Plans to build three apartment buildings up to 20 storeys high near downtown Squamish have been scaled down.
The development proposal ran into trouble last month when some citizens spoke out against the towers, which they feared would block the view of the world famous Stawamus Chief, the world’s second largest granite monolith.
Now developers and the District of Squamish have agreed that the three buildings, which must be built with sustainability in mind, will be no higher than 12 storeys.
“I am feeling better with that because they don’t take away that whole sacred site or view,” said Peter Harker, an outspoken opponent of the old tower plan.
“I see the potential here as just phenomenal. In all senses of the word we have a world-class city here not just because of the ocean, but because of the mountains and the rock face.”
The Waterfront Landing proposal, just south of the Highway 99 bridge over the Mamquam Blind Channel, has been in the works for about two years, during which time there have been opportunities for public input. It will also include a marina and some commercial space.
Pridham Development spokesperson Andrew Pottinger said concern over the towers was unexpected.
“It was somewhat of a surprise because it has been a proposal that has been on the books at literally dozens of public meetings and we have had consistent feedback that the great majority of people are comfortable with the towers in that unique location,” he said Tuesday night following a Squamish Council meeting which gave the proposal third reading.
“It is a costly loss because property at a higher level is worth more. But within the scale of the overall development it was felt to be a sacrifice that was within reason to meet the concerns of some of the community that 20 storeys was too high.”
Said Mayor Ian Sutherland: “Overall it takes Squamish to the next level and provides a type of housing that doesn’t exist right now.”
The proposal, which will house 3,500 new residents — the equivalent of a quarter of the district’s current population — has become a litmus test for growth for the community.
There are several large proposals being looked at for the area including new hotels and the development of the entire waterfront, which used to be all-industrial.
Councillor Corinne Lonsdale, while supporting the proposal, in the end repeatedly voiced her concern over the pace of growth and asked that Council sit down and create a vision for the area for the long term.
“Tell me why do we want to grow so fast,” she asked fellow councillors.
“I’m not sure the community really does (want to grow this fast) and that is bothering me quite a bit.”
The amenities package for the 53.1-acre site is being finalized. Once that is done the proposal will go for fourth reading. The developers hope to be in construction early next year.