About 300 signatories to a petition are saying an upcoming development in Brackendale will bring parking, density and aesthetic problems to the neighbourhood. However, the people behind the project say their design is using less density than is allowed while preserving a historic building.
"[The] development [is] more campus than the large monolith that is otherwise permitted by bylaws and guidelines," said Ian McDonald of Carscadden Stokes McDonald Architects, the designer behind the project, in an online presentation.
The property owner, Talib Jiwani of numbered company 1160864 B.C. Ltd., is seeking to build two mixed-use buildings comprising ground floor commercial and rental apartments above. These structures will be just behind the Brackendale General Store at 41665 - 41707 Government Road. The area is zoned Local Commercial, or C-1, and Residential 2, or RS-2.
The first building will have 15 residential rental units, a mix of one-bedroom and studio apartments, as well as a commercial unit on the ground. The second building will have 13 residential rental units, including studio, one-bedrooms and two-bedrooms, as well as a ground-level commercial unit.
Plans for the project posted online say the existing Brackendale General Store along with the Post Office and Crabapple Café will be maintained. However, the existing dilapidated garage will be demolished.
Some neighbours to the proposal have launched a petition against the project. Combining online and in-person signatures, almost 300 people had signed on as of May 7.
While opponents say they are not against development in general, they say there are several elements about the project they don't like.
In the online petition, the residents are asking District council to deny the development permit variances that are being sought by 1160864 B.C. Ltd.
There are two variances in question. The first is a proposed increase of maximum height to 14.5 metres, up from 12.18 metres. The second seeks to reduce the amount of required parking spaces to 48, down from 53.
The District report says these variances are requested in order to maintain the existing General Store building and preserve as much of the riparian area — that is, grounds right beside waterways — on the western lots as possible.
Second, petitioners are asking for a "meaningful alternative" to public information sessions. This project was scheduled to have an information session, but it was cancelled due to COVID-19. The District has opted to use online postings and feedback as a substitute, but petitioners have told The Chief they are worried that this excludes seniors and people with limited access to technology.
The petitioners are also asking for a pause on development approvals until a neighbourhood plan is completed.
One of the co-authors of the petition, Della Halvorson said that parking, density and aesthetic issues were all reasons as to why a number of residents were opposed to the project.
"We know that there's something going to be built there, and we understand that," said Halvorson. "We just think that it should be more thoughtful and more in tune with the community."
She said those opposed to the development believe there won't be enough parking and this would be further exacerbated should the parking reduction variance be granted.
"There's not enough parking anywhere in this town," shes said, adding while some people may think reducing parking will force people to walk, bike or take the bus, this will not happen because many in Squamish are forced to commute out of town for work, and there are little or no public transportation options available.
Halvorson said the petitioners fear that with inadequate parking, it will not only be harder to find a spot in Brackendale, but it will create additional traffic and safety issues, as children often walk by the proposed site on their way to school.
Petitioners are also asking for a reduction in units, as they believe excess density will result from the project.
These residents also say the buildings don't fit the character of Brackendale, as they are too big. They say it's not aesthetically pleasing and are afraid it will cast shadows on nearby properties.
"The feedback that we're getting from all our neighbours is, 'Oh my goodness, what are you thinking? That's not at all the character of our neighbourhood,'" said Halvorson.
She said she'd like the design to follow the Brackendale General Store more closely, with more pronounced peaks.
With respect to neighbourhood character, Talib Jiwani, the property owner, said that one of the goals of the project is to preserve the general store building, along with the public trail access to Cottonwood Park.
The project was not required to keep the historic general store building.
"While this proposal is seeking to maintain the existing general store building and preserve the riparian area on the west portion of the site, it should be noted that under the current zoning, the property owner could demolish the existing General Store Building and construct a duplex on the western lot zoned RS-2," reads the municipal report posted online.
Regarding building structures that are more in line with the general store's design, Jiwani said newer buildings are held to a different standard.
"The original general store building was built long before flood bylaws existed and if it had to be rebuilt today, it would be much taller," he wrote. "The new buildings are subject to a new building code and different set of bylaws."
For example, modern buildings in the area are subject to flood construction levels, which requires structures to be built on elevations to prevent flood damage.
Jiwani said that variances are relatively minor — two metres in height and four parking spaces.
"The density requested is below the allowable amount," he wrote. "This density is further broken up into three smaller buildings rather than one single building with a larger footprint."
He added the project provides rental housing, creates employment opportunities and retains the general store building.
The deadline to comment on the project through the District is June 15.
Council will vote on the development permit variances at a future meeting after that.