By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: June 16, 2017
Squamish knows Mayor Patricia Heintzman as someone whose green, environmental values are at the forefront of her politics, be it her opposition to Woodfibre LNG or her recent commitment to make district carbon neutral by 2018.
She is an eco-conscious politician and that may have left many supporters wondering if she would support the rezoning and OCP amendment of Garibaldi Golf course, a change that would transform the greenway corridor land to residential.
But the Mayor has made it clear that she hasn’t seen a proposal from the developer to date that is supportable. She says it’s impossible to make a determination of support for a project until one has seen a final proposal. “If a proposal comes back I will evaluate it and consider the pros and cons and the public’s input before making any determination. Any greenfield development, whether they are designated resource or greenway, should it even be considered, has a very high bar and has to have a significant value added benefit for the community,” she said.
“I have always been open to considering some development on that site, particularly in the areas out of the floodplain and wetlands but it has to be evaluated in context with an overall proposal and community development at the time of consideration” Mayor Heintzman
A Vancouver-based development company, Polygon, bought the 118 acres land in 2016 with an aim to rezone it to residential and build close to 334 townhomes or duplex units and 127 apartments. The developers plan to give 80 acres of the land to the district that could potentially be used as a public park. In 2011, Heintzman voted against a similar proposal to rezone portions of the former course to create 180 small lots and an 80 acre park. She said a number of aspects of the 2011 proposals were challenging including whether or not the road access up the bluff from Newport drive was desirable or even necessary, understanding the long-term costs of the park that was being offered, densities and housing types. She said it was a proposal that seemed rushed at the time, adding that she has always been open to some development on the site.
“I have always been open to considering some development on that site, particularly in the areas out of the floodplain and wetlands but it has to be evaluated in context with an overall proposal and community development at the time of consideration. Any proposal has to consider the overall community benefit. The site has also already been through the zoning process so historical factors need to be considered. The Polygon proposal is under the same scrutiny. I haven’t seen a proposal to date that is supportable,” she said.
Meantime, residents opposed to the project said the council would be doing a great disservice to the citizens if it voted in favour of Polygon’s application.
“Developing on one of the most sensitive pieces of land in Squamish solves no affordability or inventory issues – in fact contradicts almost all direction of the Official Community Plan.” Adam Smith
“The present zoning of Greenways is the most opposite zoning you could imagine to residential. This is 100 per cent protected by our Official Community Plan and you can’t arbitrarily change the community plan and put a small town in one of the most environmentally sensitive lands. This would set a horrible precedence in the future for any development trumping our Official Community Plan,” said Adam Smith, who has spearheaded the opposition to the amendments.
Smith said there are well over a thousand housing units planned for which there is ample land available in town that won’t entails such an immense change from green land to residential. From existing in fills to areas such as Cheema Lands, there is enough land to accommodate housing needs for the growing community. “Developing on one of the most sensitive pieces of land in Squamish solves no affordability or inventory issues – in fact contradicts almost all direction of the Official Community Plan,” he said.