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RMOW presses for comment on boundary expansion

Lawyers for Wedge development express opposition to province



Whistler is pushing hard for provincial approval of its boundary expansion before a large residential development on its northern outskirts gets the green light.

At the same time, lawyers for the developers have voiced their opposition to Whistler’s expansion plans to the provincial government.

Peter Kenward of the legal firm of McCarthy Tétrault wrote to the Ministry of Community, Aboriginal and Women’s Services on Oct. 19 stating: "If the Resort Municipality of Whistler proceeds further with this application, we would ask that the Ministry reject the application, at least insofar as it relates to our client’s lands.

"There are a number of indicators that the present (boundary expansion) application amounts to an effort by a Municipality to alter the planning regulations applicable to a neighbouring local government. The proper procedure where one local government disagrees with the planning and land use bylaws of another local government is to make submissions to that other local government, rather than seeking to usurp its jurisdiction."

Whistler had stated its case loudly and clearly to the regional district. Quite simply, the RMOW is opposed to the Wedge development, just as it was opposed to the SLRD’s approval of a campground development on the resort’s southern outskirts earlier this year.

"We’re just disappointed that the regional district isn’t supporting us," said Whistler Mayor Hugh O’Reilly.

The land under debate, which lies at the base of Wedge Mountain on the east side of Highway 99, is within the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District and is already zoned for residential development. In fact, developers have been discussing a development with the SLRD for the past two years and recently submitted a formal application to the provincial Ministry of Transportation and Highways.

At Monday’s SLRD board meeting, O’Reilly reminded his fellow SLRD directors that the resort municipality’s boundary expansion has been on the table for years.

The opportunity to negotiate an expansion came as part of the legacies for Whistler’s involvement in the 2010 Olympic Games. The municipality’s objectives were twofold. It wanted to have a more active stewardship of Whistler’s watersheds but also have control over the activities on the lands surrounding the municipality.

As such O’Reilly said the proposed Wedge development, which stretches two kilometres north of Green Lake, is a real concern for the municipality. Allowing that development to move forward would be an exploitation of Whistler’s assets he said.

"It’s not in our best interest to see that occur," he added.

If the provincial government approves the resort’s boundary expansion, the municipality will swallow up the Wedge lands, which are privately owned, making it difficult for the residential development to move ahead.

O’Reilly led the charge at Monday’s regional district meeting to vote against a recommendation that would see all decisions on boundary expansion requests in the district deferred for at least a year. The rationale behind the delay was to wait until the SLRD’s Regional Growth Strategy, an ongoing comprehensive study outlining a common vision and goals for the region, was complete.

O’Reilly said the resort municipality can’t wait for the completion of the RGS because of the pending Wedge application. "There’s an active application, which we have real concerns with," he said.

Though six of the nine board members supported him in voting against the delay, Board Chair Susan Gimse did not. She said the RGS was a way to look at regional land use planning in the district on the whole by examining the social, environmental and economic factors.

"I thought the premise of the Regional Growth Strategy was to bring it all to the same table," she said.

She questioned whether or not the board was putting the cart before the horse by considering boundary expansions outside of the RGS.

Squamish Mayor Ian Sutherland said Squamish, Whistler, Lillooet and Pemberton have the right to discuss possible boundary expansions and he could not see how the SLRD board could delay that right of its four member municipalities.

Monday’s recommendation also called for a delay on decisions over major new rezoning developments, such as the one proposed at Porteau Cove.

The board also briefly considered voting on Whistler’s boundary expansions at Monday’ meeting. The SLRD is expected to comment on the boundary expansion as part of the provincial referral process.

Steven Olmstead, the SLRD’s manager of planning and development, expressed concerns that a delay on the board’s part could mean Whistler’s boundary expansion proposal moves forward at the provincial level without comment from the SLRD. Pressure is mounting for a decision, he added.

A few board members however expressed concern about voting on Whistler’s boundary expansion without having time to fully consider the issue.

O’Reilly promised that Whistler would ease off on the pressure and would wait until the board had made its decision at their Dec. 17th board meeting.

Whistler’s proposed expansion will take up more than 10,000 hectares of SLRD land. The land is both Crown land and private land.

The expansion covers four main areas including:

• the land southwest to cover the lower Callaghan Valley, west of Callaghan Creek;

• west to encompass Mount Sproatt;

• south to include the Whistler Interpretive Forest and Jane Lakes, and, the remaining portion of the Whistler-Blackcomb Controlled Recreation Area;

• the contentious expansion to the north, next to the Green River.

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