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Updated: Squamish council delays decision on FortisBC TUP ‘lodge’ permit over location concerns

Council votes to bring the workers' accommodation TUP back to a future public hearing.
fortisbclodge
A rendering of the proposed FortisBC workers' lodge.

The District of Squamish council remains undecided about FortisBC’s temporary use permit, which would allow the establishment of a workers' accommodation lodge near the new Capilano University campus.

Concerns over the proposed facility's close proximity to the university campus and dormitories sparked significant conversations about safety at the committee of the whole meeting on July 2.

Councillors voted to bring the workers' accommodation TUP back to a second committee of the whole meeting after more information is gathered. They also want to hold a public hearing on the matter in the near future.

Councillors Andrew Hamilton and Eric Andersen voted against the motion.

Mayor Armand Hurford expressed concern that the lodge that would house Eagle Mountain Pipeline workers would be only a” 100-metre walk” from the campus.

While discussing the TUP application report, Hurford said he found the map of the proposed site provided in the documents “misrepresents” the lodge as being “removed from the community” but felt this wasn’t accurate.

“It sort of cuts off the neighbourhood that’s 100 metres away which is surrounding CapU,” Hurford said.

“CapU has had representatives at meetings I’ve been at on adjacent matters…and I’ve heard them describe their student population as a vulnerable population.”

Counc. Lauren Greenlaw echoed Hurford’s concerns to say she too was “very much uneasy” about the proposed location of the temporary workers accommodation in relation to student safety.

Hurford queried if the council had the ability to request that foot or bike access be mitigated to prevent workers from accessing the campus area. Council staff said they would pass the information on to FortisBC.

If approved, the workers' accommodation would contain 576 beds, with the option to add 36 more as well as 325 parking stalls and a bus/shuttle staging area for about eight buses.

The lodge—which is set to be operational in 2025— would house up to 400 workers, with a peak of 600 workers during the summer period.

While the location of the lodge was high on the list of concerns for council members, a spokesperson for CapU told the Newisu they did not share the same sentiments.

“We met with FortisBC in May and based on that conversation, a risk assessment, and appropriate measures in place, we don’t have ongoing concerns for CapU students or employees on campus,” the CapU spokesperson said.

Other concerns

Coun. Chris Pettingill noted FortisBC had pushed ahead with planning the lodge without a gender, cultural and safety plan in place. Staff confirmed this to be true but added the plan was not required until closer to occupancy.

While there were no FortisBC representatives at the meeting a spokesperson for the company told The Newisu that their amended Environmental Assessment Certificate for the project requires them to have a Gender and Cultural Safety Plan in place before the Lodge is operational.

“Pending TUP approval, this will be developed in consultation with Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw, the District of Squamish and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nation,” the spokesperson said.

Yard TUP

The second TUP submitted by FortisBC, for a construction laydown yard to the northeast of the Valleycliffe neighborhood, also received a negative response from council members, who voiced worries it could impact the construction and completion of the highly anticipated Squamish Canyon.

“The largest conflict here is the impact it has on surrounding businesses,” Coun. Andrew Hamilton said.

“The Squamish Canyon is a $20 million investment in a long-term ecotourism business within our community and is under construction right now. Their construction timeline is going to be significantly affected … by the addition of this project, and the opening of that business will be significantly impacted," he said.

“I don’t see how this is an appropriate land use because we will have a significant amount of traffic going back and forth through a business that relies on a peaceful environment for tourists to enjoy."

The associated Woodfibre LNG floatel temporary use permit application was subject to similar concerns, but ultimately saw the provincial government sidestep the council, demanding the company house the workers onboard, before a TUP was in place.

It was said at the council meeting that FortisBC requires their building permits for the working accomodation to be approved by Nov. 15, however council staff could not confirm whether this would be achievable or not.

“To have the Lodge fully operational by June 2025, in advance of our July and August peak construction periods, FortisBC informed the District of Squamish of the need to receive TUP approval by Sept. 3, 2024,” a FortisBC spokesperson told the Chief.

“FortisBC also informed the District that building permits would be required by Nov. 15, 2024. It is unclear whether the District of Squamish will meet those timelines.

“If those timelines cannot be met, or if the TUPs, or subsequent building permits are not approved on time, we would miss the peak summer 2025 construction season making the Lodge no longer a feasible option.”

The spokesperson said if this were to occur, FortisBC would be required to find “alternative accommodation” for workers for the duration of the project.

“In that case, we would continue to seek to minimize our presence in Squamish, where possible, in response to feedback,” they said.

Council voted in favour of not having a public hearing for the construction laydown yard TUP.

Squamish Canyon

As for those at the helm of Squamish Canyon, the status quo is better than what would happen with the workers' lodge or the yard, they said.

"The industrial laydown yard would have some negative effects on the Squamish Canyon, but more so on the residential area it backs onto and the overall recreational experience of the area," said Robin Sherry, founder and project lead of the Canyon, in an email to The Newisu.

"The largest impact on the Squamish Canyon would be the works camp, which would be accessed up Powerhouse Springs Road. Access for this camp would cut through the middle of the attraction and all the construction equipment, their supply trucks and worker traffic through the centre of our nature-based educational boardwalk experience. This approach does not work for public safety, the development of our attraction and the increasing recreational use in the area."

He added that he worries that when the attraction is operational, the conflict between recreational pedestrian and tourism traffic and FortisBC heavy equipment and worker vehicle movements will increase substantially.

Sherry said that the contingency plan that is already happening with FortisBC—a combination of local accomodation and out of town—is a better option than Oking the TUP for the yard and workers' lodge.

"This approach makes the most sense for us, the current recreational users of the area and the residents of Valleycliffe," he said.

"Ideally, it would have been great to see FortisBC move to shift work with two weeks in two weeks out, going home on their days off and legacy housing for the town for them to stay in. But they chose not to do this."

**Please note that we updated this story after it was first published, to include the statements from Squamish Canyon, which came in after press deadline. Please also note that we corrected the story to say councillors Andrew Hamilton and Eric Andersen voted against the motion. The story originally said the vote was unanimous.