On March 31, I attended a public meeting to learn about the Kingswood development for its Scott Crescent property along Highway 99. The meeting at the Adventure Centre was packed with Squamish residents who were shocked by the developer's plans.
The firm's proposed mixed-use development for the 8.3-acre site includes three components - a retail section, a National Climbing Centre, and a residential section for 388 townhome units. But the climbing centre is nothing more than a sweetener developers have added to force an otherwise unpalatable pie down the throats of locals. There are serious concerns with the project, including:
Lack of public participation. In a March 11 article, Chief reporter Meagan Robertson wrote, "The proponents have already met with representatives of the local climbing community, tourism officials, educators and retailers." Why would Kingswood move forward without initially soliciting concerns from Hospital Hill and Valleycliffe residents? Shouldn't those who would be most affected by such a project be the first to be consulted?
The Planning Department has become a rubber stamp for big-city developers, often ignoring local concerns, failing to critically analyze the impacts of sprawl, and lacking vision for a more sustainable future. Perhaps it is time to replace its staff with those who have the temerity to stand up to developers.
Increased traffic. The Kingswood Group wants to send traffic from the development up Scott Crescent, currently a dirt lane. Because of the road's instability along a steep bank, it would have to be "improved." Taxpayers would be the ones to pay for such improvements. Traffic from the new complex would be funneled into Hospital Hill, a quiet neighborhood that includes an elder care centre and the local hospital. The developer's modeling revealed traffic at rush hour would add four cars per minute to Clarke and Behrner drives, roads ill-equipped to handle such volume. An additional 500-600 vehicles every morning would bottleneck at the Clarke Drive and Highway 99 light, an already dangerous intersection because it lacks an acceleration lane onto 99.
Tax increases. Local residents would not only have to foot the bill for road improvements. We'd also be on the hook for the National Climbing Centre, since taxpayers - not the developers - would be responsible for the centre's upkeep.
Impacts to wildlife. The Kingswood Group admitted it had not undertaken mapping of bear, coyote, bobcat, or cougar movements through the area even though the adjacent forest provides habitat and biological corridors for wildlife. Introducing up to 1,000 people into the neighbourhood is a recipe for disaster with wildlife likely to pay a deadly price.
Impacts to birds. The site runs along the Upper Mamquam Blind Channel, home to a variety of waterfowl, including egrets, herons and ducks. Bald eagles have also been seen. Scrub brush provides habitat for songbirds, including neo-tropical migrants. Developers have not conducted any studies of the impacts of introduced domestic cats to the local bird population. Cats are the second leading cause of mortality for wild songbirds.
With these issues in mind, I urge the District to reject this ill-conceived proposal.Brian VincentSquamish