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Britannia Beach surf park proposal raises questions about community funding

Attendees at a Sept. 6 public hearing were overall supportive of development, but many criticized Squamish officials on the SLRD board for seeking cash in lieu of amenities for the District.

The idea of Canada’s first surf park development in Britannia Beach was widely supported at the public hearing about the project. 

However, officials on the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) board from the District of Squamish were criticized for seeking money from the developer for services in Squamish.

The SLRD held a public hearing at the Britannia Mine Museum on Wednesday, Sept. 6 about the proposal for a major mixed-use development by Tiger Bay Development Corp., which includes a surf park and 1,050 housing units — 150 of which will be non-market, affordable units — among other components.

At least 60 people from the Sea to Sky Corridor were in attendance and the representatives from the SLRD board heard from approximately 20 people at the meeting along with 38 written submissions. Representatives from the developer were also in attendance.

Most of the public spoke in favour of the development going ahead, but the recent consideration for cash in lieu of community amenity contributions (CAC) to Squamish was something the group largely did not support. 

Rather, most believed the money should go towards the community of Britannia Beach instead.

As previously reported by Pique Newsmagazine, the SLRD board voted in favour, with opposition from two board directors, of directing SLRD staff to explore the potential of cash in lieu of CACs to Squamish at the July 26 board meeting when the board granted a second reading of the project.

At the time, some concerns were raised by the Squamish officials on the board about the impact new residents may have on its services before some community amenities for the project were built.

“Those community amenities should really be staying here in these local communities,” said Brian Owen, a Furry Creek resident at the meeting Wednesday night. “They should not be viewed as a cash grab by adjacent municipalities.”

A Britannia Beach resident also presented seven pages of signatures about the CACs to the board. 

The Squamish Chief did not catch her full name.

“This petition specifically speaks to any sort of CAC cash or amenity being for Britannia residents within Britannia,” she said, drawing applause from the room.

The director of planning and development for the SLRD, Kim Needham, said the developer recently proposed about $2.5 million to the SLRD, roughly $2,000 per apartment and $3,000 per townhouse.

“It’s a tough thing to accommodate this late in the game, but we looked at what had been done in Furry Creek and … we’ve decided to provide a comparable amount of money,” said Cameron Chalmers, a consultant for Tiger Bay on the project. 

“The discussion was partially around what that could do for the people living in this community who will use amenities in the neighbouring Squamish,” he said.

However, Chalmers said how that money would be spent is up to the SLRD board, as Tiger Bay would take no part in that once the money was handed over.

The development will roll out in phases, the first of which includes the Wavegarden surf park, skate park and pump track. The second phase consists of some of the townhomes and apartments, commercial space, tourist accommodations, road work, and access to Minaty Bay. The fourth and final phase includes the construction of a community centre and potential school site.

The following day after the public hearing, Tony Rainbow, the director for SLRD’s Electoral Area D, which includes Britannia Beach, told The Squamish Chief that the SLRD board should deliberate about the public feedback at the next SLRD meeting on Sept. 27. 

Board meetings are live-streamed on the SLRD’s website and the SLRD’s YouTube channel.

This public hearing was not recorded. 

If the board moves ahead and votes to grant a third reading of the project, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) still needs to approve the project’s roads, highway improvements and zoning before adoption. Chalmers said Tiger Bay redid its traffic review based on its 2019 revised proposal, which was approved by MOTI. 

Chalmers also specifically noted to the crowd that he could not comment on whether a highway bypass one day was likely or not. However, he said Tiger Bay has agreed to dedicate 26 acres in an 80-metre wide swath behind the community “just in case.”

“That, at least, makes it a little more possible to solve the transportation problem over the long term,” he said.

Tony Petricevic, head of development for Tiger Bay, estimated the project would take about 15 years to complete. Petricevic previously anticipated the surf park could take two years after receiving building permits and three years to break ground on the second phase.

Please check the SLRD’s website for more information about this project.

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