Building regulations to apply to Squamish Nation plans

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Jane Seyd
Van. Courier

PLANS by the Squamish Nation to move ahead on development of valuable land near the Lions Gate Bridge got a boost this week with laws that will see provincial regulations apply to those projects.

The change completes a process started by the federal government several years ago that will see the provincial building code, environmental regulations and residential tenancy act apply to the land within the Squamish Nation’s Capilano reserve, which includes property fronting the mouth of the Capilano River, waterfront land near the bridge and areas surrounding Park Royal Shopping Centre’s south mall. The provincial law will also create a new system similar to the Land Title Act that will allow owners who buy into developments to register their long-term leases.

The changes mean future projects such as the long-discussed waterfront condominium towers will be on a more level footing with off-reserve development.

For the Squamish, that’s good news because “it provides greater certainty and investor confidence,” both for financial backers and prospective purchasers, said Chief Ian Campbell of the Squamish Nation. Until now, that lack of clarity often meant developers looked on First Nations lands as less valuable than similar land off-reserve.

While that hasn’t stopped the Squamish from going ahead with projects in the past, the new rules “certainly assist them in getting capital for development,” said Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Mary Polak.

The Squamish Nation’s long-term plan is to develop a number of high rise condo towers, as well as commercial and retail buildings on their land.

When fully developed, a process that could take 20 years, those projects could add 20,000 people to the population of West Vancouver.

Most of those new residents would likely be nonaboriginals living in condominiums on leased land. Under current rules, those people would be able to vote in District of West Vancouver municipal elections and would pay taxes to the Squamish Nation.

Currently, the Squamish Nation pays the District of West Vancouver for services including fire, police, water, sewer and drainage in an annual service agreement.

Other taxpayer-funded municipal services like libraries, recreation and transit aren’t provided for under that agreement, however. First Nations are also not required to remit school taxes to the province.

To address some of those issues, the new regulations will not go into force until the Squamish Nation has signed a servicing agreement with the District of West Vancouver.

Just what would be included in that agreement hasn’t been determined, but will require some careful consideration, said Bill Soprovich, longtime District of West Vancouver councillor. “Their future economic development is fairly sizable. We’ll see major growth in areas on either side of the bridge,” he said. “We have to sit down and talk about that.”

“If we get pressures of an influx of new residents who border on West Vancouver and use all the facilities, where’s the taxation and where’s the equitable relationship in terms of its impact on our infrastructure?” he said. “As close neighbours we’re going to have to do our due diligence to work out these arrangements.”

As part of the process to see the new provincial regulations passed, the Squamish Nation has committed to contribute financially both to school and TransLink funding, once the impact of development on those services is assessed.

Currently the new legislation only applies to two projects – the Squamish Nation’s Capilano development and the proposed liquefied natural gas facility on Hailsa Nation land near Kitimat. Other First Nations can request that their projects be added under the act.

Last month, the Squamish Nation held a referendum asking members to allow both Mosquito Creek Marina and land on the south side of Marine Drive between Capilano Road and the Lions Gate Bridge be designated for commercial leasing in the future. The referendum did not pass, but may be brought back for reconsideration.

The Squamish have been approached by restaurants, gas stations and casino licensees about the possibility of setting up businesses along Marine Drive, said Campbell, but no decisions have been made.

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