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ICYMI: ӣƵhousing: 81-Unit McNamee Place project advances despite concerns

Proposal aims to bolster local housing options through a blend of market-sale residences and affordable rentals, amid council debates on tenant relocation plans.
mcnamee-placecreenshot-2024-06-05-at-24843-pm
Rendering of the project on McNamee Place.

The District of ӣƵ(DOS) council has given first reading to a rezoning for a new proposal for a 81-unit development near the Dentville neighbourhood.

Projects need to pass three readings, plus adoption before they move forward. They then need a development and building permit before shovels are in the ground.

First considered by council at the June 4 regular council meeting, the proposed development by ReCanvas Development Inc. would be made up of two five-story buildings joined by a shared parking structure: A larger building of 66 units that would be available for sale; and a smaller building of 15 affordable rental units.

Split across two lots on McNamee Place, the development requires a rezoning to proceed. Of the two lots, one is currently vacant, while the other is occupied by nine three-bedroom rental townhouses.

Staff recommendation

Staff recommended that council give first two readings to the rezoning, with a third reading to go forward pending unresolved servicing and frontage issues together with habitat restoration agreements.

After questions and discussion, the council voted 5-1 to give the proposal a first reading instead of a second, and staff were directed to seek more information about a proposed tenant relocation plan provided in the council package

Coun. Chris Pettingill was the first to bring up his issues with the tenant relocation plan, and made the motion for first reading.

Relocation plan 

Pettingill said that he generally liked the proposal and recognized there were more units proposed than what currently exists, but was concerned about current residents.

He said his hesitation on the project came in part from the timeline to completion together with a lack of protections for existing tenants should they want to move to a new unit, citing the three months rental assistance with a potentially long construction period as likely ending up with residents out of the community.

"I want to signal general comfort, but it is not clear to me that the tenant relocation plan actually is able to keep any of the existing tenants in a unit," he said.

"I understand there will be some disruption … but I would like to see some comfort for the folks that want to be in the new units, there's an actual plan to do so."

The proposed tenant relocation plan for existing tenants includes financial compensation of three months' rent, a minimum of four months' notice of eviction, some moving expenses and the first right of refusal to move into one of the new units when completed.

Coun. Lauren Greenlaw also zeroed in on the plan as one of her issues, and voted against proceeding with first reading due to her concerns.

"I am concerned that this will be a continuation of the displacement of people from ӣƵfrom effectively, gentrification," she said of her vote against. She also listed parking and livability as concerns.

On livability, floor space was cited as a discussion topic. The proposed affordable rental units would be made up of three studios ( at 392 sq ft), three one-bed units (at 588 sq ft), seven two-bed units (at 642 and 894 sq ft) and two three-bed units (at 986 sq ft).

Greenlaw said that those floor spaces, combined with limited storage were "not very livable for Squamish."

Parking

On parking, the zoning requires 138 stalls; the proponent is proposing a reduction to 102 parking stalls.

According to staff, they had supported this reduction due to the project's proximity to downtown and the walkability of the neighbourhood.

In questioning the number of stalls, Coun. Andrew Hamilton was seemingly surprised that the District did not require any parking stalls for affordable rental units, as per a recently adopted bylaw from May 21 associated with the province's bill 44. He ceased his line of questioning after staff confirmed there was no requirement.

'Sloppy' proposal

Coun. John French also supported first reading, but said the proposal appeared sloppy, and he wanted a sharper plan from the proponent in the future.

"At a higher level, the amount of attention to detail with this project doesn't meet our usual high standards," he said, before listing off a few examples of errors in the proponent's package such as saying ӣƵhas a mining museum (it's in Britannia Beach) and typos such as the mis-spelling of 'Garibaldi' as "Garabaldi' and 'McNamee' as 'McName'.

"These are just red flags for me that make me a little bit nervous about this project. If they can't get these things correct, how are they going to get important things like the tenant relocation plan nailed?"

No public hearing

Council voted 5-1 to give the rezoning proposal first reading. Staff will provide more information on tenant protection and storage for units to ensure livability.

As the proposal falls within the purview of the province's bill 44 on housing and is aligned with Squamish's official community plan, a public hearing is prohibited, so will not be held.


 

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