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Decision on Squamish highrise development deferred

Opponents contend buildings will block view of Stawamus Chief from downtown

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By Andrew Mitchell

Last week, Squamish District council voted to defer third reading for a large scale housing development on the waterfront to give staff time to talk to Pridham Developments about the height of the complex. The vote will take place at the next council meeting on Nov. 6.

Pridham Developments has tabled a proposal to build three condominium towers on the old Interfor mill site, located just south of the highway bridge over the Mamquam Blind Channel, and just past the Cleveland Avenue intersection with Highway 99. The tallest tower would be 20 storeys, and all three buildings would be taller than other buildings in Squamish or in all of Sea to Sky. The project will house an estimated 3,500 people when completed, and will include a marina and commercial space.

More than two-thirds of responses in public hearings have been in favour of the project, but it has opponents who feel the buildings will detract from the view of the Stawamus Chief from downtown. Those concerns were front and centre in council’s decision to defer third reading of the project.

“The public hearing itself lasted four hours and went to 11 o’clock when we started to talk about third reading,” said Mayor Ian Sutherland. “It was clear that we would not have enough consensus to have a successful third reading last night. It was also clear that the common issue was the height of the towers, and we’ve asked staff to talk to the proponent and come back with ideas and suggestions on building height.

“If the third reading was not successful the project would have had to go away for six months, but we figured it was better to wait two weeks until the Nov. 6 meeting to hear options from staff.”

According to Sutherland, the condo complex helps to address several issues for Squamish, including an initiative to create a mix of new housing for different income levels in the Squamish area. It also fits with Smart Growth, and other goals in the Official Community Plan.

“It’s a good framework for every site, but they’ve done an excellent job on the waterfront landing when it comes to addressing the policies of the community,” said Sutherland.

“There is big support for the project… and probably, hearing what people said at the meeting, some reduction in tower size is something more people on council could support.”

Peter Harker, speaking on behalf of the Squamish Downtown Neighbourhood Association, is opposed to the height of the towers.

“It’s not a done deal yet, the towers,” he said. “Discussion in the community is over by now, but I think a lot of people are angry at the process. We’ve never discussed a building of more than six storeys for downtown. The lack of consultation is a constant thing that worries me. We want transparency and involvement, and we don’t get much of that.”

Harker says the towers will stand in front of the Chief, which is a landmark for the town.

“I live on Second Avenue in the shadow of the Chief sacred site,” he said. “I would allow that its part of a collection of sacred sites, and people who feel the same way don’t want visual pollution in front of it.”

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