Developer Wants Restrictions Lifted for His Garibaldi Highland Property

Bob Cheema owns the property shown in dark red colour above Garibaldi Highlands.

By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: Aug. 25, 2012

A Vancouver based developer wants Squamish to remove restrictions on future residential development on land he owns above Garibaldi Highlands.

Bob Cheema owns lots 509 and 510, which is 450 acres of underdeveloped mixed-forest hillside north of Garibaldi Highlands and west of Mashiter Creek.

Documents obtained by the Reporter show Cheema wrote to the district this February, asking them to remove the current population thresholds which restrict plan for the lands.

According to the Squamish Official Community Plan (OCP), the future expansion into lots 509 and 510 can only be considered once the population reaches a minimum of 22,500.

Cheema refused to comment on any aspect of his proposal to the district, but confirmed that he owned the property.

Formerly owned by Merrill & Ring Canadian Properties Inc., they were identified as one of four future Sub‐Area Plan locations in the OCP.

A sub-area plan is required for consideration of any future development.

The lots in question are further subject to phasing criteria and the population threshold that currently restricts area planning to guide the sequence and timing of future development.

Cheema says the OCP policy is not in the best interest of the community.

It has, he says, placed an artificial constraint on local housing prices and stock-restricting the district ability to ensure a healthy supply of affordable housing.

He has a plan: He can prepare a sub-are plan for a broad range of housing, amenities and facilities for community benefit.

He wants to proceed with the initial phases of development encompassing a portion of the lands.

The 1998 OCP earmarked the area north of Garibaldi Estates as one of the two major residential growth areas and the location of the future potential school site.

It was in 1998 that the district first identified population thresholds of 20,000 and 30,000 to focus on population-based land use and servicing requirements.

Approximately 2,700 new dwelling units were projected for the Garibaldi Highlands area to accommodate the population to 30,000. The threshold was changed to 22,500, a population projection the district estimates would be reached in a decade or so.

The district wants to focus on future growth in downtown, and other underutilized or brownfield sites, and in neighbourhoods that are contiguous to the existing services urban areas.

In its report, staff said the removal of population threshold for both lots is a significant OCP amendment, given the importance of are planning and development phasing within the overall growth management strategy.

The staff recommended that council apply existing OCP area plan phasing criteria and defer further considerations of an amendment.

The district wants to complete and review community population, and employment projections, update its inventory.



  1. Trevor Mills says:

    I just looked on MLS and there is just over 500 residences and lots for sale at the moment. There is only one industry in town that pays well enough to sustain the high prices we have here. Do we need more houses to bring the prices down further?

  2. Riun Blackwell says:

    I believe District staff has it right here. With all the land ready for development Downtown including the SODC albatross, development of first nations properties, and in the Regional District we should be very cautious in assuming where development will occur. Potential development in the core area should be our focus for sometime to come. It must be challenging to have such a exciting property and not be able to move ahead but heck that’s the story for our whole town.

  3. Eric Andersen says:

    Building housing on scarce, strategically valuable employment lands, and on the floodpain, is not “Smart Growth”. The uplands is where we should be building housing. Housing use should be the very last priority for the SODC lands. Time for a “common sense” review of how we should interpret “Smart Growth” for Squamish — especially our jobs-housing ratio imbalance, and planning needs for industrial, commercial and tourist-commercial lands.

    • Nate Dolha says:

      There is certainly nothing ‘Smart Growth’ about sprawling further out… Eric, you’re right that we need to have an honest convo about Smart Growth policies, and when we do, there will be less appetite for this type of development.

  4. Don Patrick says:

    I guess Cheema thinks it is time to forge ahead now that Wilf is gone. Maybe he will be in for a surprize.

  5. Hugh Kerr says:

    This is a developer / speculator who is looking for a big payoff. He must have known about the Official Plan when he bought, and now is trying to make a fast buck. If he did not know, he should have: buyer beware applies to speculators as well. If he does not want to wait, he can sell. Other builders are struggling to sell the houses currently being built in various locations, such as University Heights, (close to Quest) and at the bottom of Pia- both of which are close to where he wants to develop.

  6. ted prior says:

    When the growth strategy was done 10 years ago this land was recognized to be residential once the population reached 22,000 this would give staff time to plan infrastructure over the next 5 or 6 years . I do not think it is wise to take staff off other projects now to work on this one . In the smart growth document it talks about in fill for a few years . Is it is I was surprised at the way council voted . We have polices that if we follow it will help get developer confidence back .

  7. Craig C says:

    I agree that this is a great place for residential development even though it’s in my back yard. It’s out of the flood plain, has the potential for great views but the timing however is wrong. The DoS plan is smart to wait for the population to grow to 22,000+. The inventory is simply not needed right now. Real Estate prices are dropping and inventory levels are swelling and in my opinion we will see values drop significantly over the next five years. This developer knows this and wants to cash-in before prices decline. If Crumpit Woods & University Heights were already sold out, the Aqua project complete and all units filled then I could see brining this forward but it’s just not the case.I agree this is a great place for residential even though it’s in my back yard. The timing however is wrong. The DoS plan is smart to wait for the population to grow to 22,000. Wait till the inventory is needed. Real Estate prices are dropping and inventory levels are growing.

  8. G says:

    The DOS has my vote on this. I’m not in a hurry to see this area developed. There’s plenty of Squamish that needs a major facelift to take it out of that “hick town” look and feel before we start mowing down mountain tops for more houses. He bought the property with full knowledge of the population thresholds, he should wait it out. I don’t see any value or reason to change the rules just so he can (try to) make a fast buck – and potentially to the detriment of the community.

  9. Kal says:

    It’s so hard to find any lots or houses in Squamish. I have lived in Squamish all my life and would love to stay here as my kids love this town too. The District of Squamish should allow developers like Bob Cheema to develop his land as there is nothing else available. Many local people like myself can’t find any

  10. Cheema says:

    It will be starting in 2020