Editor’s Note: This is editor Michaela Garstin’s last newspaper, before she starts a new job and hands the reins back to Jennifer Thuncher.
What makes a community inviting? Why do some towns feel more welcoming than others?
It can be hard to put your finger on it, but heritage buildings are often said to a play a vital role, including in Squamish.
Besides being esthetically pleasing, old houses and commercial buildings document our past and give us pride as a community.
Squamish doesn’t yet have an official heritage policy at the municipal level, despite locals from heritage organizations, such as the Squamish Historical Society, calling for one.
Squamish’s Official Community Plan prioritizes a heritage policy that would “protect, integrate and celebrate community heritage resources within Squamish.”
There have been attempts over the past several years to get the policy going, but not much has happened so far. And we have little time to waste.
As the community continues to grow, now is an important time for clear guidelines to be put in place.
Squamish is changing quickly, with a lot of new development, but there is no reason progress can’t also honour our heritage.
There is a fear that putting rules on heritage buildings will stifle growth, making it hard to keep up with the times. But it doesn’t need to be this way.
The District of North Vancouver’s heritage registry, for example, provides benefits to homeowners if they register. They are eligible for grants to assist with the maintenance and restoration of their property, among other advantages. However, being on the registry doesn’t impact their rights as property owners, including altering their home and, although it’s frowned upon, tearing it down.
Commercial buildings on the heritage registry can also be thriving places like they are now. Often, registries suggest keeping the unique exterior, while altering the inside to keep up with modern times is fine.
And, according to UNESCO World Heritage Centre, heritage buildings can often be worth more over time.
A local policy would help preserve some of Squamish’s most important features.
We’ve been fortunate to grow up with these heritage buildings, so let’s make sure the next generation does too because, as the saying goes, “when they’re gone, they’re gone.”