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Lower Soo developers ask to present their vision to SLRD

Whistler mayor does not want to consider it until after the regional growth plan is complete



Developers working on a residential project in the Lower Soo Valley have asked for a chance to present their proposal to the board of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District.

But Whistler's mayor said the board should not be considering this project without first completing its Regional Growth Strategy (RGS), which is currently underway and expected to be finished next year.

"This is a very significant proposal," said Mayor Hugh O'Reilly.

The SLRD is working on a regional plan that will guide development, among other things, in the coming years. The SLRD members, who include Whistler, Squamish and Pemberton, are planning to draw up a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to help them deal with projects currently in the works.

Meanwhile Delta Land Development, a Vancouver-based company, has been working on a vision for the Lower Soo Valley.

"Our sensitive planning approach will produce a number of benefits to the SLRD, such as protection of the currently privately owned wetland area, a mix of small-scale, family oriented, affordable market housing, new tax revenue and amenities for local residents," wrote Delta President Bruce Langereis in a letter to the board.

"We would like to discuss the nature of this MOU, and options for inclusion of the Lower Soo Valley in the RGS or a policy provision that permits unique and sustainable residential developments that are in the best interests of the SLRD."

Board Director Susan Gimse said it was important to receive a staff report on the project because of the interest in the development.

The developers will be invited to make a presentation once a staff report is ready.

Callaghan bylaws get minor adjustment

After meeting with First Nations and holding public open houses, the SLRD has made minor changes to the Callaghan Valley rezoning bylaws.

The changes reflect the concerns from Squamish and Lil'wat Nations that no major development, aside from the Whistler Nordic Centre, takes place in the Callaghan until long-range planning is complete.

The rezoning bylaws changed drastically last month when the SLRD limited their scope to allow development of just the "competition footprint" of the Olympic venue. This was in response to First Nations who felt they had not participated in the long term planning for the area.

On Tuesday the SLRD board approved the small rezoning changes and scheduled a public hearing on the rezoning for Monday, April 18 in Whistler. The location has yet to be determined.

The board also heard about concerns from people who attended the public open houses. Their questions ranged from fire protection plans to the access of snowmobiles. But people were also very concerned about the trail legacy of the Callaghan Valley.

Vancouver Organizing Committee representatives explained that the ultimate vision is to have recreation trails in the Callaghan for long-term use, with the Nordic Centre functioning as a recreational centre. But that planning will occur with First Nations over the next year or two.

The report to the board notes: "An economically, operationally sustainable venue is the ultimate goal for the long term and specifics of what this means for legacy site components is not yet decided by stakeholders."

SLRD wants region to clean itself up

In response to a letter about "junk" in the regional district, the board is considering options for cleaning up the area.

Whistler Mayor Hugh O'Reilly urged the board that if they were to do anything it should also impact the land around the rail lines as well as the land visible from the streets.

He pointed to the new tourist train as an encouragement to get the rail right of ways cleared up.

Pemberton resident Rosemary Walden wrote the letter to the SLRD which prompted the discussion.

"We live in one of the most beautiful parts of the world and it is unfortunate that this unsightly accumulation of old vehicles, metal and other debris is taking place."

Area B Director Mickey Macri spoke in favour of a bylaw officer who could help enforce any unsightly premises bylaw drawn up by the SLRD.

Area C Director Susan Gimse wondered if the SLRD could develop a program that would help people get rid of their waste. Unless we help people, she said, it would be difficult to enforce the program.

The SLRD will consider its options.

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