Heresy or fantasy — it’s all a matter of taste. Either way, there was, believe it or not, a time before McDonald’s. To drivers entering Squamish from the south, those golden arches are likely more eye-catching than district signage, or even the Adventure Centre — if only because they carry the enormous weight of international familiarity.
But they weren’t always the welcoming committee, and, perhaps better than most, councillor Corinne Lonsdale knows it.
“I was brand new, basically in my second term as a councillor,” says the 22-year district politician and erstwhile mayor. “McDonald’s wants to come to Squamish? Holy, this is big news; we better grab it quickly.”
And grab it they did — but in haste. Access and egress issues from Cleveland Avenue plagued the development for some time, and, says Lonsdale, while they have been remedied, the situation still falls short of ideal.
“Staff warned about transportation, but council didn’t hear.”
Legacies have a habit of sticking around, and, as Lonsdale endures the frustration of today’s regular council meetings, that experience exemplifies her concerns.
Except now it isn’t just fast food meccas — it’s residential developments, energy strategies, resort proposals, visionary documents and regional planning.
“I can look back at some of my decisions 10 or 20 years ago and they aren’t good decisions,” she admits. “We need to have discussion that some of our decisions are far-reaching into the future. We can’t just look at the next term of office. We need to look past that.”
But, she says, they don’t. According to Lonsdale, Squamish’s current council is beset with bloated agendas too swollen for meaningful debate. Regular meetings are too short, staff is relied upon too heavily and there’s a disconnect between the district’s bureaucracy and its political overlords.
Take Garibaldi at Squamish, the controversial ski resort, real estate and golf course proposal for Cat Lake and Brohm Ridge. Lonsdale says the Resort Municipality of Whistler has given the issue more due diligence than the very district whose zoning bylaws will have to be amended to allow for its construction, should it reach that stage.
“Staff has been involved,” says Lonsdale, “but council hasn’t.”
That changed somewhat during this week’s strategy session, which saw council discuss G@S on the chamber floor. While they still haven’t taken a position, they did move to set up a public information session, from which a stance is expected to emerge.