Sparks flew at the Nov. 24 meeting of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District as directors debated a proposed subdivision in the Upper Squamish Valley.
A SLRD staff recommendation asked the board to support an application that would subdivide a 60-acre property along the Squamish Valley Road northwest of the District of Squamish. The parcel is currently a rural residential property with a hobby farm and campgrounds in the area. It also has a 100-square-foot cabin on the property.
The property, owned by Squamish resident Pennie McNutt, lies within the Agricultural Land Reserve, an area where agriculture is a priority use. Landowners within this area must apply to the ALC if they wish to divide the land, and McNutt hopes to divide hers into a 45-acre and a 15-acre parcel.
Monday’s meeting was, in fact, the second time that the proposal has gone before the board.
SLRD staff recommended in September that the board vote against the application, something it can do in only two situations: if the application applies to land meant for agricultural use and if it requires an amendment to an Official Community Plan in order to move forward.
However SLRD Planning Technician Tracy Napier later wrote in a Nov. 13 staff report that the property is unzoned and the proposal does not require any amendments to the OCP for Electoral Area D, where it’s located.
The recommendation nevertheless touched off a hot debate between directors who supported the application and others concerned that farming properties are being turned into real estate.
Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed, who sits on the board as a director, counts himself among the latter group. He tried to delay a decision on the application to a later date but other directors disagreed.
“We’re hearing representation from some of the directors that this is about farming,” he said. “We’re seeing estate properties being subdivided off the ALR, they call it a farm, but it’s an estate property with a big house. It’s not farmed.”
Outgoing Squamish Mayor Ian Sutherland, who was sitting in his last meeting as a SLRD director, challenged Melamed and said that the application should be dealt with immediately.
“We have to be aware of people’s circumstances and (decide) things in a relatively timely manner,” he said, adding that the board couldn’t put off a decision based on “whatever reason we’re giving this week.”
Melamed, however, expressed concern that farming areas throughout the Sea to Sky Corridor are being turned into housing.
“We’ve seen it in the Pemberton Valley, we’ve seen it in Squamish, people are looking for lot real estate development because they can build large houses,” he said. “They can build multiple houses on these properties and they can build secessional houses. We’re seeing real estate development, not farming.”