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Squamish creating new consultation committees

Feedback being sought on LNG and music festival



A flurry of interest in the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) plant proposed for the western shore of Howe Sound has spurred the District of Squamish (DOS) to create a new consultation committee. Corien Speaker, the district's CAO, announced the new committee at a meeting of Squamish council on Tuesday, March 4.

The committee is being put together to give residents an opportunity to advise the DOS, as the federal and provincial governments prepare to launch environmental assessments of the proposed plant. Speaker said the committee is to be made up of 12 people, and advertising to find interested committee members will begin as soon as possible, so the committee can start its work.

The council members voted at the same meeting to have district staff initiate discussions with the province on any potential tax rate caps on LNG projects.

There is uncertainty around the potential tax benefits an LNG plant will bring to Squamish. The location of the proposed plant is within DOS boundaries, but the BC Assessment Authority hasn't yet valued the property as an LNG plant.

Councillor Bryan Raiser said his email inbox has been flooded with notes from people opposed to development of an LNG export facility at the former Woodfibre mill site.

"The interest in this issue is bigger than any other I have dealt with," said Raiser.

A number of people are actively lobbying Squamish residents to write to council members, and MLA Jordan Sturdy, to express opposition to the project.

The LNG project proponents recently completed a public consultation process, but the company hasn't yet submitted detailed project information to the federal and provincial environmental assessment offices. The first step in the project-review process is to have the details passed through environmental assessments.

Music fest gets development permit

More pieces of the Squamish Valley Music Festival (SVMF) have fallen into place. Festival organizers require a number of government approvals and the District of Squamish granted the most recent this week.

Event organizers now have approval to begin taking down trees in the Squamish Business Park where most festival visitors will camp. Best practices suggest the work should be done by March 31 when bird-nesting season begins.

Two lots in the business park are being developed for use as camping areas Aug. 8 to 10. The lots are located just off Highway 99 near the Sandman Hotel.

The areas won't be clear-cut. The District of Squamish's director of planning said a number of trees identified as most likely to survive will be left standing.

"Mature conifers are being retained," said Sarah McJannet. "There's approximately a dozen trees within clusters on each site that are being retained."

The granting of the development permit followed another key decision last week at a meeting of the School District 48 board of trustees. The SVMF was given an exemption to the school district's ban on alcohol on school grounds. Festival organizers requested the exemption for the camping area planned for the Squamish Elementary School field. The field will hold 1,000 campsites with room for up to 4,000 campers. Alcohol won't be sold at the site, but campers will be allowed to bring their own liquor to the camping areas in limited amounts.

SVMF organizers committed to donating $10,000 to the school district as part of the agreement to waive the alcohol exemption.

When the district's CAO announced the creation of the LNG consultation committee she made a similar announcement about the music festival.

"With that framework in mind we've also been approached by Squamish Valley Music Festival for some sort of community consultation," said Speaker.

Budget town hall set

The DOS budget process is nearing completion and a budget E-Town Hall has been set for Wednesday, March 12.

The meeting will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. at the municipal hall and anyone interested in the budget can participate by attending the meeting in person, or watching through the district's online live broadcast.

The meeting will start with a staff summary of the budget, followed by a question and answer session. Questions will be accepted from people at the meeting along with questions submitted by email, Twitter and Facebook.

Squamish council is planning to pass a budget that will impose a 5.1 per cent tax increase on homeowners.