District of Squamish urges the province to refuse mining application for Cheema lands | Squamish Chief

District of Squamish urges the province to refuse mining application for Cheema lands

Council resists developer's bid to turn site of proposed residential development into a quarry

A developer's gamble to turn the site of a proposed residential area into a quarry has been met with resistance from the District of Squamish.

On Dec. 17, council voted unanimously in favour of urging the provincial government to refuse approval of a mining permit on District Lots 509 and 510, which are on land owned by the Cheema family. The lots, located north of the Garibaldi Highlands, are zoned for resource extraction.

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 According to the application, the Cheemas are seeking to extract 10,000 tonnes of granite or basalt to be used as dimensional stone, which is commonly found in landscaping, walls and floors, among other things.

The provincial government will be taking this feedback, along with other comments made by the public, into consideration before making a decision on the matter.

"It does look suspiciously like the start of residential development without permission — but I won't go that far to say that," said Coun. Doug Race.

 The mine application arrives after developer Bob Cheema's efforts to create a residential development on his land were stalled by the municipality in 2018. Cheema's land lies outside the town's growth management boundary.

 As set out in Squamish's Official Community Plan, the municipality will only consider development applications for properties outside that boundary when the population reaches 34,000. A lower 22,500 threshold may be considered should the development address impacts associated with growth.

 Cheema's proposal last appeared before council on October 2018, but was deferred.

Elected officials decided against removing the population threshold.

 The latest census tallied in 2016 said Squamish's population count was about 19,800 at the time.

 However, provincial estimates suggest that in 2018, Squamish grew to about 21,200.

 Coun. Eric Andersen said he supports the resolution, but appeared to sympathize with the developer.

 "In principle, I am not a supporter of how the growth management policy established in the current [Official Community Plan] applies to this property," said Andersen.

 With respect to the mining application, staff said there were a number of issues with the project, and recommended that council relay those concerns to the province.

 Director of planning Jonas Velaniskis said the proposed resource activity includes processing material onsite, which is in contravention to the permitted uses of the land.

 He added the proposed resource activity and road works are very close to an existing residential area, which goes against the District's resource buffer area.

 "Proposed resource activity is attempting to advance non-approved residential development plans on District Lots 509 and 510, which undermines the District's Growth Management policy," reads a staff report.

"I'd like to see the landowner put their energy into the residential plans and this mining plan on a backburner," said Coun. John French.

The Chief reached out to the Cheema family, but phone calls to both Aran and Bob Cheema were not answered. Aran, who is listed on the application as the contact, did not respond to an email requesting comment before press deadline.

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