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Feature - Corridor dynamics

There’s much more than the Olympics and development projects on the horizon, there’s going to be a population shift

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"The residual effect will be enormous… because any time there’s a lot of traffic in a vacation area they’re forced to utilize other services."

Languedoc said if development in Squamish is managed well then the possibilities for expansion will be enormous.

"I moved to Squamish seven years ago and if a lot of these developments are done right I can see this place being another Boulder, Colorado.

"There’s a lot more land here than in places like Whistler – it’s definitely explosive."

If explosive is an appropriate term for Squamish then it would be correct to label the proposed development at Britannia Beach as the fuse.

The area is not officially inside the boundaries of Squamish (it’s in the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District) but being situated just south of Squamish makes Britannia the area’s unofficial "front door".

Britannia Beach is a complex, multi-faceted issue. The former mine was once the largest copper producer in the British Empire. Since the mine closed in the mid-1970s it has become a major source of acid rock water pollution, discharging an average of 600 kg of heavy metals a day into Howe Sound.

The lands surrounding the mine are home to several hundred residents, but all of the residents lease their homes from the land owner, MacDonald Development.

Natural Resources Canada, the provincial Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management, the University of British Columbia and MacDonald Development are all involved in Britannia.

UBC’s involvement with Britannia Beach began in 2001 when researchers put a plug in the mine to slow acid rock drainage. The university has since proposed a $10.6 million research centre near the mine, which would study the effects of mining.

This week the Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management and Partnerships B.C. announced a short list of three proponents have to design, build, finance and operate a new acid water treatment plant to clean up the mine site.

Meanwhile, MacDonald Development is about to start rezoning some 400 acres in and around Britannia Beach for residential development, while Natural Resources Canada plans to build a multi-million dollar interpretive centre next to the mine.

A museum of mining attracts 40,000 visitors a year but project designers believe visitor numbers could jump to between 300,000 and 500,000 a year after redevelopment.

The site is also frequently used by film companies.

Sutherland, who is also the chair of the SLRD, was adamant Britannia Beach would not be ignored.