An application by Anthem Properties to thin vegetation on District of Squamish lands triggered a spirited debate at council on Tuesday night after various stakeholders sent letters voicing concerns about the plan and the process.
The previous week Squamish council had moved a motion forward at a Committee of the Whole meeting that would support Anthem's request to improve sight lines from the highway to the property off Discovery Way. If developed as planned, the lot will include a Holiday Inn hotel, two restaurants and space for retail businesses opposite Home Depot and Wal-Mart.
On Tuesday several councillors balked over the wording of a motion to continue thinning that didn't make it clear that public input would still be sought. Councillors also indicated that they had been contacted by stakeholders who felt left out of the discussion. Those people were shown a letter by the developer that suggested Anthem Properties already had the backing of council.
Councillor Bryan Raiser put forward a motion to defer any authorization to continue the process until stakeholders have had a chance to comment.
Councillors Paul Lalli and Doug Race objected, believing that the wording of the resolution allowed for more involvement by stakeholders in the future. Lalli favoured rewriting the motion to stipulate that more stakeholder consultations will take place.
"This issue has been going on for 16 months," he said. "I don't really think that's fair from an investment point of view. That's not to take away from those that have concerns, those need to be addressed and moved forward.
"I would rather have a positive motion to continue the process. A deferral, to me, will stop the process..."
Mayor Greg Gardner said that he would have preferred that council not be involved in the process this early, and that ideally Anthem and the stakeholders would have worked with district staff before bringing the matter to council or the Committee of the Whole.
"I supported this motion, as did six of us at the time (at the Committee of the Whole)," said Gardner. "However, things that came to light after that give me pause. Not the vote, but the way that's being interpreted. I have one e-mail from proponents that gave the impression that a decision had been made."
Gardner also pointed out that the Committee of the Whole gave Anthem an opportunity to speak at the meeting, which was unusual, but did not extend the same invitation to other stakeholders.
Raiser agreed. "I don't want to give (Anthem) the idea that I said 'go'... which is the impression I got (from the e-mail). I want to make sure nothing is done with our land until there is consensus from stakeholders, one of them being Anthem Properties, and the other one being the other groups in town. It's our land and it's rare to have the power to say no, we're going to leave the trees and we should use that to our advantage."