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Squamish's zoning bylaw overhaul now all but a certainty

Council passes three readings of the omnibus measure

Following a swell of criticism at the July public hearing, the District of Squamish’s zoning bylaw overhaul is all but official.

In a series of votes, some of which were significantly divided, council passed third readings on all bylaws that were part of an omnibus of zoning amendments on Sept. 1.

For a bylaw to be enacted, it must pass three readings and final adoption.

At least some elected officials said that the spirit of these motions was to align the zoning bylaws with the newest iteration of the Official Community Plan, which was adopted in 2018.

However, others said they felt consultation with the community fell short, and said that in some cases, landowners were not getting a fair deal.

Coun. Chris Pettingill said that he wasn’t convinced that the zoning amendments were perfect, but that they could take the District to a better place.

He said it was important to pass the bylaws quickly.

“These lands are developable now in a manner that is not consistent with the [Official Community Plan] so I do feel like it’s important to address that,” Pettingill said.

On the other hand, Coun. John French was more hesitant.

“From all the feedback that we received, it is clear to me that there are deep concerns about how we handled this file,” said French. “Too much of the work on this project was done without — in my opinion — genuinely consulting impacted landowners.”

He said there’s a lack of understanding of what the District is trying to achieve, and there is a lack of general support for some of the measures being passed in this omnibus.

French also noted that there is a perception that the municipality missed the mark concerning collaboration.

Coun. Doug Race also had concerns, particularly with respect to the bylaws in Section A that would rezone land for single-family homes into low-rise apartments.

“This zoning is an attempt to freeze development until a sub-area plan is adopted. Both landowners have indicated an intent to prepare a sub-area plan, and I think we should let them do that,” said Race.

“If we include this bylaw, then in the meantime, the value of the property is substantially stripped away, and that could be indefinite. So I’m not in favour of that course of action — it’s highly prejudicial to the landlord.”

One of those landlords, Bob Fast, was among many who expressed staunch opposition to the proposed zoning changes during the public hearing that was held in July.

At the time, Fast said he would create a sub-area plan that would have a diversity of housing types on his land, which, on Tuesday, was one of the priorities outlined by Mayor Karen Elliott.

“I don’t believe in single-family-home-only neighbourhoods. It is really time to start creating neighbourhoods where there are mixed forms of housing,” said Elliott.

She added that it was important to create a “place where people of different economic means can live together, and [that] we’re not creating exclusive, expensive service neighbourhoods.”

Elliott said she believed that the bylaw would take the District in the right direction.

Coun. Eric Andersen said the municipality needs good partnerships with developers.

“I’m concerned that we are politicizing density,” he said.

Councillors were divided 4-3 when it came to votes regarding Section A of the omnibus, which would rezone two large greenfield parcels in Valleycliffe and the Garibaldi Highlands areas.

This would replace single-family house RS-1 zones with RM-5 zoning, which allows for low-rise apartments of up to eight metres.

Andersen, French and Race were the dissenting votes.

For Section B of the omnibus zoning overhaul, council voted unanimously in favour of all the bylaws that would put parks on some private and Crown lands in Valleycliffe.

RS-1 zones would turn into P-3 and RE, which allows for parks and resource extraction, on lands east and north of Cherry Drive.

Section C also received unanimous approval. It would allow for the creation of a neighbourhood node at the eastmost end of Aspen Road.

This would change the area from multiple unit residential, or RM-2 land, into C-13 neighbourhood node commercial land. This could create a bustling area filled with apartments, retailers, fitness centres, and various other commercial businesses.

There was, however, disagreement on Section E, which would create an ecotourism area on the east side of Highway 99, north of the Squamish Adventure Centre and south of Brennan Park.

The proposal was to create an ecotourism area on a parcel of land currently zoned for resource operations.

Council cast their votes 5-2 in favour of the motion. Andersen and French were the ones opposed.

Elected officials, however, were more agreeable for Section G.

They voted unanimously in favour of this measure, which would enact zoning that would preserve grocery usage on the properties where Save-On-Foods and Nesters Market reside.

Council also voted unanimously for Section H, which would make changes to the Quest University area.

Elected officials previously 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.

As a result, this zoning proposed by staff would place 424 units between Helfand Way and the Legacy Ridge development.

This would be a mix of housing. The majority would be 340 apartments with the rest being triplexes and fourplexes.

Section I would create an “adventure highway commercial” zone in the business park area.

Council voted unanimously in favour of this motion.

This would allow for tourist-serving and light commercial-industrial uses.

Some examples would include alcohol beverage manufacturing, commercial recreation, entertainment, fitness centre; indoor recreation and tourist bureaus.

Section D, which dealt with a Brackendale flood hazard zone and Section F, a water bottling ban, have been deferred for later discussion due to administrative and legislative issues.

Final adoption of the zoning overhaul will likely come at the next council meeting.

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