With the future of industrial land in town at stake, municipal planners from the District of Squamish presented their vision for the business park, which, like much of the town, has been subject to a zoning overhaul.
The future of the business park has been a subject of much attention, as District staff have said that non-industrial activities in the park threatened to drown out the supply of industrial land in town.
There are few other places for industrial-type businesses like car shops to go in town, they warned. If this land is swallowed up by commercial ventures like retailers or restaurants, industrial businesses may get driven out of town.
Last year, in response, council imposed what they called a temporary freeze on new non-industrial ventures in the park.
This was met with much opposition during a public hearing, with business owners warning council that these measures could hurt entrepreneurs.
Nevertheless, council went ahead, saying the intention was to create a "stopgap" to buy staff time to examine what was going on in the business park so that they could revamp zoning to a place where industrial land could be preserved sustainably.
During the online presentation made on Aug. 19, municipal planner Matt Gunn said that three options were being considered with respect to the future of the business park.
Option 1 would roll back zoning regulations in the park to 2018 levels, which were in place before council initiated the temporary freeze.
Option 2 would keep things as they are under the freeze. Commercial-type activities such restaurant and fitness centres would only be allowed in areas where they already exist.
Option 3 would create more flexibility, creating an expanded commercial activities area in the northern part of the business park. At the same time, light industrial activities would be preserved in the southern portion of the park.
Gunn said that staff would be pursuing Option 3, which was the most popular option selected by residents and business owners in a survey at 44%.
"This option was selected based on several factors. It balances a range of inputs received during stakeholder engagement," he said.
"Numerous businesses have indicated that...allowing their business to add a commercial component to the industrial activity really increases their flexibility and expands their ability for success and stability…. A number of commercial spaces have specific space needs that they've indicated can't really be easily met in Squamish's existing commercial sectors, and the expanded commercial activities area provides an opportunity for these businesses to locate in the business park where those space needs can be met."
The next most popular was Option 1 at 33%. Option 2 was the least favoured, trailing at 22%.
Existing commercial businesses that are outside of the proposed expanded commercial activities area will be grandfathered in and allowed to continue their operations, Gunn said.
Those businesses were provided spot zoning when the freeze occurred.
"The intention is that spot zoning will remain in place for those businesses, and any business that is currently existing will, under the Local Government Act, be provided, essentially, grandfathering — it's called non-conforming status," Gunn said.
For the new commercial activities area, there are some stipulations that businesses must follow.
Commercial activities must be subordinate to the industrial activity being done on the site.
So for example, a brewery can sell its beer in a tasting room. There can also be products that complement the primary product being sold.
Outside the commercial activity area, things like restaurants and fitness centres won't be allowed.
"It reflects a cautious approach to increasing commercial activities within the business park," he said. "It does represent a variation from our [Official Community Plan] policy, which is kind of saying, really the focus should be industrial areas in this area."
It's expected that in the coming months this proposed vision for the business park will go to council for review and possible approval.
Residents with an interest in the business park can complete the survey until Aug. 26.