The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) is officially opposed to the proposed expansion of Canadian Wilderness Adventures (CWA) operations in the Callaghan Valley, though the position wasn't reached before some lively discussion at the council table took place.
At the regular June 21 Whistler council meeting, councillors were presented with a referral from the Ministry of Forests with regards to an application from CWA to expand its tenure area by 215 hectares.
RMOW staff recommended council oppose the application, citing concerns around four overlapping categories: Inconsistency with local government policy; lack of integrated management, planning and coordination in the Callaghan Valley; environmental impacts; and recreational impacts.
In the end, council voted 3 to 2 in favour of the opposition, with councillors Steve Anderson and Jen Ford voting against.
Coun. Jack Crompton was absent.
Anderson noted that CWA has been a good and cooperative operator in the area for decades, and said he didn't feel the staff report was an accurate portrayal of what's happening in the Callaghan.
"You don't decide on an issue from hearing one side, and I don't think we got a full load of information to make a decision," he said.
But Coun. John Grills said he's not keen on ignoring the inconsistencies with local government plans, and was "very concerned" about setting a precedent in terms of growth.
"I think there's going to be tremendous pressure on this community to grow dramatically (with) the push up from the Lower Mainland to have us help solve their housing problem," Grills said.
"Land has quadrupled in value in a very short period of time, and I just think that we have to be extremely careful, because we are going to be asked day in, day out now."
With the deciding vote, Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden also chose to oppose, though she did agree with comments made on both sides.
"Before expanding tenure, I think what has to happen is the uses have to be clearly identified and zoned... and then we can carry on from there," she said.
CWA currently operates under a 3,900-hectare provincial Crown land tenure and Temporary Use Permits (TUP) from the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD).
With its TUP set to expire, the company is seeking permanent zoning with the SLRD.
The application with the SLRD — set to be considered by the SLRD board on June 22 — would rezone the tenure to allow for a booking centre, kitchen and dining facility, celestial observatory, film support services, eight employee housing units and tent camping sites.
The operator also has future plans for a 10,000-square-foot lodge with 18 guest rooms, cabins for guests and more.
Allan Crawford, owner of CWA, said the staff report didn't properly represent what the company is planning to do, and CWA wasn't given a chance to clarify or respond before the decision came before council.
Crawford said the first he had heard of the RMOW's opposition letter was when contacted by Pique, even though he and partner Dave Williamson of Cascade Environmental requested a meeting with planning staff to discuss the application.
"I suggest that perhaps their mind was already made up. I spoke to (a senior planner) and suggested we get together and have a meeting. He said he'd get back to us," Williamson said, the day before the council meeting.
"I'd like the opportunity to sit down and discuss it with them. It seems like it's being written from a conviction-based standpoint rather than the facts."
Council will have a chance to further discuss CWA's plans for the Callaghan on July 26, when the rezoning application with the SLRD comes to them for referral.