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Valleycliffe subdivision sparks concern

Nine-foot retaining walls risk quality of life, say residents

Valleycliffe residents are worried that Crumpit Woods, a proposed single-family subdivision, will drastically change their quality of life.

Crumpit Woods is a proposed 110-lot subdivision in Valleycliffe northwest of the intersection of Westway Avenue and Plateau Drive. The land is very steep and a Diamond Head Land Company subdivision application includes a series of variances such as storm water retention ponds and nine-foot high rock walls.

"I am concerned about several of the variance items such as building height. The rock walls are also quite an issue. The idea of looking out my living room window at a nine metre rock wall is quite distasteful," said Valleycliffe resident John Irvine.

About 20 people attended a District of Squamish council meeting at Municipal Hall Tuesday (April 7) to give input of the development variance permit that would allow Crumpit Woods to move forward.

In a surprise move, council allowed the Valleycliffe residents to state their concerns regarding the subdivision. According to legislation the subdivision decision does not require public consultation.

"I want to make it clear that we are not mind readers," said Coun. Corinne Lonsdale. "This is your chance to speak."

While most residents were not entirely opposed to Crumpit Woods, many raised concerns about the shape and scope of the project. Resident Isabel Jordan said the new development will have an effect on the entire neighbourhood.

Concerns ranged from the appearance of chain link fence surrounding retention ponds, to the height of three storey houses on the site as well as an oversized neighbourhood sign.

On behalf of Diamond Head Land Company, David Rittberg said the intent of the subdivision design is to minimize its environmental footprint by using sustainable low impact engineering design principles such as retaining walls and retention ponds.

"We are seeking variances are that are well within the standards commonly accepted by other Lower Mainland municipalities," Rittberg said. "This neighbourhood will be a model for sustainable hillside development in the district if we are permitted to built it as presented."

Coun. Patricia Heintzman said the variances needed for Crumpit Woods points to a larger problem with the district's subdivision policy.

"This process has underlined a few things we can learn from regardless of statutory requirements and that is public engagement should be required no matter what," Heintzman said. "We also need to look at our subdivision policy."

District planner Cameron Chalmers agreed that coming up with subdivision policy that incorporates hillside lots is not simple.

Mayor Greg Gardner also said that public engagement is necessary and asked Rittberg to consider engaging Valleycliffe residents as the project moves forward.

"Dealing with resident concerns during the subdivision process is outside our jurisdiction but we would like assurance from the developer that it will be dealt with in some way," Gardner said. "I think meeting with the residents will go a long way for better relations with the neighbours."

After two hours of discussion, the neighbours, council and the developer reached a compromise. Council authorized the issuance of a development variance permit with a series of amendments.

Construction retaining walls were limited to a maximum of four metres and are required to be landscaped. No Parking signs will also be installed on any cul-de-sacs in the development with curb-to-curb radius less than 13 metres - to ensure emergency vehicle access. The chain link fence was also scrapped in favour of wood.

"I think the neighbours had some legitimate concerns and it is in the best interest of both parties to be good neighbours," said Coun. Paul Lalli.

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