It is likely shovels will soon be hitting the ground for what was one of the most divisive projects approved by the previous council back in 2018.
Almost two years after the 'Keep Garibaldi Green' movement contested the rezoning of the former golf course by the Executive Suites Hotel and Resort, the council of today voted 6-0 in favour of the development permit for the first phase of Polygon's Garibaldi Springs residential project.
"It's actually kind of bittersweet after the heat we took in the last council for putting this through rezoning and an [Official Community Plan] amendment," said Mayor Karen Elliott, who along with Coun. Doug Race, supported the project last term.
Race did not vote this time, as he was not present at this meeting. No other councillors from the previous term remain.
Two years ago, a number of residents fought tooth and nail against the rezoning of the land, saying at the time that it defied the Official Community Plan and generated problems with density and traffic while hurting greenspace. It was a contentious debate, but, ultimately, the previous council ended up supporting the rezoning, along with an accompanying OCP amendment.
On July 7, when the current council unanimously supported the development permit for the first 60 residential units of the Garibaldi Springs project, the atmosphere was markedly different.
It was done online as a result of COVID-19 restrictions and feedback was not spoken from the rostrum in council chambers, but rather collected from the District website over a period of weeks.
Instead of a petition teeming with signatures like before, there were eight comments presented to council. Two were in support of the proposal, while others expressed various concerns about the environment, fencing, maintenance costs and the inadequacy of online as opposed to in-person meetings, among other things.
The project will see 26 two-storey duplexes, 22 three-storey townhouses and 12 single-storey cottages built in this phase.
Four of those cottages will have secondary suites. The developer is proposing that this will create eight purpose-built, non-market rental housing units.
"To see this diversity of housing, to see that some of these cottages will be affordable and adaptable, I think that's a great addition to our community," Elliott said.
Coun. Chris Pettingill applauded the environmental initiatives taken by the developer.
"Very pleased to see that this developer is paying attention to the climate crisis…[in the] heating and energy sources of these buildings," Pettingill said.
The buildings will be built — depending on whether the developer applies for building permits this year or next — to Step 3 or Step 4 of the Step Code, which guides how facilities can be built to environmentally friendly standards.
All the appliances in the buildings are expected to be electric, and all units will be compatible with electric vehicle chargers.
"I've never considered golf courses to be green other than in colour, and so I am excited to see some ecological value to this site restored," Pettingill said.
Polygon has promised to dedicate park and ecological reserve lands to the District and work on habitat restoration and construction of active public parks and trails. Most of this work is expected to be done in the first phase.
"Other developers could take many of the pages of [this project's] playbook and apply it to their projects," Coun. John French said.
"It's refreshing to see a report that is indicating that pretty much everything is in alignment with our objectives."