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SLRD learns of Regional Growth Strategy costs



It initially cost $11,000 to determine which of "shall" or "should" was a better term to use in the Regional Growth Strategy, a planning document endorsed by the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District in June.

This week the regional board, which has representatives from Squamish, Whistler, Pemberton, Lillooet and unincorporated areas adjacent to those communities, got a full measure of the costs required to take on the RGS, whose aim is to focus development into compact, walkable, sustainable communities throughout the region.

In two separate reports to the regional board, representatives got a full measure of the money it took to implement the strategy. One report showed overall expenses at $719,717.58. $299,500 of that money was made up through provincial grants, leaving the actual contribution by the regional district at $420,217.58.

Most of that money being put towards the RGS went to salaries for regional district employees. The report estimated that $407,916.75 went into paying people to work on the strategy. The next highest cost was $145,703.83, cash that went to "consultation and facilitation services."

Another report showed the costs of the arbitration process that the SLRD entered into after the District of Squamish shot down the strategy at a council meeting in 2008. Total costs for that process were pegged at $16,057; $11,000 went to legal services and $5,057 went to salaries and benefits associated with the arbitration.

Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy motioned to have the costs revealed at the board meeting where the strategy was adopted. Asked Tuesday how he felt about them, he said they came in lower than he expected.

"I actually thought the cost was higher in preliminary numbers," he said in an interview. "I thought it was closer to a million dollars. It's certainly a significant amount of money and many, many years in the process."

The strategy, frequently a source of consternation at the board table before it was adopted, became controversial when communities worried that it could impact the ability of local governments to make land use decisions within their own boundaries. There were many concerns about an amending formula that may have required the approval of every community in the regional district, as well as adjacent regional districts.

Those concerns were whittled down to worries about language, as the SLRD approved a motion to require Regional Context Statements when communities looked to make amendments to their Official Community Plans and ensure they were in line with the goals of the strategy.

Paul Lalli, a Squamish director and early opponent of the strategy, was not happy about the costs but he, too, was satisfied to learn they were less than originally projected. As to the strategy itself, he feels it doesn't have any teeth.

"One of the other concerns I've always had, and still continue to do, I really don't think this Regional Growth Strategy has any teeth, primarily because the biggest landowners in the corridor are not included, and that is First Nations," he said in an interview. "First nations are not a signatory on the RGS, so landowners are not part of this RGS. So what did we accomplish?"



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