The Squamish Nation is taking the first step in an ambitious plan to develop land-use strategies for more than 140 hectares of its land.
The Nation said Wednesday that the work will involved the development of a long-term capital plan, and will look at land in North Vancouver, West Vancouver, the District of Squamish and on the Sunshine Coast.
As it sketches out a long-term vision for the land with its development corporation Nch’kay and its housing agency, Hiy̓ám̓ Housing, the Nation is also putting a one-year freeze on accepting development proposals from third parties.
“It’s hard for us to evaluate stand-alone third-party proposals relative to other types of opportunities that could happen, but also to ensure we’re protecting our interests, that whatever we’re going to do with our lands is of the highest and best value of those lands, that we are protecting the long-term interests of our community,” Squamish Nation Council Chair Khelislem told Global News.
“So it really gives breathing room to be able to say no to any of the proposals that come in to say no, we’re not entertaining it, we’re not looking at it, we’re going to engage in our own proposal for a year … and then out of that, we’ll have a much clearer picture of what we want and what we can do, and then go out and search for the partners.”
At a briefing Wednesday, Nch’kay CEO Mindy Wright said the Squamish Nation has traditionally been reactive in its development strategy, but was shifting to a proactive model that will allow it to best unlock the value of its land while reflecting the Nation’s values.
She said the Nation was opening an expression of interest to find experienced firms with a commitment to reconciliation who can help it develop a long-range capital plan aligned with the Nation’s social, cultural and environmental goals.
“Our members will also see their priority capital projects actualized through much-needed infrastructure planning including community assets such as healing centres, long-term care homes, assisted living homes, elder centres, member housing and more,” she said.
The plan will also leave room for industrial development, recognizing the critical shortage of industrial land in B.C.’s Lower Mainland.
Khelsilem said the planning process was a recognition that for generations the Squamish Nation has seen their lands controlled by external governments and corporations, while its people have seen little in the way of economic benefit.
Harnessing the value of its land will allow the Nation to help address members critical needs, including housing, income, education and health, while working as partners to create benefits for surrounding communities as well.
“When we move from that time period to now, it’s not about us not getting a seat at the table, it’s about us building the table and inviting others to it, that we are actually building partnerships that benefit both of our communities,” he said.
“We can actually bring a lot of benefit and a lot of value to both parties. We’re going to bring a lot of affordable housing to the region, we’re going to build the future of our cities together. We’re going to be able to do things quicker than others can do.”
In a statement, City of North Vancouver Mayor Linda Buchanan said she looked forward to working with the Nation in its planning.
“I fully support the Squamish Nation as they develop land use strategies and plans as the rightful decision-makers for their lands,” she said.
“This is an important step forward for the Nation in advancing self-determination and prosperity for generations to come.”
The massive land use plan comes as the Squamish Nation begins serious work on its Sen̓áḵw housing project at the mouth of Vancouver’s False Creek.
That project is being developed on a 10.5 acre piece of land on what is now known as Kits Point that was restored to the Nation in 2003.
The return came after decades of court battles with the federal government over an 80-acre former village site that was seized by the B.C. government and burned to the ground more than 100 years ago.
When completed, the complex will include some 11 towers, 6,000 rental units and 1,200 homes, generating an estimated long-term return of more than $10 billion to the nation.