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Garibaldi at Squamish project pushes ahead

Officials meeting provincial cabinet minister to express concerns is flattering to project leader



Despite opposition in Whistler to the proposed Garibaldi at Squamish resort, the project leader and his team are pressing ahead.

Wolfgang Richter, the vice chairman of the company promoting the project, said he was flattered that Whistler leaders are so concerned about the resort proposal that they felt compelled to express their concerns about it with B.C. environment minister Mary Polak.

During the Union of BC Municipalities convention, Whistler mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, Whistler councillor Jack Crompton, the resort's chief administrative officer Mike Furey and Pemberton mayor and regional MLA Jordan Sturdy met with Polak for 15 minutes.

"I'm flattered by the backhanded compliment," Richter said after learning of the meeting about the proposed development on Brohm Ridge below Mount Garibaldi.

Richter said Garibaldi at Squamish is currently working through a process imposed by the provincial government and that process is designed to keep the proponent accountable while also preventing the developers from being hit with unexpected government surprises.

"They put up hoops for us to jump through and we jump over them and as long as we stay within the confines of a process we're also protected by that," said Richter from his home in Whistler.

Richter believes Garibaldi at Squamish will make a positive contribution.

"There's a billion-dollar highway that the province paid for to help the Olympics along," he said. "My sense is that it's time for a new cash register along the highway to pay down that debt."

One of the points Wilhelm-Morden made in the meeting with Polak is that the concept of having a cluster of mountain resorts won't work here. Richter disagrees.

"More is better and clustering does work," he said. "Adding new product, not more product, but new product to the mix will bring in more people from the international markets that are already coming.

"We will add to the mix and increase business overall, not just to our place but certainly to the province and to the corridor," Richter said.

Wilhelm-Morden reminded Polak that Whistler generates $1.3 billion a year in gross domestic product and annual tax revenues of more than $400 million. The mayor also noted that 22.5 per cent of the entire annual tourism export revenue of British Columbia comes from Whistler and that Whistler is currently overbuilt.

The project proponents hope to have the environmental assessment work assigned by the provincial government completed by December at the latest. At least one more public update is expected before the assessment process wraps up.