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G@S back in spotlight

New CEO promises improved consultation



After months below the radar, Garibaldi at Squamish (G@S) shook off its lethargic shroud and burst back into the public mind, complete with a new CEO and a slew of earnest promises to better engage the public and local government.

"Where I would like to head with this project is to come and work with the council, work with the mayor, work with the planning department and go forward," said David Negrin, the project's new CEO who will spearhead the rezoning end of the application. "Our philosophy is we work with the public, we work with council and we work with the governments. This is not just lip sync."

Negrin appeared before Squamish council Tuesday afternoon. He spent about half an hour trying to endear council to what he said was renewed impetus for the golf, ski and real estate resort proposed for Brohm Ridge and Cat Lake. Residents and representatives of interest groups listened to him from the gallery.

Mike Esler, the CEO up to now, will continue pushing the project through the environmental assessment process, which was halted due to a lack of information on water supplies. According to Negrin, his position was approved by the board in December. When contacted recently by Pique for updates on the project, Esler said nothing of the change.

Negrin spent much of his time lamenting the perception the public holds of G@S. He said information reports are coming forward, but are not yet up to his standards. Those reports should be released in about a month, he said.

"I've been on council for the last three years," said Mayor Greg Gardner, "and I'm going to be up front: I don't understand the goals of this project or what the vision is."

The rest of council agreed.

"It's important to start this dialogue," said Councillor Paul Lalli. "I was on council in 1996, when G@S first came forward. It's a considerable investment and will change the landscape of our community both economically and socially."

But public consultation, he continued, is sorely lacking.

"I don't have enough information today to say I even understand the project," said Councillor Corinne Lonsdale. "And what we do understand is frightening."

Negrin acknowledged all this with soothing language and conciliatory tones.

"We have to fix that," he said. "This isn't a process that's going to happen in two months, six months or eight months. This is a long process."

A group of media, residents and activists trailed Negrin into the lobby of the district hall. When asked by Dorte Froslev if he'd consider backing off of Cat Lake, Negrin indicated he would look into it. When peppered about sustainability and Smart Growth, Negrin praised both philosophies.

"I think the issue with the ski resort thing is the taxpayer is on the hook if it fails," said Jessica Reid of Save Garibaldi Group. She asked what the tipping point was for financial infeasibility.

"If the numbers don't work, then the numbers don't work," replied Negrin.

Throughout all this, Squamish Environmental Conservation Society President Catherine Jackson sat quietly on the sidelines.

"It's hard to comment before they provide more information," she said. "That's always been the issue. That's always been what we've asked for."