Despite earlier fears over lacklustre public engagement, Squamish's planning department is moving quickly into policy development mode for the development of the Oceanfront, this after feedback from the second phase goes public.
"I need to be really clear on one thing," said Director of Planning Cameron Chalmers. "The public consultation on this project has been great going back five years - even the event we had in June, which drew over 200 people. What we were discouraged about was the open house in the fall. We didn't get the attendance we hoped for, but we still drew 70 people. Based on the work we've done over the last four or five years, we're still heading down the right track."
The phase two summary furnished the department with new emphasis on old themes. Public amenities still figure huge into residents' vision of the peninsula development.
"Well I think the most striking thing is a very strong reinforcement of the need to deliver a number of public amenities and benefits," continued Chalmers. "That was striking, but not unknown. The emphasis on providing employment lands continues to emerge."
Further, said Chalmers, there's a willingness to integrate different sorts of land use and development to make feasible those public amenities - though, he stressed, only if those amenities are in fact delivered.
"One of the things we've been very attentive to is making sure it's realistic," he said.
"There's going to have to be trade-offs for sure. Right now we're massaging it and putting it in a position where it will be realistic."
The classic problem with public amenities is how little profit they generate, though Chalmers noted that Squamish council has been pondering alternative financing methods. And, with a 15 to 20 year build out, in the rosiest of economic backdrops, there's still time to hash out those strategies.
Sustainability also figured into public feedback, a desire that happens to coincide with other department files, such as the Community Energy Action Plan, which explores green energy generation, such as a neighbourhood energy utility. District planner Sabina FooFat has been chiselling form out of that file, and council has said it understands the crucial timing of its application to the Oceanfront. It's infinitely more feasible to install the infrastructure prior to build out.
The next steps will march quickly, said Chalmers. By the end of February, a draft policy statement will come before the Committee of the Whole. Chalmers said the document will offer residents a substantial cut of meat to chew over, complete with preliminary drawings and diagrams.
"We're hoping to make significant headway throughout the remainder of the winter and early spring," he said. So we encourage the community to check out the website - createtheoceanfront.ca. This is going to happen relatively quickly. We are hitting a point where council is going to make some tough decisions."