Proponents of the Britannia Beach South development aim to submit their full application package to the Squamish Lillooet Regional District in early 2013.
The SLRD board was told by Kim Needham, the regional district's director of planning and development, that the Taicheng Development Corporation would like to build a community with 3,000 residential units, that's 2,000 more than the current numbers of 850 to 1,000 units supported in the Official Community Plan for the South Britannia plan location.
Needham addressed the board as part of a report on the project's current status.
The majority of these dwellings would be multi-family, including townhouses and apartments. The number of single-family homes would be 80 to 86, with 1,590 to 1,834 townhouses and 1,080 to 1,330 apartments.
Taicheng is considering the best building heights for the site, and while a final decision has not been made, the SLRD staff report stated that the company might seek "sufficient flexibility with the Official Community Plan (OCP) and zoning to allow some apartment buildings of up to 18 storeys in height if there is market demand in the future."
The scale of development would represent roughly 8,000 new residents coming to the Britannia Beach area, Needham told directors at the SLRD's monthly meeting.
"The application has changed quite a bit (since Taicheng's purchase of the Makin Lands area was announced in May 2012), they are now favouring a single development (rather than building in stages as originally planned)," Needham said.
Taicheng is at the information-gathering stage, she added. The preliminary report submitted by the Chinese company stated that significant aspects of the proposal are still being explored, including studies into water supply, transportation, residential and commercial market demand, development phasing and community facilities.
Taicheng has met SLRD staff five times to date, and was speaking to the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training, School District No. 48, The Britannia Mining Museum and Squamish First Nation.
"They don't have a deal yet with any of those groups, but they are speaking to them," Needham said.
Squamish counsellor and stand-in SLRD director Doug Race asked how the proposal as it stood would impact the Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) for the community; Needham explained that the parcels they intend to develop were selected because they would avoid the need for amendments to the RGS.
"We've taken the position that there is no amendment needed for the regional growth strategy amendment in our interpretation for those parcels," she said.
But Taicheng's interest in scaling up development for 3,000 units would mean an amendment to the Official Community Plan.
"Wouldn't an amendment for that many more people in that particular area step outside the fundamental principles of the regional growth strategy that the development is primarily confined to existing municipalities," Race responded. "We're talking about a city.... Indeed, that was what the regional growth strategy was for, to look at developments like this and decide whether or not they're desirable."
In response to a question about the timeline of the project by Pemberton mayor and SLRD director Jordan Sturdy, Needham said staff did not expect "shovels in the ground" for Britannia Beach South until 2016.
Parks, an elementary school, a post-secondary institution, and retail and commercial properties remain a part of the proposal, Needham said.
SLRD chair Susie Gimse observed the development would likely hasten the pressure for creating a new municipality in the southern area of the SLRD along Howe Sound.