Directors of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) board have instructed staff to look into preparing a bylaw amendment to create a refund provision for district fees paid by developers on major construction projects and developments.
The request to staff came at the regular SLRD meeting on Monday, May 28. It was in response to a request from Chinese company Taicheng Development Corporation, which recently paid $30.5 million in cash in a court-ordered sale for the 477-acre area previously known as the Makin Lands.
The company is going through the process of establishing permissions and plans for the proposed South Britannia project on Howe Sound site. If the change to the refund policy is successful, it will mean an amendment to the SLRD's Fee Bylaw No. 1101, 2008, which currently does not have such a provision.
It was one of two requests by Taicheng, the second being a request to pay their upcoming application and rezoning fees in installments, also not in the current bylaw.
"(Taicheng Development Group) asked to be able to pay their application fees for rezoning and key amendments by way of installments," SLRD planner Kim Needham told directors.
Needham said SLRD staff had not yet determined the fees for the company as Taicheng's application has not yet been received, but she told SLRD directors that fees could cost "$260,000 to over $500,000 for their application."
Currently, the SLRD's system does not allow for staggered payments, Needham said, with developers being required to pay the full amount when filing an application. Taicheng wanted to pay the full amount off over a period of four months, rather than all at once.
Needham told directors that such a bylaw change could be of interest to potential developers around the SLRD.
"What this report does is request that we be able to amend the bylaw in order to allow for installment options for everybody, as well as a refund option," she said.
An animated discussion between directors ensued regarding fee structures and support for project proponents.
"I wouldn't really be in favour of the phased payment, installment plan, but I say after the fact that we could work out some kind of refund possibility," said director Rob Kirkham, Mayor of Squamish.
Pemberton's Mayor Jordan Sturdy asked Needham if Taicheng had given a reason for requesting installments.
"They said it's a whole lot of money to have to put up right up from the get-go. It may well be because we don't have a refund provision that they're a little bit concerned," she told him.
"Given the size of the development it does raise some red flags," Sturdy replied.
Directors took Kirkham's route, voting in favour of SLRD staff exploring the addition of a refund component, but rejecting the request for staggered fee payments.
Gondola passes third reading
The Sea to Sky Gondola project has passed its third reading for bylaw and OCP amendments to SLRD Electoral Area D.
SLRD staff member Kim Needham said staff recommended the passage of the rezoning readings, with minor changes added by directors to include the board in decisions made to the project — a change from it being the sole responsibility of the Electoral Area D director.
The changes impact the top section of the proposed gondola project, south of Squamish. The bottom is in the District of Squamish, which has already passed the project.
Staff advised the board to wait for final approval until the decision comes from the B.C. government on the right-of-way through existing parkland, due in June or July. SLRD chair Susie Gimse noted that the next reading would not come back to the board for final approval until around this time.