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Squamish council approves six-and-eight-storey downtown residential complexes

The Plaza at Junction Park has been granted a development permit from the District of Squamish.

Despite complaints over blocked views and a lack of parking, two residential buildings and an office complex have been given the go-ahead for the downtown area near Howe Sound Inn and Brewing.

On July 6, council voted 5-1 in favour of a development permit that would allow an eight-storey building, a six-storey facility and a four-storey office structure to be constructed at 37870 Cleveland Ave.

Coun. Eric Andersen was the sole dissenting vote. Coun. Doug Race did not vote, as he was absent.

The permit was granted to Cleveland Acquisition Corp. 

In this development, dubbed the Plaza at Junction Park, residential buildings will have commercial space on the ground floor. The eight-storey building will have 107 residential units.

The northern six-storey building will host 94 residential units, 40 of which are purpose-built rental.

A four-storey office building will be at the northernmost end of the property fronting Main Street.

There are expected to be 214 parking spaces for residents and an additional 34 for commercial and office users. They would also be paying cash in lieu of an additional 42 commercial parking spaces.

Finally, the development will also include a public plaza starting from the front of the office building, stretching all the way to O'Siyam Pavilion.

The developer sought several variances. 

One would increase the maximum allowable heights of the residential buildings to about 30 metres and 23 metres, up from 27 and 20 metres, respectively. The condition of this variance was that dwelling units be equipped with renewable energy for heating.

The increased height was a major sticking point for a number of people who wrote to council with feedback.

It was a common complaint that their views would be ruined.

One example was a correspondence from Dr. Christiane Armstrong.

"I purposely purchased a unit on the fourth floor facing the Chief, knowing that the proposed development would not be higher than three floors, thus preserving the view," wrote Armstrong. 

"Units on that side of the building (the preferred side) facing the Chief and the marina were sold for a higher value. This is particularly true for units located on higher floors (4, 5 and 6). Should this proposed variance be permitted, this additional expense has no value, but more importantly, this will negatively affect the resale value should this development be permitted. This will cost me tens of thousands of dollars if this is approved."

Another variance would up the amount of cash-in-lieu parking spaces to 42, up from 38.

The payout from this 42-stall cash-in-lieu agreement will provide $630,000 for the District's Alternative Forms of Transportation Reserve Fund.

It was on this piece that Coun. Eric Andersen disagreed with the motion.

"I would instead be supporting the alternative staff recommendation of placing 50% in Alternative Forms of Transportation Reserve Fund and 50% in the Municipal Off-street Parking Facilities Reserve Fund," said Andersen. 

"I think we need to get serious about planning in this precinct of downtown Squamish a parking facility."

The potential lack of parking was also a recurring concern among members of the public who provided feedback on the project.

"In addition to my concerns about the massive size of the buildings blocking such a beautiful view, we have a serious parking problem already downtown," wrote Jennifer Roberts. 

"Each new development lacks enough parking, so we have people parking all over the streets, and as each new building goes up, more overflow parking spots are taken away."

There was also a proposed decrease of loading zones, down to two, from the previously required three.

Finally, there was also a covenant to permanently secure 28 affordable rental units and 12 market rental units.

In exchange for the affordable rentals, the District created a variance allowing the developer to cut the size of the indoor amenity space to 255 square metres, down from 402 square metres.

Coun. Jenna Stoner, along with the rest of council, was supportive of the proposal.

"I am willing to support the variances that are being requested this time," said Stoner. "I do think, generally, they are defensible. I appreciate that there are concerns around the additional height of the structure. However, that is very much a small portion of the building. It doesn't change the overall massing of the building. It is simply enclosing a small piece of rooftop that was already going to be there."

She said that complaints that the building should not be six or eight storeys high were not up for debate with this variance, as that had been agreed to in a rezoning that took place many years ago.