Developer Nixes Spiritual Centre Plans


Clasina Van Bemmel has shelved plans for a spiritual centre and has put her Cleveland Ave lot for sale.

By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: Dec 13, 2014

Clasina Van Bemmel has owned a lot on Cleveland Ave since 1999 and she wanted to do more than just make money on it.

The Inspiration Centre project in downtown Squamish was going to be a four storey building with a multi-purpose hall for spiritual services, a restaurant, a bakery, a bookstore, and an art gallery on the ground floor.

As many as 40 co-housing apartments would be available on the third and fourth floor of the building. Money from those units would provide for the spiritual centre and affordable housing for women on the first and second floor.

She had the right dream, but perhaps the wrong town, she now realises.

Frustrated with the time it took to rezone the property, Bemmel is putting the property up for sale. In the two years it took to rezone the property, the momentum for the project fizzled away, Bemmel said.

The delay in zoning led to cost over runs and people interested in the project lost confidence in it.

“If the rezoning took this long (almost two years), they wondered how long it took to get a building permit,” she said.

Negotiations over voluntary community amenities delayed the zoning. Bemmel initially offered $100,000 as an amenity but the district wanted more as rezoning from Highway Commercial to Downtown Commercial would mean higher density.

The district also wanted some guarantee through an agreement and the community use of the spiritual centre. Both finally decided on the contribution: $140, 865 to the women’s centre for second stage housing.

Bemmel said she always wanted to support second stage housing and had been planning for it since 2005.

The 70-year-old Bemmel said several developers have told her she could make a lot of money there if she were to forego spiritual centre plans.

“It never worked for me because this is a place where I want to live and grow old,” she said.

The project had support in councillors Ted Prior and Patricia Heintzman, but it was opposed by Coun. Susan Chapelle.

Monasteries and spiritual centres are economic derivers and are fundamental part of downtowns all over the world,” said Heintzman.

“We have to say yes to projects like these that don’t fit into a box that we have,” she said.

Coun. Chapelle, meanwhile, said the project would remove employment land from our downtown. Downtown development doesn’t mean building a building that is just nicer than an empty lot, she said.

“It means creating employment and this would be taking away a future employment lands.”

Looking back, Bemmel feels the Inspiration Centre project was ahead of its time and district just didn’t seem excited by it.




  1. Dave Colwell says:

    So typical of how the short sightedness of some of our Councillors can let good things slip through their fingers and away…very sad! We have lost so many opportunities over the years. What did you have in mind for that land Susan?? It sometimes is not all about money…Frankly, I am disappointed in you. How many more non-profit ideas will you oppose?

  2. Culture buff says:

    I am very disappointed,spiritual centres give a lot of joy to a lot of people.They also attract people from other areas.A gallery and bookstore would appeal to tourists,and contribute to their enjoyment of the downtown area.Squamish would benefit from a more culturally sensitive persona to balance its extreme sports focus.Very short sighted and prejudiced move by the councill members.

  3. Larry McLennan says:

    Come on-Suzie promotes making fast food restaurants “non-profit” by trying to ban drive thrus !
    Its too bad Clasina couldn’t arrange to exchange the property for another piece of land which might be more amenable to the intended project and have support across the council.