Wednesday, August 31, 2022

CO-LIVING: Everything old is new again. Coming soon to Vancouver!

My first two living arrangements after leaving my parents' home were 'co-living' arrangements. The first was a furnished room in an old house on Bathurst Street near UofT where I lived with six other people (including Carl Nilsen, a highly respected Vancouver appraiser). When I joined CMHC in 1972, I lived in Pestalozzi College While I didn't know it until later, when the president's office learned that I had moved into this building, they had the RCMP investigate my past! After all, I looked quite different than I do today.

I mention this since around the world 'co-living' is becoming an increasingly popular (and necessary housing choice) as housing costs outpace incomes. While older structures are being used, some new buildings are also being built. I first heard about this concept at a housing conference in New York where representatives of and other similar companies spoke.

I subsequently referred to co-living in various columns including this Vancouver Courier story on how to keep younger people from leaving the city.

This morning I came across an article describing some of the new co-living accommodation in London UK. It is well worth reading since I expect to see new highrise co-living buildings being built in Vancouver. I am sure they will raise some interesting zoning and building bylaw issues.

This can be a much more affordable form of housing. But expect the rent in all new projects to be higher than the $65/month I paid in Pestalozzi!,933 

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

NIMBYs: An article for Senior Line, the Jewish Seniors Alliance magazine. Summer, 2022

Since the cancellation of the Vancouver Courier for which I wrote a weekly and bi-weekly column for five years, I have not done much writing, other than for work-related projects. However, since joining the Board of the Jewish Seniors Alliance, an organization favoured by my late father, I have written a few columns for 'Senior Line', its excellent magazine.

When its editor, a retired psychotherapist named Dolores Luber asked me to write about my experiences with NIMBYs, I could not say no. My challenge, however, was to condense five decades of experiences into just two pages. More importantly, I wanted to make these experiences relevant and beneficial for the audience. Below is what I had to say. You can find an easier to read version of this article and the rest of this excellent magazine here:

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Furry Creek - Developer's presentation to August 11th, 2022 Public Hearing

Over the past 51 years I have been involved with well over a hundred planning and development projects. I am sometimes asked to name those of which I am most proud. 

This list includes the South Shore False Creek which I managed while at CMHC; UniverCity, the community at SFU; Bayshore; Deering Island (where I currently live); Hollyburn Mews in West Vancouver; Elm Park Place (the building with the curved balconies) in Kerrisdale; Oak Gardens, at 42nd and Oak; and the Steveston Waterfront from No 2 Road eastward, which I rezoned in the early 80's on behalf of BC Packers.

One project that should be at the top of this list is the 1036-acre Furry Creek community. As noted in a recent blogpost, in 1990 the new owner of this property retained me to manage planning and approvals for a recreational/resort/residential community. In less than one year, plans were prepared and approved by the SLRD and provincial government for a golf course, up to 550 single-family lots and 370 multi-family homes, a 300-room resort, a minimum 80-berth marina, and ancillary commercial and community facilities.

However, while I am proud of obtaining approval for the golf course's 14th hole that juts out into Howe Sound, and the clubhouse designed by Brian Hemmingway, for many years Furry Creek was not on my list of my proudest achievements. In 1992 I was dismissed from the project due to disagreements with the ownership group on phasing and other aspects of the development. During the following 25 years, I watched the original Japanese developer Tanac go into receivership and other developers fail to create the community I had envisioned. 

This all changed in 2017 when Fine Peace Canada retained me to undertake due diligence on a potential purchase and subsequently invited me to assist with future planning and development. Since then, I have watched this company improve the golf course (although I would still like to see some holes made easier!); expand and renovate the clubhouse; and participate in a highly collaborative planning process. Working with some very accomplished consultants we are designing a more sustainable community with far fewer single-family lots, a broader range of housing, (including midrise apartments along the waterfront); and a new Village Centre that will become the 'heart', of the community, like that achieved at UniverCity with its town square and Cornerstone building.

Last Thursday, a Public Hearing was held on the revised proposal. This has been highlighted in previous blogposts. The following are my initial speaking notes and the slides presented before the SLRD heard from the community.

MG Speaking notes:

·    Here tonight representing Fine Peace Furry Creek Developments Ltd-owned Furry Creek for past 5 years.  With me is Derek Neale, architect for Oliver’s Landing who has prepared all the new plans; Kevin Healy, civil engineer who once worked for Tanac; Margot Long, PWL who has been involved with many projects along Sea-to-Sky corridor; Together we have almost 100 years' experience at Furry Creek! Jamie Van Struth, an economist.  Since 1998, Vann Struth Consulting Group has specialized in economic development and fiscal impact analysis at local, regional, and national levels.

Now that you have heard from SLRD planners, I have been invited to provide the developer’s overview on the proposed zoning amendments.  I have timed my remarks and they should not take more than 12 minutes.

Before starting, Fine Peace has asked me to tell you it very much regrets the disagreements within the community caused by this zoning bylaw amendment application. During my five-decade involvement with oftentimes controversial planning and zoning applications I have often witnessed this. However, I have also learned that once a zoning decision is made, conflicts are usually forgotten, and the former sense of neighbourliness and community returns. Fine Peace very much hopes this will happen at Furry Creek. I am confident it will.

The following are the slides presented to the community.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Furry Creek: Two accounts of the Public Hearing (Updated August 15th)

On Thursday August 11th, more than 100 people attended the Public Hearing for Furry Creek. At the beginning, some residents disagreed with SLRD’s decision to hold the hearing in a nearby community hall at the Britannia Beach Mine Museum rather than in the Squamish District Council Chamber or some other venue where it could have been videotaped or zoomed.

I suspect that if the meeting had been held in Squamish, many would have argued that it should have been held closer to Furry Creek, especially since all but one person in attendance was from Furry Creek. A hearing in Squamish might have also raised other concerns.

Tony Rainbow, the SLRD director for ‘Area D’ in which Furry Creek is located chaired the meeting, Director Rainbow is also a resident of Furry Creek. In attendance was SLRD’s Chief Administrative Office Craig Dalton and three members of the SLRD planning staff. Although other directors were not in attendance, I am told it is customary in the SLRD and other regional districts for board directors to not attend public hearings but to review all the correspondence and await staff reports. In this instance, each director was provided with a copy of the presentation material in advance and will be receiving detailed meeting notes prepared by staff.

55 written submissions: 43 for; 8 opposed; 4 seeking info. At the start of the meeting, Kim Needham, Director of Planning and Development reported that 55 written submissions had been received. 43 were in support of the zoning bylaw amendment, 8 were opposed. 4 were seeking additional information.

Some letters were written on behalf of more than one person, including a letter from the president of the Oliver’s Landing strata where most of the 56 households supported the rezoning application. Another letter was written on behalf of 13 Ocean Crest bare-land strata households who all opposed the application. 

During the meeting, each of the SLRD planning officials could be seen taking detailed notes and some presentations included prepared texts. Later in the meeting it was reported audio recordings were being made. However, as one resident pointed out, privately recorded tapes can easily be edited so cannot be totally relied upon. It may be that Stephen Chua of the Squamish Chief may have also recorded some or all the meeting.

Claire Dewar, the Furry Creek planner provided a very comprehensive 45-minute presentation outlining the existing zoning, the proposed CD-3 zoning, and detailed zoning requirements. As I listened to her presentation, which included such minutiae as the precise mix of affordable housing unit types, I could not help but think about Furry Creek’s most outspoken resident who claimed at a recent Public Information Meeting (one of eleven that has been held over the past four and a half years) that the Zoning Bylaw Amendment was little more than some nice words and platitudes, but completely devoid of details. 

32 reports over 3+ years. In fact, as can be found here, there have been 3 applicant reports, 6 staff reports, and 23+ additional reports prepared over the past 3+ years.

3 main concerns. Notwithstanding the myriad of details set out in the zoning application, three main concerns were raised at the meeting. 

Relocation of the Village Centre. Many questioned the rationale for relocating the Village Centre from a small, mixed-use site within Oliver’s Landing to a site along Furry Creek Drive directly below the 13-lot Ocean Crest development. 

In response, it was noted that the original 1991 Subdivision Application prepared by my firm, located the village commercial in a highly visible and accessible location next to the large marina, like that at the Semiahmoo Community. 

While the commercial space was next to the marina, the original layout application (PLA) included two 'Community Areas' along what became Furry Creek Drive. (see below)

Between 1991 and 1993, the layout changed from the original PLA.  The main changes were abandoning the large Marina on the waterfront, a change in Golf Course Layout and firming up of the highway access, especially the interim access. The change in access and loss of the centrepiece Marina led to a rethink of the location for the Village Centre. Subsequent plans by Callison architects and Ekistics located the village centre east of the highway.

However, in 1998, the commercial area was subsequently relocated to a site next to the Oliver's Landing Recreation Centre at the request of United Properties, the Oliver's Landing developer, who subsequently got into financial difficulty and was unable to complete the development. 

When Fine Peace resumed planning in 2017, they were advised it would not be financially feasible to create the village commercial centre within Oliver's Landing. As a result, in 2019 a location was identified below the Ocean Crest development that was more accessible for the total community and one which allowed the commercial area to be combined with a new Community Centre and proposed Transportation Hub, creating a ‘heart’ for the community. (A childcare facility was subsequently added.) This is in the same area as shown for 'community use' in the 1991 PLA plan and subsequent plans prepared between 1993 and 2012.

In response to concerns from Ocean Crest residents regarding this new location, numerous design changes were agreed to including limiting the height of the commercial building to just one storey along Furry Creek Drive. A green roof and 3rd hole tee box were also designed on the roof and commitments were made to screen any mechanical equipment both visually and acoustically. 

In her presentation, Claire Dewar outlined additional changes that would further address the more recent concerns expressed by Ocean Crest residents in their letter to the SLRD Board.

The second concern related to the proposal to replace 170 two and three storey townhouses spread out along the waterfront with six midrise buildings. Five of these buildings, could be up to 10 storeys and concealed from community residents by a row of substantial existing trees. The sixth building, which would have been very visible to Ocean Crest residents and the public, was previously reduced from 12 to 6 storeys in response to residents’ concerns. 

While the proposal for midrise buildings required the developer to fund an expanded fire hall, a new 'quint' ladder fire truck and equipment, along with training programs at considerable cost (albeit for the benefit of the overall community), the midrise buildings allow retention of more existing trees, and create more green space and opportunities for improved floodproofing in response to rising sea levels.

The third concern related to traffic. Some residents feared the development would negatively impact highway traffic and create unsafe conditions on ramps to and from the community. Fine Peace and the consultant team were most surprised this issue was being raised since the revised development was smaller than that previously approved by the Ministry of Highways in 1991. Furthermore, new transportation reports had been prepared and approved by both Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) and BC Transit.

Furthermore, today there is no public transit serving Furry Creek. SLRD and the developer are in discussions with BC Transit to bring transit to the community. However, if transit is not in place when the first new residents move into the zoned area, Fine Peace has legally/financially committed to subsidizing a shuttle bus to Squamish and Lions Bay.

The sound of birds. One of the first speakers, a young lady who grew up in the community, admitted she wanted the community to stay the way it was, adding she did not want to lose the sound of the birds.

The architects assure this young lady that if this zoning application is approved, she will not lose the sound of birds. On the contrary, as set out in the design guidelines, the development incorporates a variety of 'bird-friendly' design features. Furthermore, the reduction in the number of single-family lots and shift to more multi-family dwellings will reduce building footprints and preserve more trees and nature. 

Majority of residents in favour. As evidenced by the letters submitted to the SLRD and hand clapping throughout the meeting, most residents in attendance were supportive of the rezoning. Some noted that for decades, other failed developers made many promises about the future of the community that were never kept. However, since Fine Peace acquired the property, it had already made many positive changes. Residents spoke highly of their openness during a collaborative planning process, the quality of the architectural plans, and the thoroughness of the technical studies. Some hoped to see a high-quality five-star resort within the community. While one resident expressed concerns about how much money the developer might make, others said they hoped Fine Peace would indeed make money and continue to follow through on its commitments.

Many residents were excited that Furry Creek may now realize its original vision, namely a complete recreational, resort-oriented, residential community. Some residents just hoped they will live long enough to see this vision realized. I must confess, I have the same thought.

The SLRD Board will soon be provided with a detailed account of the meeting. Fine Peace hopes it will then vote in favour of Third Reading of the OCP and Zoning Bylaw Amendment at its forthcoming board meeting in September. Fourth Reading will follow and a start on construction can be expected next year. 

The first phase will include completion of Oliver's Landing, the fire hall, and 40 affordable 'workforce' housing units.

Below is an account of the meeting from the Squamish Chief which also appeared in Glacier Media's North Shore News

Mixed reaction at public hearing for a nearly 1,000-unit residential-hotel-commercial development at Furry Creek

Tony Rainbow was the sole elected official from Squamish-Lillooet Regional District present at the hearing. 

Save for Electoral Area D’s director, there were no members of the Squamish-Lillooet’s Regional District board present for a public hearing on a nearly 1,000-unit development.

On Aug. 11, it was a fact not lost on the dozens who were crammed into the Britannia Mine Museum’s multi-purpose room at 150 Copper Drive.

Tony Rainbow, who was chairing the meeting, was the only elected SLRD official who was at the meeting, though there were promises that other members of the regional district board would be perusing the official meeting minutes after the meeting took place.

The public hearing was for a large development in Furry Creek, including residential, hotel and commercial space. Multiple developers have had a try at implementing a nearly 1,000-unit development since the 1990s.

To date, a golf course and about 150 residential units were built, but the full build-out has never happened, as time and again, efforts have sputtered and the land has changed hands.

On Thursday night, members of the public were allowed to voice their opinions on Fine Peace Furry Creek Development Ltd.s application.

Fine Peace is the latest developer to make an attempt at bringing the project into full fruition. It acquired part of the land in 2017 and expanded its foothold in 2018. If its rezoning application succeeds, it will turn the area into a CD-3 comprehensive development zone.

This zoning will create 750 residential market units, 120 non-market affordable residential units and 120 resort-hotel units. 

There would also be an allowance for 2,323 square metres of commercial space, a community centre, administration office, childcare facility, transportation hub and 19.1 hectares of parks, trails and open space.

A new fire hall and public works yard, among other things, are also part of the deal.

In two select areas at the north-most end of the land, buildings up to 15 storeys will be permitted. However, construction of these towers will not be allowed until adequate firefighting services are in place.

For and against

When the floor was opened up to the public, there were two main camps of people. 

One camp was clearly in favour of the proposal.

The other was composed of those who said they were not anti-development, but complained about one or more aspects of the proposal.

Perhaps the biggest block of opposition came from Thea Hoogstraten, a lawyer with Allen McMillan. She said she was representing five residents of Furry Creek.

First, she questioned why there was no official recording being made of the hearing and why there was no ability for people to join via online web streaming. She noted that the current public health situation prevents some people from attending crowded in-person meetings.

“We are here to strongly oppose these amendments for the proposed development,” said Hoogstraten.

She listed safety, traffic and environmental concerns as issues for her clients.

“The essence of our submission here is that the existing residents can’t have their safe highway access, their environmental management standards and their community plan compromised, based on proposed amendments and a development that has not been sufficiently studied,” she said. “And so we would reject the proposed amendment. They’re not anti-development. We want this community to be healthy and to grow, but not at the expense of safety.”

Jonathan Levine, a resident of Furry Creek, called the Sea to Sky Highway one of the most beautiful coastal roads in the world.

“2.7 kilometres out of…a 42-kilometre shoreline [is] being converted into an amphitheatre of glass, reflecting the sun from…high and low places across our UNESCO biosphere,” said Levine. “This whole biome change is actually a national crisis, in my opinion.”

He also said the lack of nearby hospital space amidst a growing population was a cause for concern, noting that Squamish General Hospital only has 25 beds.

Stephen Campbell, a Furry Creek resident who lives on Ocean Crest Drive, said the location of the commercial space was a problem.

“The issue is the location of that 25,000 square-foot commercial community centre off the northbound entrance to Furry Creek,” said Campbell. “That’s the issue. We asked, and we’ve been asking for three years for consideration of some other location.”

He questioned why developers chose to locate the commercial space next to Ocean Crest Drive.

“Where this is located right now — this is a real bad thing,” said Campbell.

“And I think I’m speaking on behalf of my strata and many others here at Furry Creek who think that this cannot go forward with that location. Find another location, and then we can all be happy.”

Michael Geller, who was representing Fine Peace, said the location was changed to make the commercial zone feasible.

“Why did we move the village centre to where it is?” said Geller. “Because it was not commercially viable. It would never have been financed where it was… Where’s the best location where you can have some commercial viability, where you’re centrally located, where you can actually bring in not just the retail, but you can have the community centre and then, eventually, childcare. You can be close to the transportation. There was one location.”

Geller also added that before each individual building in the development is built, there will be a public process where residents get a voice.

“This decision on this zoning is just the first step,” he said. “Somebody said to me, ‘I didn’t realize we’re going to get a chance to look at each of these buildings.’ Yes — every application for every new building will go through a process.”

There were also several commenters who were in favour of the proposal just the way it is.

Valerie Casselton identified herself as the strata president of Oliver’s Landing, a townhouse complex right by the beach in Furry Creek.

She said she represented about 110 people.

Casselton said her strata voted unanimously in favour of expressing approval of the Fine Peace project.

She said the development represents the completion of their strata’s construction as promised when the original owners bought their properties 20 years ago.

“We will be completely surrounded on all three sides by development, and yet we fully support it,” said Casselton. 

She said that while some people expressed concern about building heights, her strata still supported the project.

“We’re going to have four-storey-or-more-buildings 50 feet from some of our townhouses. We’re going to have multiple high rises, and we’re going to be living in the shadows. This is a development that offers the benefits that most communities can only dream of — modern green construction following best principles of sustainability, gorgeous Oceanside living [and] a community park.”

Another resident, Daryl Alexander, addressed some of those who voiced complaints about the proposal, saying people are living in the area because of development.

“Why are you here? I’m curious. You liked what we saw. So give other people that opportunity,” said Alexander.

“You’re saying you’re…pro-development? But what do you say? Limit the people who are coming here? Tell them what they can or cannot do in the same breath?”

The feedback from the public hearing will be summarized in the official minutes of the meeting. The SLRD board will then review those notes and make a decision on third reading at a future date.


Thursday, August 4, 2022

Furry Creek Zoning Bylaw Amendment finally goes to Public Hearing August 11th, 2022

Furry Creek residents gather at one of the 11 community meetings that have been held since 2017

Over the past two months I have been involved with three complex and controversial development approvals. In the first instance, there was little community opposition, other than from three politically motivated 'council-watchers', one of whom often runs for Council. However, in the case of the other two projects, a small group of well-organized vocal opponents raised concerns. In both cases, the concerns were based more on fear than fact. Fortunately, the misleading information used to generate opposition to one of the projects was exposed when the opponents tried to 'use' the media. However, in the case of the third proposal - a comprehensive zoning bylaw amendment for the Furry Creek community along the Sea-to-Sky highway, the jury is still out, as described in detail below.

The first project was a major rezoning of the Travelodge property on Marine Drive, near Capilano Road, in the District of North Vancouver. I first started working on this application in 2016. But after a year or so, the owner and I disagreed on strategy and another development consultant was brought in. In 2020, he still did not have the necessary approvals and I was invited back onto the project 

The 300+ unit development comprises the three central buildings in the above illustration, including a 27-storey tower with market rental units and condominium homes; a 10-storey midrise condominium; and a four-storey passive house below-market affordable rental building. The development also includes some innovative housing programs and concepts including rent-to-own homes, a 'locals first' sales program, and lock-off suites. 

Notwithstanding the development's conformance with the OCP, broad mix of housing choices, an elevated level of sustainability initiatives, and dedication of 42% of the property for roads, parks, public easements, and rights-of-way, it was only narrowly approved by a 4-3 vote by DNV Council at a Public Hearing on June 27th. 

The second project was the significant Dundarave proposal described in the preceding three posts on this blog. Unfortunately, a few people with political ambitions spread incorrect information about the project which generated considerable community opposition. As readers of this blog will have read, they made the mistake of inviting the media to help drum up further opposition. However, after Charlie Smith of the Georgia Straight wrote about their opposition, he subsequently learned the correct details of the proposal and wrote a forceful column urging the councillors to support the project. And they did 6-1. But not because of his editorial. Project supporters and councillors complimented the developer on the project's creative design and respect for the village character of Dundarave.

The third project is an OCP and Zoning Bylaw Amendment for the Furry Creek Community along the Sea-to-Sky Corridor. It goes to Public Hearing at 7pm on August 11th at the Britannia Beach Mining Museum meeting hall. Now some will say, hey, just a second, why would a project go to Public Hearing in August? Well, it is because the SLRD Board sometimes meets in August. But more importantly, as you will read below, this application has been underway for four and a half years. The current Board has reviewed it on three separate occasions and the application has been significantly revised in response to the direction received from the current Board Directors. 
Members of the SLRD Board have visited the property and reviewed this application on three separate occasions and are familiar with the proposal details. It's therefore appropriate that they should be the ones considering the zoning bylaw amendment.

They include the mayor and a councillor from Squamish; the mayor and a councillor from Whistler; (Cllr Jen Ford is the Board Chair), the mayor of Pemberton; a councillor from Lillooet (Mayor Peter Busse was previously on the Board), and four Electoral Area Directors. One is Tony Rainbow, Electoral Area D director, who lives in Furry Creek, and has worked hard to represent the various factions within the community. After October 15th, there could well be a different board, and given all the collaboration to date with the current Board, we would like this Board to be involved with the OCP and zoning decision.

This is my second involvement with the planning and approvals for Furry Creek. I first became involved over 30 years ago in 1990 when Tanabe Corp (Japan) retained me to oversee planning and approvals for a major residential/recreational community, including 920 homes, a golf course, resorts, a marina, and community facilities on this 1036-acre property, just south of Britannia Beach. We started in May, and highly motivated by a substantial performance bonus, managed to obtain approvals from the SLRD and Ministry of Transportation and Highways in April 1991. 

While I oversaw the overall planning and technical studies, the golf course was designed by architect Robert Muir Graves, based in Walnut Creek California. He was selected because of his reputation for designing courses that responded to the environmental features of a property. However, when I studied the layout, I mentioned to one of the local company directors I thought the course would be too difficult to play. His response was "this course isn't being developed for players of your calibre". 

Unfortunately, he should have listened to me since while there are many people who regularly enjoy playing Furry Creek, there are many more who will tell you they played it once, and never again! (I once suggested to management that golfers should be asked if it's their first time, and if it is, to give them a coupon for a free second round, since once you have played the course a couple of times it is a most enjoyable experience. You just need to be prepared to lose a few golf balls!)

Unfortunately, my vision of a 'complete' residential/recreational/resort community never really materialized following the initial development approvals. Once the approvals were granted, my involvement with the project ended, in part because I was insistent that the developer build a small general store to serve the residents. My concept was a marina-oriented chandlery 'general store' like that at the Semiahmoo community near Blaine, Washington 

One of the beautifully landscaped streets at Furry Creek

I also questioned the developer's ambition to create another British Properties, rather than a more affordable mix of single-family and multi-family homes. That said, some attractive streets of single-family homes were initially developed.

You can read more about my early involvement with Furry Creek here:

Around 1997, Tanac sold a waterfront parcel to United Properties, an established local multi-family developer. The developer retained highly regarded Derek Neale of NSDA architects to design a large 240-unit townhouse project. (Ironically, in reviewing my early plans, I noticed the owner had initially wanted single-family lots in this location.) Victor Setton, the owner of United Properties, convinced Tanac to relocate the community's commercial component from the waterfront marina to his property, next to a proposed recreation centre. 

Some townhouse homes at Olivers Landing are now selling for over $2 million 

While 56 townhouses and the recreation centre were built, the commercial component was not, in part because there were not enough homes at Furry Creek to support a general store. Also, the location was somewhat hidden and away from the new single-family homes and future community neighbourhoods. Retail experts did not consider it a commercially viable location.

Unfortunately, by early 2000s Tanabe aka Tanac Canada went into receivership and the golf course and waterfront lands were subsequently purchased by Burrard International (Caleb Chan). Parklane Homes, owned by Peeter Wesik, which had successfully developed similar single-family mountainside developments purchased the balance of Tanac's assets for the tax losses. The company built a few homes but was too busy with other priorities, including the River District, a major new community in the southeast corner of Vancouver.

In 2017, I again became involved with Furry Creek. Thanks to David Eger at Altus Group, I was introduced to Fine Peace Canada, a company that had developed several major golf course communities in China. The company owner, who had a home in West Vancouver, enjoyed playing Furry Creek, so he was considering buying it. I was retained, along with Kevin Healy of Creus Engineering, who from 1993 to 1999 had worked for Tanac, and Derek Neale, to undertake an assessment of the project's feasibility and technical challenges. In October, Fine Peace purchased the golf course and Burrard International's adjacent land holdings. 

Several newspaper stories reported on the purchase including this Glacier Media article.

In 2018 I approached Peeter Wesik to see if he would consider selling his portion of the development lands. He promptly dismissed me saying it wasn't for sale, and he wasn't interested in selling. His son would develop the property one day. But fortunately, he was convinced by Fine Peace to sell.  

An artist's illustration of the proposed midrise buildings along the waterfront replacing 186 townhouses

Given the substantial size of the property, and growing market interest in the Sea-to-Sky corridor, Fine Peace initially hoped to increase the number of homes beyond the 920 approved in 1991. They also wanted to replace the waterfront townhouses with midrise apartment buildings offering single-level suites. Midrise apartments over parking would also be easier to floodproof, given rising sea-levels and higher Flood Construction Levels (FCLs).

To begin the planning process, a two-day Design Charrette was held with community residents

However, in the interest of getting a speedy approval for the midrise buildings, Fine Peace agreed not to seek approval for more condominiums. At an initial meeting with the SLRD Board, then Squamish Mayor Patricia Heizman said there should be affordable housing in the community, and the owner subsequently agreed to add 120 below market rental and ownership homes in accordance with SLRD's new affordable housing policy. 

When I was told some Whistler politicians might have concerns with up to 300 hospitality units at Furry Creek, Fine Peace reluctantly agreed to reduce this number to a more modest 120 units. Since a kayak club had been built where the 80+ berth marina had been planned, we decided to seek approval for a small resident's only marina further to the north.  

We agreed to maintain up to 15,000 sq.ft. of commercial space, as previously approved, but proposed to relocate it from next to the Oliver's Landing Recreation Centre to a more central and accessible location near the third fairway tee box.

While this would require shortening the third hole, and losing a small amount of golf course, Fine Peace agreed to transfer a small area of community land to offset any loss of golf course, lest some people claim this could become a precedent for redevelopment of other golf course lands.

(It might be noted that one of Burrard International' goals was to redevelop portions of the golf course into housing. This prompted the SLRD to rezone the golf course in June 2016 to prevent this from happening. However, substantial portions of Fine Peace's holdings remained unzoned, which is one of the reasons many wanted to see a new comprehensive zoning put in place for the overall property.)

An artist's illustration showing the proposed commercial and community centre 'community heart' below the Ocean Crest development

While relocation of the village commercial and a proposed community centre would create a more accessible, commercially viable 'heart' for the community, it did concern some nearby residents in Ocean Crest, a bare-land strata development high above the future commercial site. They feared development would reduce their property values and cause disturbances. 

While at one time commercial development was often seen as a negative influence on property values, this is no longer the case. One only needs to look at all the expensive condominiums being built above grocery stores along arterial roads throughout the lower mainland. In this case, the proximity of neighbourhood shops might well increase values, as it has done elsewhere.

However, the development team met with the Ocean Crest residents in July 2019 and agreed to several design changes including limiting the commercial building to just one storey along Furry Creek Drive, adding a green roof, and concealing the mechanical equipment. It was also agreed that any restaurant/pub/wine bar outdoor patios would be on the westerly side of the development, away from the homes.

The Ocean Crest residents were also concerned about potential view impacts from the midrise buildings proposed along the waterfront. While Fine Peace had agreed to comply with a community recommendation that these buildings be no more than 8 to 10 storeys, which was the height of the trees behind the buildings, one building overlooking the golf course's signature hole was proposed at 11 or 12 storeys, and not concealed by trees. 

One of the views as seen from an Ocean Crest home. While each home had a different view, in all instances the new buildings did not exceed the height of the trees

To demonstrate that Ocean Crest residents need not be concerned, the developer agreed to a request to fly balloons at the proposed building heights, to see how they appeared from the homes. As expected, this revealed that five of the buildings would not exceed the height of the trees and would not impact what the residents' views of the water. However, the sixth building was very visible, and the developer reluctantly agreed to reduce its height by half, to six storeys, hoping this would allay any fears.

To support the comprehensive zoning bylaw application, numerous technical studies were carried out by 18 different consultants. These included how to address fire safety issues since only a volunteer fire department was available. Archeological assessments reviewed the Squamish Nation's longstanding history in the area and how best to protect a pictograph that had been found. Engineering studies were undertaken to demonstrate there would be adequate water and wastewater treatment facilities. Other studies looked at the geotechnical attributes of the area, and the significant environmental features to be protected.

A formal zoning amendment application was submitted in spring 2019, it was initially hoped that the bylaw could be considered at Public Hearing in late 2019. However, then Director Doug Race proposed that a 'Committee of the Whole' meeting should take place first before considering bylaw readings and this meant that the Public Hearing would be delayed to 2020. Unfortunately, Covid and other factors interfered, and it wasn't until July 2021 that First Reading of the Zoning Bylaw Amendment was approved. 

This led to a requirement for further studies and preparation of various legal documents. Unfortunately, they were delayed many months due to the SLRD's lawyer's workload. However, in June 2022 the Board finally considered the referral reports and additional technical studies, legal agreements, and last-minute 'voluntary' financial commitments agreed to by the developer and approved Second Reading. 

Unfortunately, this led to a request from the Ocean Crest residents for another meeting. They were now concerned with the SLRD Board's request for an additional 10,000 sq.ft. of commercial space to provide more employment opportunities within the community. (Residents were shown this space would be under the retail space requiring no change to the overall footprint.

Residents were also concerned since SLRD and Ministry of Highways had requested parking for trail users and a future 'park and ride' facility below near the entrance to the community. 

An example of a shared neighbourhood electric vehicle at Celebration, an innovative community in Florida. Shared electric vehicles and bicycles are proposed at Furry Creek and the developer has committed to this financially.

'Park and ride' parking spaces are desired since public transit is hopefully soon coming to Furry Creek. If it is not in place by the time the first new residents move into the land being rezoned, the developer has committed to subsidizing a private shuttle. He has also agreed to a shared neighbourhood electric vehicle and electric bike share program to help residents get around.

The residents claimed that these were all new requests which they hadn't seen before and hadn't had time to study. In fact, all these changes had been presented to the community on two separate occasions in December 2021 and again in May of this year.

Last week, a Public Information Meeting was held in the community to review the zoning bylaw. In preparing a chronology of the planning process to date, I calculated this was the eleventh formal public meeting held to discuss the zoning application. When one of the residents questioned why the proposal was being rushed, adding there had not been adequate consultation, I checked my email records and discovered there were 550 emails between this individual, the development team, and other residents, related to the zoning application! 

As noted at the beginning of this post, our zoning bylaw amendment will be considered at a Public Hearing next week. Notwithstanding all our efforts to assure the Ocean Crest residents that their properties will not lose value due to the nearby commercial centre, or lose their unobstructed views of the water, they have submitted a lengthy brief setting out a myriad of concerns. They will no doubt be opposing this rezoning at the Public Hearing, along with other residents. 

Fortunately, many in the community want to see this zoning amendment approved for various reasons. For one thing, after many failed developer attempts, Furry Creek is now owned by a company with considerable experience and financial resources to follow through with its promises and commitments. Fine Peace has worked hard to earn the community's trust.

A boutique hotel is proposed adjacent to the existing clubhouse
The plans include a new waterfront park adjacent to the signature 14th hole and improved public access along the waterfront.

Zoning will confirm the location of the firehall, the affordable housing, and future resort facilities benefitting the residents. It will lead to creation of the village centre and bring future childcare, a potential secondary school site, and small 20-berth residents-only marina. (At the last public meeting I mischievously suggested first dibs on the marina berths will go to those who support our rezoning at Public Hearing!)

In keeping with the new UNESCO designation, the community now includes many more sustainability initiatives compared to the 1991 plans.

The new zoning will also result in a much more sustainable, floodproofed, fossil-fuel-free community.

Fire insurance and cellular/wi-fi service. Two final benefits of the rezoning will be reduced fire insurance costs since the new fully equipped fire hall will be one of the first new buildings. Zoning will also result in improved cellular and wi-fi service. Unfortunately, the existing service is not good, but Telus has committed to starting an upgrade program once they know new zoning is approved and more people will be living at Furry Creek.

If you live in Furry Creek and want to see this proposal succeed, please write to the SLRD Board at planning@slrd.bc,ca and consider attending the August 11th meeting.

Note: As of August 10th, we are advised that dozens of residents have already submitted letters of support and more may be forthcoming.

Check in with me on August 12th and I'll let you know what happened at the Public Hearing. Then check in again at the end of September since the Board will hopefully be voting on our application at its September 28th meeting so that this significant planned community can proceed with a more suitable zoning to guide future development.

Plans include an extensive open space and trail network

In 1991, I told people this would be a 15 year project. I was very wrong. However, this time I expect the 870 additional units will be finished within 10 years. Time will tell if I am right this time!