More rental housing is slated for downtown Squamish.
A new 67 residential rental unit development has been given the go-ahead to replace the old Squamish Budget Inn.
On Jan. 21, council voted in a 6-1 decision in favour of granting a development permit with variances to Eighth Avenue Development Group Ltd.
The District says that the units will be permanent market rentals and that no short term rentals — which are less than 30 days — will be allowed.
Council’s decision followed a debate about what was more needed in the downtown core: residential rental units or employment space.
This discussion was key to the decision because the development permit variance traded employment space for extra residential units. As a result, the amount of space for workers and businesses is lower than what the municipality’s regulations would ordinarily require.
Roughly half the building’s required commercial space would be eliminated to allow for the 67 residential units. Regulations would normally require the building to offer up 20% of its space for workers. That has been cut down to 9.2%. With that tradeoff, there will be 5,070 square feet of employment space.
The majority of council said that residential space was a greater need.
“I think trying to force additional employment in all of our buildings is a nice idea, but we know that there are limitations to it, and there has to be some give and take across buildings,” said Coun. Jenna Stoner.
“I’m not so concerned about the employment variance in this in exchange of the rental market suites.”
Coun. Eric Andersen also voiced his support.
“The lack of purpose-built rental in the downtown area is our priority focus here, rather than on the commercial space,” he said.
On the other hand, Coun. Chris Pettingill, the sole dissenting vote, said he didn’t want to create housing space without creating corresponding employment in town.
“My sense is that we don’t have enough employment yet in downtown,” said Pettingill.
“We need to match employment to the residential we’re bringing in. I understand we need rental, but I think we don’t want to be building rental for commuters, we want to be building rental for people that can walk to work, and so I’m very nervous about giving up employment to get rental.”
Pettingill also said he had issues with the green energy proposal for the project.
“The fact that this is offsetting low [greenhouse emission] electricity as opposed to high [greenhouse emission] gas, is a real concern, especially when I look at the targets in our climate emergency resolution,” Pettingill said.
Solar panels on the building’s roof reduce annual electrical energy use of the building by 20%, a staff report said.
However, Ed Kolic, the principal of Eighth Avenue, responded that the only way to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions was to install air source heat pumps.
Kolic said that could require a lot of maintenance and so the designers opted for a simpler option.
Aesthetically speaking, the building is modelled to look like a mill, which is intended to hearken back to Squamish’s industrial past.
Other variances were granted by council.
Some of these included changes to indoor amenity space requirements and the maximum building height.
Indoor amenity space requirements were changed to allow for outdoor space to be included in the calculation, as the developer aims to create a large public balcony area.
Maximum height will be changed from 20 metres to 21.09 metres, which is intended to enable a second floor mezzanine that would allow for more two-bedroom units.