The District of Squamish is going through a complete review of its waste management processes and in Tuesday's regular council meeting voted unanimously to accept recommendations that included upgrading the landfill with consideration for taking Whistler's waste in the future.
The Squamish landfill currently takes waste from other areas within the Sea to Sky corridor including Pemberton and Lions Bay. Whistler is currently trucking its solid waste to Surrey, where it is loaded onto train cars and taken to the Rabanco facility in Washington State.
Sending that waste to Squamish would generate revenues for the district, but it could shorten the estimated lifespan of the Squamish landfill to eight years, unless there is a major expansion.
But while accepting Whistler's waste is being considered, Councillor Doug Race wanted to be clear that nothing has been decided yet.
"This is an inflammatory issue and something the media jumps on," he said, stressing that the text of the recommendations received by council on Tuesday only reflect that the district is considering the idea. "No decision has been made to accept it, it's one of the options being considered and that's the extent of it at this point."
The earliest that Squamish could complete the upgrades required to accept the solid waste is two years time.
The list of recommendations accepted by council on Tuesday includes receiving the Comprehensive Solid Waste Strategy that was prepared for the district; supporting in principle the creation of a Solid Waste Project Manager position for an 18-month term; supporting an immediate upgrade to the landfill; directing staff to prepare a new solid waste disposal agreement to reflect changes to the landfill, and supporting in principle the creation of a solid waste utility for the district. A utility would handle all the costs and revenues associated with the landfill, something Mayor Greg Gardner said would ensure that the operation of the facility would be transparent.
The recommendations approved by council also allow for public input as the project moves forward.
Westway Avenue cycling, parking decided
After months of debate within the community, the District of Squamish at last came to a consensus on what to do about Westway Avenue, the main artery in the Valleycliffe subdivision.
Currently there is parking on both sides of the road, squeezing together bike traffic and vehicle traffic. The community and district recognized that the status quo was not ideal or safe if the district was going to realize its goal of completing a bicycle network from Valleycliffe to Brackendale.
At the most recent community meeting on the issue on Feb. 8, community members looked at three options for mixing parking, bike lanes and traffic, and at last decided that the best approach - until the road can be upgraded to include a dedicated bike lane - would be to allow for a 2.4 metre wide parking lane on the downhill side of the avenue, with two four-metre shared use lanes. Bike lanes would be painted onto the four-metre lanes, and signage would make it clear that the road was to be shared with cyclists.
As for how to handle traffic at Valleycliffe Elementary as cars stop to drop off and pick up students, District staff did not have an answer but said it would require some more work to come up with a solution.
Councillor Patricia Heintzman said she was happy that a consensus had been reached, "but I don't think this is the ideal solution, and I don't think anybody does."
"It's a good solution until the road can be upgraded sometime in the future," she added. "This isn't the standard we are trying to achieve in the district, it's just the solution that appears to work at this time on Westway. I would have preferred to see something else, but without spending a lot of money I'm happy the group reached some consensus."
Councillor Bryan Raiser, an avid cyclist who has organized bike events in the Valleycliffe area in the past, said he was glad that something is being done, even if it is just the beginning.
"This is more about education than about safety," he said. "Now everyone will know that bikes are on the road and that they have to share the road. It's just starting and I think this is a great baby step toward the grand future."
The new bike lanes and parking regulations will come into effect before summer, or in early summer depending on municipal paving and line painting contracts.
No consensus on real estate development signs
A solution to Squamish's ongoing conflict over developer signs on the side of the highway was sent to a Committee of the Whole meeting for further discussion after it became clear that the solution put forward by the Community Development and Planning Standing Committee - erecting communal signs on the north and south gateways to Squamish - didn't go far enough.
"It's interesting that this is specific to real estate, because in previous years as much as real estate signs have been an issue, so have signs for other businesses," said Councillor Corinne Lonsdale. "What's the difference in enabling a developer to advertise his product as opposed to a restaurant being able to advertise what they have?"
Councillor Paul Lalli conceded the point, and said any decision over signage should not exclude other businesses in the community.
Mayor Greg Gardner voted for the solution put forward at the standing committee, but said he would support moving the issue to a Committee of the Whole meeting where it can be discussed by all of council as well as members of staff.
Skye development in receivership
According to reports at the most recent Community Development and Planning Committee, the Skye development is now in receivership, but will continue ahead with Phase 2.
The project was in the spotlight last summer when developer Thomas Ivanore said he lost financial backing from his bank after the District of Squamish voted against a rezoning amendment that would have resulted in the construction of 55 condos on the site instead of the 16 townhomes approved. The reason given for the change was the declining real estate market for larger units compared to the demand for smaller units like condos.
For their part the District of Squamish said the requested density was too much for the area, which borders on the sensitive wetlands and waterfront of the Squamish Estuary.
According the committee report, the project will be completed by the end of 2010, and quality control is planned for units at 90 per cent completion. The second phase of the project will go to open market under the direction of the receiver.