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GAS rises again

Garibaldi at Squamish resort proposal re-enters environmental assessment process

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By Clare Ogilvie

It’s been more than a decade in the making.

But next week Sea to Sky residents will be able to find out all about the latest incarnation of plans to develop a ski resort at Brohm Ridge, and have an opportunity to comment on it.

The first open house on Garibaldi at Squamish Inc.’s (GAS) plans will be held June 19th at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. Squamish residents can find out more at a meeting at the Sea to Sky Hotel on June 20, from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m.

“Our objective is to be a destination all season resort with a full complement of summer activities such as golf, hiking, biking, and winter activities,” said Mike Esler, president and CEO of GAS.

The open houses are part of the application process that goes through the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Tourism, Sport and the Arts.

The vision for the project is a year round destination resort at Brohm Ridge with 25 ski lifts covering a vertical drop of 1,215 metres. The lifts would service between 1,000 and 1,200 hectares on 124 ski trails.

  There would also be two world-class golf courses and 5,739 housing units, with a total bed unit count of 22,478. The housing would be comprised of 1,717 hotel units, 1,717 resort condos, 825 townhouses and 1,480 single-family lots.

It’s likely the development will take 15 to 20 years to reach full development said Esler.

A golf course and some housing may be available by 2010 and it’s hoped that skiing would start in the 2011-2012 season.

Esler believes the resort can help the province reach its goals of doubling tourism.

“We really fit in with their plan,” he said, adding that having such a large development so close to Whistler is not cause for concern.

Esler pointed to the clustering of ski resorts all over North America to make his point that Garibaldi at Squamish can draw more visitors to the area.

And he said the Garibaldi development has some important differences, such as the fact that it is a mountainside village concept not a valley- based one.

“(We) did a limited snow depth study on April 12 of 2007 and we had approximately seven feet of snow in our village,” said Esler. He added that the mountainside location means that views down Howe Sound would be visible from the new village.

It has been a long road to get to the environmental assessment stage said Esler, who has been involved with the idea since it was first floated in 1988.

The project has been under new management since it ran into a financial roadblock with investors in 2002. The majority investors now are Bob Gaglardi and Luigi Aquilini.

In 2003 the project hit another stumbling block when the Squamish Nation sued the province for failing to consult with it about the project.

Esler said enough positive movement has been made with the First Nations to allow the project to now move forward into the environmental assessment phase.

The project resurfaced at a Squamish-Lillooet Regional District meeting last fall. At that time Squamish Mayor Ian Sutherland noted that his community has had a number of meetings with the province over the years regarding the Garibaldi at Squamish project, and that the project has vast community support and would mean significant and long-lasting job creation for his community.

However, at the same meeting Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed called the proposal “…unrecognizable from what was originally an alpine development…”, with much of the development pushed down into the valley.

Esler said this week discussions are on going with the District of Squamish to investigate whether the project would be within the district’s boundaries. He said proponents are also considering whether to become part of the SLRD or form their own municipality.

The project will supply and pay for its own infrastructure and is committed to be sustainable, said Esler.

“In my view, and I have worked on other ski resorts as well, this has all the dynamics to be a successful ski resort and all season resort,” said Esler.

According to economic data (about to be updated) in the most recent executive summary of the development plan, which was done in 2003, the project will provide:

• $380 million in direct construction employment income over 15 years.

• $67 million in annual operations (accommodation/ski hill) income at build-out.

• An estimated $1 billion will be spent on the purchase of supplies from local, regional and provincial suppliers.

• An estimated $76 million in income tax paid on $380 million construction employment income over 15 years and up to $13.4 million annually in operations employment income tax following build out.

• Federal and provincial governments will benefit from PST and GST paid on more than $1 billion in supplies and equipment.

• If residential build-out projections are achieved, residential property tax revenue could reach $7.3 million.

• If visitor accommodation build-out projections are achieved, room tax revenue paid to the province could eventually reach $11.8 million annually.

• Depending on the proportion of the proposed residential units that will be occupied by full-time residents, the development could house an increased resident population base of between 1,220 and 6,100 at build-out.

• The number of resort visitor days is projected to increase from 250,000 in year one to one million in year 15.

• The average price for Garibaldi homes is expected to range from $300,000 to $350,000 which is between $65,000 and $115,000 more than the current average.

• Commercial accommodation units proposed for the resort will add up to 5,151 rooms to the current tourist room inventory, which represents a 47 per cent increase relative to the current SLRD room inventory and a 1,290 per cent increase relative to the current Squamish room inventory.

The 45-day public comment period runs from June 21 to Aug. 5. Comments can be emailed to eaoinfo@gov.bc.ca .

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