A developer who has run into hurdles for his proposed residential housing project says that creating an access road through his property could solve traffic issues in the Garibaldi Highlands.
Bob Cheema is offering to build this path through District Lots 509 and 510, which are commonly known as the Cheema lands.
“A second access road can be built to municipal standards and paid for by the Cheema Family and no taxpayer money would be spent on building this new access road,” said Cheema in a news release.
“It is the most common-sense solution to reducing traffic on Highlands Way, Perth Drive and the Boulevard as it will provide residents with a secondary connector route to Highway 99. The new access road will make the Highlands road network complete and drastically reduce the usage of Perth Drive and Highlands Way to Highway 99.”
Cheema’s proposal arrives in the wake of an incident that occurred last late month when a driver hit a toddler, causing him soft tissue injuries.
That incident renewed concern about traffic in the Highlands, prompting a petition that has accumulated over 1,100 signatures to date.
While the accident was the catalyst for the petition, the roads surrounding Garibaldi Highlands Elementary — The Boulevard, Highlands Way North and Perth Drive — have long been a point of complaint for parents who’ve been saying that drivers have often been speeding in the area.
In response, the District has since been working on traffic calming designs for Highlands Way North and Perth, and has opted to extend school zone speed limits down The Boulevard, between the two traffic circles, and also the lower section of Perth.
Cheema has long been trying to receive council’s approval to put a residential development on his land. The municipality’s Official Community Plan does not allow development on his land until the town’s population hits 34,000. That’s because his land is outside the community’s growth management boundary.
However, this threshold may be lowered to 22,500 if the development addresses the impacts associated with growth.
Provincial estimates suggest Squamish’s population was 20,404 in 2019.
Cheema has been trying to get that population requirement removed, but the last time the matter was before council, that request was denied.
This year, he obtained a quarry permit for his lands that would allow him to extract dimension stone. However, he said he would be willing to put the mine proposal aside if his residential project is given the green light.
Mayor Karen Elliott said the District would be willing to look at the access road proposal.
"We have not yet seen such a proposal here at the District, however if Mr. Cheema would like to submit one, we will certainly review it,” said Elliott in an emailed statement to The Chief.
“It seems to me that our decision to put in school zones along The Boulevard and Perth Drive and to engage the community on solutions for Highlands Way North seems more effective and practical in the short term."
At least one elected official seems to support Cheema’s endeavours.
Coun. John French appeared to express support for an access road on Cheema’s lands during council’s meeting on May 12, though this remark was made before Cheema proposed the idea.
“This discussion and this traffic issue is one of the reasons why I believe it is time to bring DL 509 and 501 [the Cheema lands] inside the growth management boundary,” he said.