By Vivian Moreau
Plans for a $500-million oceanfront residential development in Squamish were quashed last week following a heated district council meeting.
Developer Qualex-Landmark withdrew from the proposed development with the District of Squamish after council voted 4-3 in favour of a last-minute amendment to a memorandum of understanding for the project.
The Squamish Oceanfront Development Corporation was created by the District of Squamish for the purpose of developing industrial lands that have been vacant for the past 10 years. An agreement to develop the land was reached with Qualex in May. But Qualex decided last week to withdraw after a last-minute amendment put forth by Councillor Raj Kahlon. The amendment asked that more than one-third of the development be dedicated to public use and light industry.
The former Nexen Chemical plant site was acquired by the district two years ago for $3. The district selected developer Qualex-Landmark as partner for developing what was considered to be the last large-scale oceanfront property within commute of the Lower Mainland. The 103 acres of land and waterfront lots were slated for 800-2,500 homes, a hotel, performing arts centre, green space and light industrial in a yet-to-be-designed master plan that would have included public input.
“For council to change the rules, the deal, at the last minute is difficult to understand,” said Mike Chin, SOD Corp’s chief executive officer. Chin said his board felt addressing public space and industrial usage would have been covered in the master plan design.
Qualex announced two days after the packed Oct. 17 council meeting it was withdrawing from the project.
Squamish Mayor Ian Sutherland said he voted in favour of the amendment but found the manner on which it was voted — with one councillor ripping up the proposed memorandum — was the tipping point for the developer.
“They figured they could do business elsewhere with people who want to move forward and want to do business and the disrespect that was shown to Qualex by members of the public and certain councillors made the decision for them,” said Sutherland.
SOD Corp’s chair said there would have to be some changes in thinking before the project’s splintered partnership could be repaired.
“I believe that this decision has negatively impacted the political outsiders’ view of Squamish politics and if Squamish wants to change that and have Squamish be all that it can be the politics have to be sorted out,” Chin said. “Politicians have to come to terms with what they’re saying and what it means. If they did there might be some hope for the project. But they have to come clean and say that, otherwise developers are going to stay away.”