Future of Callaghan questioned 

A bylaw that would allow temporary dog kennels in the Callaghan Valley has once again raised questions about the future of Whistler’s backyard wilderness.

“At the end of the day, there isn’t a plan,” said Bryce Leigh, who is a board director of the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment (AWARE).

That point was raised several times at a public hearing on Thursday, March 13, which drew together stakeholders and environmentalists.

The chair of the meeting, John Turner, a board member of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, said the SLRD has been continually asking the province to develop a plan for the Callaghan.

“The province has not really responded to that,” said Turner.

“From the SLRD’s perspective, what we would have preferred is a master plan… We don’t have that.

“We’re trying to deal with it the best way we can for the Callaghan.”

At the heart of the SLRD’s bylaw is a request from Blackcomb Snowmobile and Canadian Snowmobile Adventures to each have temporary dog kennel facilities where they can keep the animals on site rather than transporting them in from Mount Currie for daily dog sledding tours.

Both companies have had long-standing tenures to operate in the Callaghan, granted to them by the province.

Those tenure areas changed in recent years to accommodate the $119 million development of Whistler Olympic Park, site of the Nordic events during the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2010, as well as the transfer of 100 acres of land to local First Nations. That land has yet to be developed but is slated for an 18-hole golf course.

“It’s changed things dramatically,” said Mayor Ken Melamed, who was at the meeting and is Whistler’s representative on the nine-member SLRD board.

“We’re kind of left with this ad hoc process.

“We sympathize with the businesses that are there.”

The zoning bylaw to allow temporary and industrial use permits gives the SLRD some control over the businesses operating in the area, said Melamed, rather than having each application go through a rezoning.

As such, a temporary use permit would allow dog kennel facilities to exist for a period of two years, with an option to renew, and allow the SLRD to impose its own conditions on the operators.

Al Whitney, another AWARE board member, was concerned about the “temporary” nature of the permits, saying it didn’t allow every permit to be looked at through a really good lens, like a rezoning would.

“We’re in a position of trying to protect a valley that is obviously being eroded by more and more developments,” he said.

“We don’t want to see development in the Callaghan Valley.”

The proposed bylaw, explained Turner, is not proponent specific. Other areas in the SLRD have similar bylaws to allow temporary use permits. This proposed bylaw would stretch into the Callaghan, Pinecrest and Daisy Lake in Area D of the SLRD.

The two TUPs in question would allow the kennels in trailers or other mobile buildings.

But is that the kind of image the Sea to Sky corridor wants to project to the world in 2010, asked long-time Callaghan tenure holder Brad Sills.

“Do we want our visitors to look at temporary structures or do we want to come and see a budding backcountry tourism product (when the world comes in 2010)?” he said.

“It’s not the way to approach tourism.

“I just don’t think it’s good planning, personally.”

Thousands of visitors will be flocking to the Callaghan in the years to come as Whistler Olympic Park turns into a cross-country tourism destination.

The temporary use permit is expected to come back to the board of the SLRD for consideration at the Monday, March 31 monthly meeting.

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