A development permit was unanimously approved this week for a Ramada Hotel off Highway 99 at the southern end of Squamish, even though it came with a slew of variances and the special meeting of council was sparsely attended.
The hotel, which will be comprised of 81 rooms, is being developed by Platinum West Development Inc. The company requested and received five variances, including an increase in height from 10.68 metres to 16.3 metres, a reduction in north side setback from 7.62 metres to 1.82 metres, a reduction in required parking stalls from 81 to 76, the elimination of five loading stalls in favour of a centralized bay and a deviation from the district’s signage bylaw.
“In terms of these variances, staff have reviewed the proposal and support the variances,” said Chris Bishop, a district planner.
Squamish Planning Director Cameron Chalmers said the project fits with the district’s agenda to swell tourism. According to Bishop, much of the site is low-lying, which mitigates the impact of the height variance.
“We’re down to four councillors,” said Councillor Mike Jenson, “so it’s a bit of a surprise to me to see this on the agenda.”
Four councillors is the bare minimum required to hold a meeting. Chalmers said the planning department had originally targeted the agenda of July 15, but the Advisory Design Panel had reviewed the application not five days before, and changes were requested. That review marked the second time the panel had reviewed the project within the past two months. The developer, said Chalmers, is eager to push forward with the proposal.
Mayor Ian Sutherland and Councillors Corinne Lonsdale and Patricia Heintzman were absent.
However, Lonsdale forwarded comment through Councillor Greg Gardner, who was acting mayor during the meeting. She also had issues with the building’s height, as well as some of the design features, which are angular in a certain portion of the building.
“We think the building is of an appropriate scale for its location and for the context of building that’s happening to the south,” said Chalmers. “It is, like many things in architecture, somewhat subjective. But staff feels it appropriately meets guidelines.”
Chalmers later added that the project furthers the district’s goal of increasing tourism.
The Squamish Estuary Management Committee, and, through it, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, have approved the project, according to Bishop, who said a three or four page letter was sent to the developer at an earlier stage of planning.
The four storey building will have basalt and timber features, as well as an interior climbing wall visible from the highway. The hotel joins 11 others in Squamish, all of which comprise 401 rooms. The Ramada will be the second largest, behind Executive Suites Garibaldi Springs Resort, which has 111 rooms.