By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: Jan. 12, 2013
Raj Nijjar bought into the Olympics hype in the way of a property on Victoria Street in downtown Squamish.
It was 2007, and Nijjar, a Vancouver developer, thought he could turn a neat profit with a 27-unit apartment on the second floor and 3,000 sq-ft of commercial space on the ground floor.
Six months to get permits, he figured, and another 6-8 months to build the building.
Come 2009 and they would be hosting open houses. Well, it didn’t quite work that way.
Nijjar says he hit an uncalculated roadblock: Planning department at the district of Squamish.
To begin with, they wanted revisions and more revisions of how the building would look like.
They rejected the building designs, and asked the architects to come back with new ones.
Then, the developer was asked to hire an artist to do an art displays outside the building.
The art, they were told, had to be vetted by the arts council.
Frustrated by rejections, the architect gave up, the developer ended up suing the architect, and the arts council never did get time to approve those art displays.
More time passed.
Finally, three years after he first approached the district, Nijjar received the development permit in 2010.
The market had cooled by then.
“There was no proper process in place, it was very frustrating dealing with the bureaucracy in Squamish,” he says.
“The zoning was already in place and it should have taken them six months, not three years, to get us the development permit.”
Nijjar has now joined a growing number of developers who are asking the district to extend their development permits, their dreams of condos and commercial offices postponed.
Citing poor market conditions, Nijjar applied for a two-year extension on his property, now one of many blisters on downtown Squamish.
Another one can be found on Second Ave, and it will remain that way for some time.
Developer for that site, Kayvan Mazhari came before the council this January and asked for a two-year extension for the project, a 27-unit apartment and commercial space.
A proposed residential development project, Parkview, located at 1150, Bailey Street in downtown Squamish was also granted a one-year extension this October.
The latest in this string of extension requests comes from Solterra development for its three residential projects in downtown Squamish.
Solterra applied and got extension for The Falls and The Nature’s Gate, two condos and town-house complex projects that have been extended twice.
Mike Bosa of Solterra said the absorption rate in Squamish is very low, but is hopeful the town would attract more people from Lower Mainland who would like to live in Squamish.