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Porteau development proposal worries SLRD


A proposed development that could have a population of 4,000 people between Britannia Beach and Lions Bay sparked debate among Squamish Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) board members last Thursday (May 19).The proposed Porteau Cove development from the Squamish Nation includes a total of 476.3 hectares (approximately 1,100 acres), of which 62 per cent will remain undeveloped.

"This project represents a major new community," said Susan Stratis, SLRD planning consultant. "I have also noted that affordable housing in the Sea to Sky corridor is an issue. If the development were to provide affordable housing, it could include a density bonus."

Specifics for the development have yet to be confirmed. Discussions concerning amenities have included a waterfront park area, a community centre, upgraded trail connections and the creation of new trails.

At a public information session, no opposition was expressed, but Stratis said she expects more interest to develop regarding provincial park impacts as the project gains notoriety.

"In the community centre, the applicant has discussed a lap-pool provision for a mix of housing types," Stratis said.

The project represents an opportunity for economic development for the Squamish Nation. In addition to the need for discussion surrounding affordable housing and community amenities, officials need to discuss public safety requirements, impacts on Porteau Cove Provincial Park and the extent of commercial use the development would require.

Whistler Mayor Hugh O'Reilly was among the first to raise objections. He said the SLRD has to draw the line in the sand and do things differently than in previous situations. He urged planners to put air quality and green building standards in place before allowing such a development.

"We have the opportunity to move to the best and highest standards available," O'Reilly said. "I don't see the urgency in pushing this through. We have a responsibility to our children to throw out the old ways and start with the new."

Squamish director Raj Kahlon also asked whether the developers have taken into consideration the infrastructure pressure the new residential area could put on Squamish. He said Squamish has limitations on recreation facilities and he would like to see money for Squamish set aside before a deal is set in stone.

As well, officials expressed doubts about whether that the SLRD has the resources to govern a community of 4,000 people. It was agreed that a governance study needed to be completed before the project continues. Squamish director Corinne Lonsdale also questioned Hwy. 99's ability to handle the traffic from additional commuters.

"The community would require an interchange, but the increased volume would still allow the highway to operate at acceptable levels," Stratis said.

O'Reilly also urged SLRD staff to seek a proper land-use plan, which includes public transit, before allowing the development to proceed.

The board adopted an amendment to include a governance study before spending more time and resources on the project.

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