By Alison Taylor
Lil’wat and Squamish Nation are resubmitting their plans to the province for development in the Callaghan Valley.
“Basically it’ll be aligned with our letter of mutual understanding that was signed with the RMOW (Resort Municipality of Whistler) in 2005,” said Lil’wat Nation’s lead negotiator Lyle Leo.
The letter of intent, signed in May 2005, details the working partnership between Squamish and Lil’wat and the resort municipality as the First Nations look for opportunities in Whistler on their 300-acres of legacy lands — lands to be transferred from the province to the First Nations as per an Olympic agreement.
The letter of intent is not public but Leo said the parties agreed to explore “tourism development and opportunities” for First Nations in Whistler. The letter is designed to be the framework for a Memorandum of Understanding, which is still in its draft form.
When asked if a residential development or a hotel development in the Callaghan was part of those tourism opportunities, Leo said no.
“We still need to do an economic strategy between the two First Nations and work with the First Nations to structure some form of economic development team. So we’re a ways out.”
Just weeks ago an application, made on behalf of the two First Nations, was submitted to the province and referred to the RMOW for comment. It detailed an 18-hole golf course development in the Callaghan and referred briefly to a residential development around the course. Construction on the course and the residential component was to begin in 2008, according to the management plan.
Whistler council expressed their disappointment in the application because it was not in keeping with the resort municipality’s sustainability plan, Whistler 2020, which does not envision residential development outside of Whistler’s existing built corridor.
But the plans were inaccurate, said Leo, and premature.
“We never planned anything pre-2010 Games,” he said.
And, after developing a partnership with the RMOW, he said they are well aware of Whistler’s long-term vision for the resort and intend to work within Whistler 2020.
Squamish Nation Chief Gibby Jacob confirmed the application would be resubmitted. He could not confirm if the plans are to wait until after the 2010 Games.
“We don’t want to get land and sit on it and pay taxes. That doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense,” said Jacob.
“I’m sure we’re going to want to move on it quickly.”
First Nations are looking to secure 150 acres of lease lands in the Callaghan for a golf course development. Immediately adjacent to that land is another swath of approximately 100 to 150 acres, which could be First Nations legacy lands.
“We want to… secure what commitments and obligations there have
been (made) to us with the province and VANOC (the Vancouver Organizing
Committee for the 2010 Games),” said Leo. “It’s been four years now so we want
to get them secured. It’s been long enough.”
The RMOW’s information officer, Diana Waltmann, said First Nations have informed them of their change of plans.
“It’s our understanding that First Nations are going to refine their application to the Crown,” she said.
As of Wednesday, Jan. 17 however, the province was not aware of any changes to the application and the deadline for public comment on rezoning the land for a golf course was still Jan. 26 as detailed on the Integrated Land Management Bureau’s website.
“ILMB’s web posting is not about the plan anyways,” said ILMB communication manager Jon Chant. “It’s about the concept of rezoning that land for a golf course, be it that application or any other application.”
Originally the website included the First Nations’ management plan but that has since been removed.