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South Britannia Village shapes up with parks, marina and Coast Salish museum

SLRD board refers proposal to Committee of Whole for further study



South Britannia Village is taking shape, at least on paper.

The proposed community on Howe Sound, located at Britannia Beach south of Squamish, took centre stage at Monday's board meeting (May 27) for the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD).

The third progress report for the development proposal was presented by Ron Lea of Folio Architecture on behalf of the proponents Taicheng Development Corporation to SLRD directors. This was prior to a motion to provide direction to SLRD staff on Taicheng's preliminary rezoning and OCP application.

Lea said that since the purchase of the lands almost two years ago, "we are now making progress," with 30 to 40 consultants now shaping the 87.4-hectare project.

"(Taicheng) is committed to the development of the village, I think that's most important, and I think it is evident by their purchase of the lands and their efforts to meet requirements," he told directors.

The first phase of South Britannia construction would consist of 1,000 housing units, along with retail, an elementary school, marina, hotel and parks. Taicheng hopes to build 3,000 units in total, including apartments, townhouses and single-family homes, Lea said, and wanted the community to be a centre for the growing Howe Sound region.

Two public information meetings had resulted in a "great turnout," with priorities from participants being access to the waterfront, an eco-friendly development with green spaces, restaurants and retail, and pedestrian and biking trails.

Peter Cheng, the principal of Taicheng Corporation, which is based in China, has been in Canada for the last month and attended the SLRD meeting, along with two colleagues from the company.

The waterfront was to be the gem of the project, Lea said, and Minaty Bay "would be preserved in the state it's in." Lea said Taicheng was flexible in terms of using the bay area, with "less useful" space being set for residential construction rather than as part of the park.

Chief Bill Williams and Sheryl Fisher of the Squamish Nation also attended in support of Taicheng. The Nation has formed the Xay Temixw Land Use Plan in partnership with Taicheng, with the aim of creating a Coast Salish discovery centre, museum and archives in South Britannia.

Lea said there would be a third public information meeting later in 2013, followed by the completion and submission of a final Official Community Plan and rezoning application with the SLRD. First, second and third readings of the application and a public hearing will also take place in 2013.

Following the presentation, the SLRD board passed a motion to discuss the presentation further with staff at an upcoming Committee of the Whole meeting, in part because, as Director of Area C Susie Gimse noted, such a complex project should not be rushed. SLRD chair Patricia Heintzman agreed, saying it wasn't a decision that needed to be made immediately.

Eric Vance, the SLRD's planning consultant on the project, told the board that South Britannia would have to jump the following hurdles: to resolve Ministry of Transportation and CN access issues, meet the conditions for using Crown Land along the shore of Howe Sound, pass the environmental assessment process for its marina plans, gain permission to build an elementary school at a time when none are being built due to excess capacity, establish desired public transportation between South Britannia and Vancouver, and establish a reliable source for drinking water.

Vance said he was confident these challenges could be worked through.

Of greater concern, he added, was Taicheng's density needs to make the project viable.

"The proposed 3,000 units are really, really packed," Vance said, with roughly half being condo units and the population of the community being tripled compared to what is currently allowed.

As well, he said, Taicheng's desire to use Minaty Bay goes against the SLRD's preference to keep it as a regional park.

SLRD Area D director Maurice Freitag, who lives in Britannia Beach, said the way Minaty Bay changes were being proposed, "doesn't work."

"We're not willing to give it up, and we're not willing to have a bunch of boats sitting on top of it," he said.

He added that his constituents were not happy with the north and south designations for Britannia Beach as it implied separate communities.

"Apart from that, the majority of my constituents are interested in that conversation (Taicheng's proposals)," Freitag said.