Whistler has delivered a budgetary blow to the regional district as tensions between the two local governments reach the breaking point over a development on the edge of Whistler’s boundaries.
In an unprecedented move Tuesday night council immediately withdrew its annual funding for planning at the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District. That decision means Whistler has effectively removed its vote for future land use matters in the region, even those right on the municipality’s boundaries.
SLRD board chair John Turner was surprised to hear about Whistler’s decision on Wednesday.
Without having talked to Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed, Turner said he hoped there was room for negotiation and perhaps changing council’s mind.
“I’m obviously more than willing to discuss this situation and
see if we can reach some kind of a resolution that we can all live with,” said
“I would have preferred that the funding wasn’t withdrawn.”
The time, however, for talking is passed if council’s debate at Tuesday’s meeting was any indication. Though they recognize the regional district, which includes Squamish, Pemberton, Lillooet and all the rural areas in between, is a major corridor partner to the resort municipality, councillors criticized that partnership.
“It takes two to have a relationship,” said Councillor Eckhard Zeidler. “We’ve extended an olive branch and it’s been slapped out of our hands.”
He added that Whistler taxpayers’ money was being spent in the regional district and yet their concerns were falling on deaf ears at the board table.
The move to withdraw the funding was designed as a clear and strong message to the SLRD nine-member board said Mayor Ken Melamed.
“They should think very carefully about the partnership and the relationship they have with Whistler,” he said.
The issue revolves around the Green River Estates rezoning near Wedge Mountain on the east side of Highway 99.
Developers have approval to build 64 homes on the site. This approval came last year despite Whistler’s vociferous objections at the board table to what it sees as “rogue” development just beyond its borders.
Essentially the municipality sees the development relying on Whistler’s infrastructure and services without paying taxes to Whistler. To complicate matters even further the land lies in an area that Whistler has long hoped to gain in a boundary expansion from the province.
Whistler, however, had resigned itself to the inevitable.
“We opposed the original rezoning,” said the mayor. “It went through and we recognize it has legal status.”