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GAS, Squamish Nation oppose SLRD amendment

Regional Growth Strategy amendment seeks to remove 'destination resort' language



A proposed amendment to the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District's (SLRD) Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) has drawn the ire of the Squamish Nation (SN) and proponents of the proposed Garibaldi at Squamish (GAS) ski resort.

The amendments — part of the SLRD's provincially mandated five-year review of its RGS — seek to direct future growth to member municipalities rather than to non-urban areas.

"One of the proposed amendments, agreed to unanimously by the board, was to proceed with removing destination resort language from the RGS," said SLRD board chair Jack Crompton. "The destination resort language doesn't apply to any specific property, and it was felt that the addition of this kind of land use is not desirable within the SLRD."

The decision was taken for various reasons, Crompton said, including traffic, environmental sensitivity, backcountry access, economic impact and an overall lack of capacity.

In response to the proposed amendment, proponents of GAS asked that the SLRD defer the discussion until the provincial mountain resorts branch requests referrals as part of the Master Development Agreement (MDA) process for new resorts.

GAS received Environmental Assessment (EA) certificates in January 2016, but no MDA application has been submitted to the province at this point, a ministry spokesperson said.

In his letter to the SLRD, GAS' VP for planning Rod MacLeod notes that the proponents have been working under guidelines found in the regional district's 2010 RGS bylaw.

"Since the RGS adoption, (GAS) has undertaken significant amendments to our (EA) application, investing several millions of dollars and several years on further studies required to obtain the Environmental Certificate issued by the Province in January 2016," MacLeod wrote. "This significant and specific RGS amendment, aimed at (GAS), is unfair. It is changing the rules on a development in the middle of the process to the detriment of the proponent."

The proponents will be looking at their legal options if the amendment proceeds, the letter concludes.

A spokesperson for GAS said the letter speaks for itself, and that the proponents would not comment further.

The SLRD first said it would be looking at the RGS amendments last December, in a letter to Minister of Environment Mary Polak. The letter was in response to the provincial government saying the final decision on the project would be in the hands of local governments.

"The message to local governments during the GAS EA was that this will be a local government decision, so we respectfully disagree with (GAS') characterization that they're in the midst of a process with local government," Crompton said.

The SN also wrote a letter opposing the amendments, and the effect it could have on the Nation's economic development opportunities in the region.

"We are deeply disappointed that the SLRD has not discussed this proposed amendment with the (SN)," wrote Chief Gibby Jacob.

"We are requesting a meeting with the SLRD prior to this amendment proposal being put to the SLRD board for decision."

A request for comment from the Squamish Nation was not returned by Pique's deadline.

At its April 19 meeting, the SLRD board voted to proceed with removing the destination resort language from the RGS, which will require a major amendment.

A public hearing will follow.

"There will be opportunities to speak to the board about these amendments, and we'd encourage the people who wrote letters to attend those public hearings and to participate," Crompton said, adding that it's important to note the amendments are not specific to any particular site.

"The focus of the regional governments is to see development happen where it already exists. We prefer densification of planned communities and municipalities over building on greenfield sites," he said. "That is nothing new."