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Nebbeling said a regional growth strategy is one way for communities within a regional district to become one. "But the process as it is today needs some serious revisions to get everyone on side. I will gladly sit down with this board and talk about how growth strategies can work. I am not going to tell you how to do it but just give you my ideas."
SLRD directors took the opportunity to highlight, for Nebbeling, several of their key problem areas.
Directors said they were concerned about the unilateral powers wielded by Crown corporations in this region especially B.C. Rail. They said they wanted to see B.C. Rail pay its fair share of property tax. Nebbeling said, under the charter, the property would be taxed based on infrastructure on the land.
Squamish mayor and SLRD director, Corinne Lonsdale, noted that B.C. Rail holds 95 per cent of all developable land in Squamish south of the entrance to town. She said rather than see B.C Rail sit on the land indefinitely, it should be handed over to the B.C. Assets and Lands corporation and developed. "In my communitys position you are losing B.C. Rail jobs and they are still controlling all the land. Its a double whammy and we are hostage to the whole damn thing," she told Nebbeling.
"We saw McDonalds set up business on a corner in Squamish about 15 years ago and prosper. But we saw Squamish Station get developed only three or four years ago. That corner could also have been developed 15 years ago and done very well, but because B.C. Rail doesnt pay its fair share, it can afford to sit on large tracts of land for many, many years," she said. "I think BCAL would be more interested in seeing wise use of the property."
Lonsdale noted also that B.C. Rail owns Site B, a potential deep sea port. "That means B.C. Rail has the entire waterfront sewn up. They own Vancouver wharves and as long as they can deal in North Vancouver, they are not going to develop Site B. That doesnt mean there isnt somebody else who might want to develop Site B that would give our community some compensation and be good for the provincial economy B.C. Rail actually controls the entire destiny of our downtown area and south. There is no question of that."
Directors also raised the spectre of having to use tax dollars to indefinitely fight B.C Rails pesticide applications in order to protect the health of their constituents.