Whether it’s a homeowner, a business or a developer, everyone wants to get the best value for their investment. And yet how do we square the public need with private interest and the inherent conflict they generate?
Take one of the hottest issue in town — parking.
Businesses would like more and developers want to offer less. This is where we will have to turn to Squamish council with the hope that they will be striking the right balance.
For if the council keeps giving parking variances they have, our local businesses are bound to suffer.
Let me state a fact: Parking in the downtown is plugged most times of the day. Nine times of out ten, there isn’t a space to be found within a short walk of the intended destination. Most businesses know what this could mean.
Frustrated customers start avoiding the area and try to shop elsewhere, eventually hurting the businesses that are supposed to benefit from the building and the population boom.
Meanwhile, you can’t really blame developers from trying to maximize their return on the product they provide, especially when they know district’s cash-in-lieu policies will make it easy for them to provide money rather than parking.
And once you start offering those deals, all that is left is more deals to make. There are more than a few examples of parking variances being asked for and given in Downtown Squamish. Now, the parking variances are being sought in other parts of the town as well, in Valleycliffe as well as Brackendale.
Recently, in the quest to create attainable housing, especially in the rental market, council has enacted that a percentage of housing developments should be “affordable”.
These units provide a lower return on investment, as they may well be rentals in perpetuity and as such are subject to the rules and regulations of the Rental Tenancy Act.
This model, however, isn’t exactly suited for Squamish. If we were in downtown Vancouver this would make a lot of sense, where there is better infrastructure for commuting and travel, and it is easy to get all amenities in a quick stroll.
But we’re not in Vancouver, and nor do we have the advanced transit systems and car-sharing options that the residents of Vancouver have access to. A couple moving into Downtown Squamish is more likely to have two cars than a couple who live in the core of Vancouver, where it is possible to live a car-free existence.
A couple living in a one-bedroom condo in Downtown Squamish may have just one parking spot, but it is likely they have another car parked on the street. I won’t even talk about where the workers, tourists and guests of the residents will find parking in Downtown Squamish.
It is imperative that District of Squamish council listen to the concerns of citizens and especially businesses who feel frustrated with parking variances being regularly granted for new developments in town.
Ihor Zalubniak is a local realtor.