TOP PLATFORM ISSUES
This list of issues is not intended to be exhaustive and, of course, it will not include many of the issues that will come before Council during the next term that we can not anticipate today. Over the next four years members of Council will be called upon to make many decisions on behalf of the citizens of Squamish. In making such decisions I will be guided by my career experience and my council experience in community affairs.
Garibaldi at Squamish:
This proposal would provide for a downhill ski resort with four season activities and a large real estate development at the northern boundary of Squamish. It recently received its Environmental Assessment Certificate from the provincial government. I expect that the next Council will have to deal with this proposal.
We need to be concerned about elements of this proposal including its water supply and sewage treatment, its size and the viability of a ski resort or destination resort in that location. The most recent proposal calls for up to 22,500 bed units of development on what is now undeveloped and pristine land. That translates into thousands of single family, multi-family and hotel units. Located on the boundary of Squamish and the Squamish - Lillooet Regional District it will, if it proceeds, inevitably have a significant impact on Squamish and our business community. I am concerned that this will not be a positive impact. It will place a significant burden on an already busy highway and on local services.
Squamish is undergoing a period of unprecedented growth and development pressure. It has affected property values, vacancy rates for rental housing and housing affordability. Although some have suggested it, stopping development completely is not a realistic option. However, it must be managed. Some time ago, before I became a Councillor, Squamish adopted Smart Growth on the Ground principles. This directs new development to existing developed areas, promotes infill development and promotes adding density in many of the existing developed areas.
In our recent Official Community Plan consultation and engagement we heard from the public that they wanted growth controlled. As a result the OCP contains a Growth Management Boundary. This separates areas that are appropriate for increased density or infill development from undeveloped or "green field" areas. Areas outside the Growth Management Boundary may, at some point in the future, be needed for additional growth but are not needed now. This boundary is subject to change by a Council at any time and in the event a proposal came to Council that provided significant benefit to the community the boundary could be moved to accommodate that proposal. Otherwise additional development which may be needed to provide housing options and additional rental accommodation would be directed to existing developed areas and infill areas. I supported the inclusion of a Growth Management boundary in the OCP and feel it will help direct future growth in a positive way.
The pressure on housing prices and availability we are presently experiencing in Squamish is shared by many other municipalities. Since the completion of the upgrades to the Sea to Sky Highway more people have decided to live here. It is hard to blame them. Squamish has attractions that have brought all of us here. In addition, we have seen a proliferation of secondary suites, initially approved for long term rentals, being used as nightly rentals. It does present problems for a municipal government and our community as a whole. These exist on several levels from providing for homeless persons to affordable rental accommodation and an adequate supply of different forms of housing for families that want to purchase.
Housing is primarily a responsibility of the Provincial government. Municipalities do not have the resources to solve housing issues on their own. In attempting to deal with homeless or other vulnerable members of our community we need the participation of the Province. We have been able to partner with BC Housing on projects like the Under One Roof project of Helping Hands which is about to start construction. In addition we are partnering with BC Housing on an affordable rental project on Buckley Avenue to provide apartment units at affordable rates tied to income levels.
This present Council has required rezoning applications to provide for a portion of units to be designated as rental and some as affordable rental to be administered by the District. Increasing the supply of rental units through the strategic use of zoning powers and the enforcement of zoning bylaws prohibiting nightly rentals in residentially zoned areas are ways a municipality can assist in lessening this crisis. The issue of affordable housing is not one that will be solved in one Council term but will require continued effort to make progress. I support such initiatives and would work to continue present efforts and look for new opportunities to provide the housing necessary for members of our community.