The Dentville neighborhood located on the east side of Buckley Avenue north of the Newport Landing townhouse complex and south of the Business Park is predominantly a neighborhood of detached residential homes, but its character is in the process of being irrevocably changed as real estate developers are using land assembly tactics and are constructing dorm-style housing in the neighborhood.
Dentville is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Squamish, dating back to the 1920s, and is comprised primarily of modest homes on large lots. The neighborhood is located on Buckley Avenue, Garibaldi Avenue, Britannia Avenue, Gambier Avenue, River Road, Madill Street and Magee Street and is almost entirely zoned RS-2 (residential single-unit and two-unit homes), except for two RS-3 parcels (residential small-lot homes) and one RM-2 parcel (multi-unit residential homes).
The rear lane access, in addition to the street access, to most of the properties in Dentville makes it ideal for accessory laneway houses, many of which have been constructed over the last few years and have densified this neighborhood but appear to generally be in keeping with the neighborhood’s character and esthetic.
However, the densification from dorm housing and land assemblies would most certainly dramatically densify Dentville and would forever alter its character. Note that in the District of Squamish Official Community Plan (OCP) the Dentville neighborhood is not identified as a neighborhood for densification, unlike the nearby Wilson Crescent neighborhood which in the OCP is slated for high-density housing.
There is a duplex house currently under construction at 38724 Britannia Avenue on an RS-2 lot that has a total 12 bedrooms (six bedrooms on the main floor duplex and six bedrooms on the upper floor duplex), each bedroom with its own bathroom, with one shared kitchen on each floor. It is required that four off-street parking spots are provided on this lot. There potentially could be up to 24 people living in this house; each of those 24 people could have a vehicle.
This house can be referred to as a “dorm” house, as that is ostensibly what it is, as it is owned by a developer, and it is reasonable in the current housing market that each of the bedrooms will be rented out separately; that is, this house will contain 12 rental units. Note that this is already common in two- to four-bedroom Squamish houses with these bedrooms rented out individually.
There are three adjacent houses – located at 38702 Britannia Avenue, 38710 Britannia Avenue and 38716 Britannia Avenue – situated between the dorm house and the Newport Landing townhouse complex near the corner of Buckley Avenue and Britannia Avenue.
These three houses are currently for sale, with signs on the For Sale signs that state “Land Assembly”. This leads one to believe that these three houses will be demolished, and the three lots will be rezoned from RS-2 to a zoning to permit a townhouse, condominium or apartment development.
Buckley-Britannia Intersection Congestion
The intersection that the residents of the dorm house and the residents of any future development at 38702, 38710 and 38716 Britannia Avenue will use is the Buckley Avenue and Britannia Avenue intersection. This has already become a busy intersection and it is often difficult to turn south onto Buckley Avenue (especially during school drop-off and pick-up times with Howe Sound Secondary School and Squamish Elementary School near-by). Also, there is a bus stop right at the intersection and a bike lane on the east side of Buckley.
There is another intersection very close – approximately 20 metres south – to the Buckley-Britannia intersection. This other intersection on Buckley Avenue is for the 29-unit Newport Landing townhouse complex (built in 2017) and the under-construction 76-unit Split Creek Apartments development. This intersection for Newport Landing and the new apartments is about to get much busier after the Split Creek Apartments are completed and inhabited this year. The new high-density developments around these two intersections in close proximity to each other will only add to the vehicle congestion and difficulty in accessing Buckley Avenue for users of both intersections.
The Dentville neighborhood is a primarily RS-2 zoned neighborhood that historically was and still is intended to be a neighborhood of detached residential homes. With many new laneway houses in this neighborhood and overflow parking from Newport Landing, on-street parking has become in high demand and is already close to maxed out on the south end of Britannia Avenue.
There will be many additional cars that will in the near future be parked on-street from residents of the dorm house (perhaps up to 24 vehicles from the dorm house residents), which will also be using the already busy and difficult to cross intersection at Buckley and Britannia avenues. The further additional cars from a development on the land assembly on the three Britannia Avenue lots will only add to the on-street parking and vehicular congestion.
Further, there are no sidewalks in Dentville, other than along the east side of Buckley Avenue. The gravel shoulders on both sides of the streets in Dentville are heavily used for parking, forcing cyclists, dog walkers and families out for walks into the middle of the roadways and who now feel the closer squeeze of passing cars and trucks.
The Wishes of the Neighborhood Versus Rezoning Driven by Developers
It is believed that there has not been any Dentville neighborhood consultation by the District of Squamish or any housing development companies regarding the wishes of this long-established neighborhood with respect to dorm housing and land assemblies to change zoning from detached residential housing to townhouse or condominium developments within this neighborhood.
There are other lots, currently with detached homes on them, right in the middle of Dentville where it is expected that there will soon be further land assemblies or requests for rezonings from the current RS-2 zoning to zoning to permit townhouse or condominium developments. This will very quickly and dramatically change the character of this neighborhood from already densifying (with laneway houses) to becoming overly congested and very busy with the many additional vehicles.
Further, dorm-style housing is by design catering to short-term rentals; it can be argued that these temporary residents would have no reason to contribute to or help build on the sense of community and the family-friendly feel of the neighborhood, thus diminishing the existing character. Short-term rentals are already contentious in Squamish; this dorm housing in Dentville (and other neighborhoods) only adds to this tension.
There is a place for densification in Squamish, but the character of neighborhoods and the wishes of the current residents must be respected. Rather than developers driving the zoning changes and the Squamish council granting re-zoning requests within established neighborhoods at the behest of developers, it should be the residents of the neighborhood who determine what kind of a neighborhood they want and how the neighborhood should evolve.
Dentville has many long-time residents of more than 20 years and many Dentville residents support the position of not permitting dorm housing and land assemblies in this neighborhood. Active conversations on this issue are growing louder in Dentville and other neighborhoods; the District of Squamish council needs to take note and listen to the wishes of the residents of these neighborhoods.
This developer-driven land assembly scheme in Dentville is happening elsewhere in Squamish as well, most notably in Garibaldi Estates. It is time for Squamish council to protect the integrity of its established neighborhoods rather than being fixated on densification everywhere and anywhere and bowing to and facilitating the wishes and demands of developers who are interested only in short-term profits at the expense of long-term consequences for these neighborhoods.
In Squamish, we are no longer desperate for development. It is time for Squamish leaders and residents to take control of their town’s destiny rather than allow developers to drive the process and irrevocably and negatively change the character of established neighborhoods.
All posts on Squamish Forward are the authors’ own opinions & reflect their own research. Have something to say or ideas to improve Squamish? Drop us a note at [email protected].