by Bethel Land Corporation but also requires involvement from the district, BC Housing and Sea to Sky Community Services. The project includes a number of three-storey buildings with units of one bedroom and a den or two bedrooms.

The property will be restricted to rental units only for 20 years and the rents are capped at a maximum of $975 for a two-bedroom unit

On behalf of the Social Planning Council Sonja Lebans spoke in favour of the project. She said Riverstones was born out of a discussion where several people admitted that renting in Squamish is unaffordable.

"Many people in this community are paying more than 50 percent of their wage for rent and don't have the money for a proper diet. So we have seen increases in people using the food bank. This project is a much needed piece of the housing continuum," Lebans said.

Council gave unanimous support to third reading of the zoning bylaw after issues such as accessibility were addressed. Coun. Corinne Lonsdale said it is important that the entire project is accessible to accommodate seniors and disabled residents.

"I am supporting this project because it shows the community cares and wants to see our residents live here. We are trying to grow the rental pool in Squamish," Lonsdale said. "I hear the concerns about drainage and I will ensure those issues are looked after."

Details such as the shape and scope of the project's interior are expected during the project's design phase.

In order to move forward, Bethel Lands Corporation needs to secure $3 million from B.C. Housing. Earlier this month, council gave third reading to a series of bylaws that waive up to $520,900 in municipal fees to ensure the project is financially viable for the developer.

To protect their investment, council passed a motion that fees be refunded with interest if the project is sold or ceases to be purpose-built housing at any time.

"It is not uncommon for municipalities to contribute a substantial amount to affordable housing projects. In some cases it is the land itself," Gardner said. "These projects never go forward without some concerns and council is alive to them."

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