By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: May 4, 2013
They plead, they remind, and they simply wonder why council wouldn’t listen to them.
A letter written by the SODC board to the council reveals a startling disconnect between the board and the council, even as it sheds an unflattering light on the delays that have marred the project.
In a Letter to Mayor and Council September 22 2010, board members ‘express grave concern’ at the ‘lack of progress’ with the Oceanfront sub-area plan.
SODC board members also find it ‘hard to understand’ the council’s ‘lack of urgency and commitment’ to the oceanfront development.
The letter barely masks its disgust at the lack of council attention for the Oceanfront project.
As it’s now, time and money were both running out, and there were plenty of reasons to be worried.
The first SODC business plan with dreams of an Oceanfront Park hadn’t worked out. To begin with, an ambitious land swap deal with Capilano University had been unsuccessful.
SODC had planned all along to sell the Capilano land from the swap and fund every councilor’s wet dream: a community park down at the Oceanfront.
There was a minor problem though: Without the swap, the plan would fell through.
And it did.
But more shockingly, without a swap, SODC or council had devised no plan B to fall back on.
So, the board turned to the council with a new plan, in fact a preliminary version of the present sub-area plan.
Board members were getting nervous about the lack of drive by council, and old friendships were turning sour as this letter was written.
In easy-to-understand bullet points, SODC board reminds the council of the grave consequences of not being proactive enough about the development.
Point number 4 is telling, and gives credence to the common view that citizens have waited for too long to see action on the Oceanfront lands.
And so it seems had the SODC board, which reminded council of the consequences of not paying enough attention.
‘Two years ago, SODC was on the verge of losing bank financing due to inaction or benign neglect.”
Little did the bank know this ‘benign neglect’ would continue to this day.
The letter also offers a glimpse into the anxieties the board had about community support (See point 5).
The SODC pleads to the council to show progress so some ‘positive believable statements’ can be made about starting construction.
Confused and directionless after the failure of the land swap deal, the council decided to take the easy route, a source close to the dealings said.
“Once they found out the risk was too high for DOS, they chose to delay and stall,” said the person who wished to remain anyonymous.
The dilly-dallying continued on till last election.
Now, this council has renegotiated with the bank, and given clear directions to SODC to bring the land to market.
Councilors of the time when the letter was written deny that the council was ignoring Oceanfront development.
When asked if the council was stalling the Oceanfront plan, Coun. Patricia Heintzman’s said the council wasn’t delaying the sub-area plan.
Coun. Bryan Raiser said he would have to check his notes to comment on the events of the day.
Coun. Doug Race also says there was no intent to delay the sub-area plan.
“I am sure the board would have liked it to proceed faster but this was (and is still) the largest and most complex development Squamish has seen and it would have needed time to review properly,” he says.
SODC chair Bill McNeney refused to comment on the letter.
He said SODC was busy reviewing the current proposals before it, and he would prefer to move forward, rather than look back.
Tax payers from Squamish might find it hard to show ‘benign neglect’ for the past, especially with a $9 million debt hanging over their head.