The Sea to Sky Gondola project has passed its second reading for the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District and can now go to public hearing in April.
GroundEffects principals and proponents of the project David Greenfield and Trevor Dunn were on hand to make a presentation to the SLRD board. Dunn said if passed the gondola would see up to 1,200 people per hour.
Jurisdiction, he told directors, was a topic of frequent discussion and impacts three bodies. The base of the gondola, along the Highway 99, is in the District of Squamish (already having passed all its readings), the top terminal of the gondola, at 2,800 feet (853 metres), ends in Crown land governed by the SLRD, and the gondola lines and supporting towers go through Stawamus Chief provincial park land and was subject to recent controversy when the Wilderness Committee noted a precedent being set if the land is removed from the park. Dunn said he would address this at the approval stage.
The location was essential to the success of the plan because it was the only point along Howe Sound that would not have its views impeded by power lines, said Dunn.
He was also keen to emphasize the experience, amenities and benefits to Squamish and environs.
"At the top terminal we're contemplating food and beverage operations, with restrooms, and interpretive centres and really focusing on the trails," he said, including forestry, geography and Squamish Nation history as topics to explore.
He added that it would enrich the profile of Squamish because "a lot of people don't realize Squamish is on the ocean, so having an experience like this and coming up and actually seeing that Squamish has this unbelievable location at the north end of the fjord, it can actually change how people see Squamish."
The second reading passed unanimously, minus the presence of SLRD director Nancy Wilhelm-Morden.
The Sea to Sky Gondola can now go to the public hearing process, with one planned for the community hall at Britannia Beach on April 19.
Confusion over Wilhelm-Morden's need to recuse
Whistler mayor and SLRD director Nancy Wilhelm-Morden disclosed that she had inadvertently voted during the first reading of the Sea to Sky Gondola proposal at the SLRD's previous meeting on Feb. 27 while not being aware of her law firm's involvement in the project. Directors are meant to recuse themselves from the room in such cases to avoid conflict of interest.
"That's an interesting situation, what do you do?" said SLRD chair Susan Gimse, adding that Wilhelm-Morden's full disclosure on the situation was important when exploring whether this mistake impacted the previous vote on the resolution. Gimse was assured by staff that Wilhelm-Morden's individual vote did not impact the final outcome of the full vote, which passed first reading.
In order to ensure this did not happen again, Wilhelm-Morden recused herself three times during Monday's SLRD meeting because of a conflict of interest with cases handled by her law firm, during discussion or votes concerning Lillooet Lakes Estates and its service area establishment for a loan to provide electricity to properties there, and twice for a vote and presentation related to the Sea to Sky Gondola.
South Britannia proponents present to SLRD
Representatives of the new owners of the former Makin Lands south of Britannia, the Taicheng Development Corporation, and design partner Folio Architecture, made an introductory presentation to the SLRD to discuss the 202-hectare (500-acre) property purchased in a court-ordered sale for $30.5 million.
"This is a bigger idea for Britannia Beach than is currently being contemplated," Folio partner Ron Lea told the SLRD.
South Britannia could have up to 4,000 residential units and Lea said they hoped to recreate the density and feel of a European town, with waterfront parks, light industry and an onsite connection with a university campus. In terms of the latter, Lea told Pique following the presentation that the proponents were in discussions with three postsecondary institutions.
One open house for residents has been held so far, Lea added.
2012-2016 financial plan passes without fuss
A weighty 300-page outline of the SLRD's financial plan awaited directors voting on the budget covering the period from 2012 to 2016. Thanks to what was described as considerable background work and several meetings to discuss finer details, the budget passed unanimously without the need for discussion.
Gimse congratulated staff for laying the groundwork for such a smooth passage.