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Polygon’s Three Summits development makes first appearance before Squamish council

The 202 units, in six-to-seven-storey buildings, were part of the deal to build the Westwinds seniors’ home.

The market housing project linked to the Polygon deal to build the Westwinds seniors’ housing buildings downtown has made its first appearance before council.

On Feb. 28, elected officials had a chance to comment on a draft design of the Three Summits project.

It’s now being proposed, as the developer, Polygon, has delivered on its promise to build housing to replace the two aging seniors’ homes — The Cedars and The Manor.

Back in 2018, the Squamish Senior Citizens’ Home Society (Now Squamish Senior Living Society)  made a deal to sell its land to Polygon Development. As part of the terms, the developer would help build the Westwinds seniors’ housing complex. Residents from The Cedars and The Manor would then move into that facility.

Then, The Cedars and The Manor would then be demolished, and the land would be used to create a market housing project, which has now been dubbed Three Summits.

All the rezoning requirements have been fulfilled, and the project is now at the development permit stage, where specifics on the form and character of the buildings are being hashed out.

On Tuesday, council had a chance to have an initial look and give feedback on the project’s development permit application during a committee of the whole.

The proposed project, located at 38201 Third Avenue, includes three apartment buildings ranging from six to seven storeys, allowing for 202 residential units. 

Also on the property would be a mixed-use building with a three-storey parkade to house 431 required parking stalls and 20,000 square feet of ground floor commercial, comprising 10% of the gross floor area. 

However, staff noted the amount of commercial and visitor stalls, which are included in the 431, may be excessive and asked for guidance. There are 37 commercial stalls and 51 visitor stalls proposed. 

Before the complexes are built, a temporary sales centre will be erected on the property, though that will need approval from the municipality.

Council feedback

Elected officials gave feedback on the design. Highlights included thoughts on the iconic Norway maple tree that was planted as part of the opening of The Cedars and The Manor.

There were also thoughts on the building heights, a public park, as well as the amount of parking in the area.

Coun. Jenna Stoner commented on the height variance that would allow the buildings to be up to 25 metres, up from 22 metres.

“I’m not necessarily opposed to considering a higher height, but I think there needs to be a stronger rationale as to why we would consider it,” said Stoner.

“There is, I think, some strong rationale in the staff report, but I think it needs to be articulated. So it’s increasing the ability for viewscapes from some of the neighbouring properties. It’s decreasing solar impacts on some portions, but I’m still not fully seeing that tradeoff there. So, some further articulation of that would be helpful for me to consider why we’re looking at that increase in height.”

She also wondered if mature trees on the property could be retained. 

“Ideally, we retain them if that’s not possible, and how do we make sure we’re retaining the ability to allow mature trees over time?” Stoner said.

Coun. Eric Andersen said he was not too hung up on retaining all the trees. 

“I would have been more concerned about the lack of attention to materials salvaged on this site. That would have been a bigger issue for me,” he said, referring to the destruction of the old Manor and Cedars buildings.

He said the removal of the Norway maple was not a big issue for him.

Regarding height and viewscapes, he said the proponent has come up with good solutions for neighbouring properties.

Coun. John French said he was supportive of the temporary sales centre, as those are typical of developments. He said, however, the developer should be held to a high sustainability standard. 

 “Just want to make sure that we don’t have a repeat of what we saw with the teardown of the old [Cedars and Manor] building[s] where it seemed a significant amount of material that had value — the value wasn’t realized,” French said.

He also had some thoughts on the Norway maple.

“I agree it’s an iconic tree and it’s been there for a long time,” said French. “And it certainly has value in the neighbourhood. I don’t want to send the developer back to do a complete redesign of their project to preserve that tree.”

He noted the developer had proposed milling the wood from that tree and preserving it in some way.

“And how cool would it be [that] if that tree did come down, part of the planting for the new development includes a new Norway maple?” he said. “We could have a celebration around … the junior new tree replacing the old iconic Norway maple.”

On the other hand, Coun. Andrew Hamilton said the Norway maple was a valuable asset.

“I would support keeping that one tree,” he said.

He said he was reluctant to allow the height variance, and wanted more clarity on what the gains would be.

Coun. Lauren Greenlaw said she’d like to see as many trees retained as possible.

Regarding heights, she said she was concerned 25 metres may be too high for the area.

“I’m concerned that it might potentially impede some of the viewscapes,” she said.

Greenlaw also commented on the proposed park space.

“I like that there is public park space on the residents’ side of the street. I do have concerns about splitting it on either side of the street,” she said.

“In my mind, I wonder about kids trying to run across the street to see their friends.”

She also had thoughts on parking.

“I think we should really consider that the adjacent development is predominantly young families who, with our current transit options, more or less require two vehicles per residence. And right now, it’s a parking mess there. And the overflow parking in that area is currently on private property that is soon to be developed,” she said.

“So I wonder if any excess parking spots in this area could be used as almost mortgage helpers, and be sublet to people in the surrounding community who will be in desperate need of parking.”

Mayor Armand Hurford said that with overall parking, it’s worth exploring what a reduction could mean to the development and the community.

If parking does get taken away, perhaps it could be put to use as storage, he said.

“Having larger, more functional storage spaces associated with these dwellings, I think, could be beneficial and might be something that could be discussed,” Hurford said.

 He noted the Squamish lifestyle that people move here for requires a lot of recreational gear that can take up a lot of space.

Coun. Chris Pettingill proposed a tradeoff.

“I would prefer to explore ways to maintain the 22-metre height in exchange for lower parking and/or trading parking for things like storage or affordable units,” Pettingill said.

He also had thoughts on the neighbouring development’s parking problems.

“This development should not be providing parking for the other stratas who are not enforcing parking on their site,” Pettingill said.

He also said that adding more parking will not necessarily solve the problem. It will just create more parking and more traffic.

“If we mandate a very high level of parking, what we’re forcing is everyone who wants to buy here has to pay for parking,” said Pettingill. “And so it biases this development towards parking-dependent people, which I’m not comfortable with. And I also think about the investments we have currently planned for active transit and public transit. Those are huge investments. I don’t want to undermine that with a whole bunch of parking.”

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