The District of Squamish (DOS) waded back into the controversial regional growth strategy (RGS) last week, using the legal mind of Councillor Doug Race to rephrase its position to the province.
"The objection was solely related to the governance issue," said Race during a special meeting of council on Tuesday night. "It's an issue of autonomy."
The meeting took place on Monday. It included representatives from the Ministry of Community Development, including the deputy minister, as well as officials and politicians from the Squamish Lillooet Regional District and DOS.
Race, bolstered by Mayor Greg Gardner, who also has a legal background, unearthed a constitutional objection to the RGS, namely that powers already delegated cannot be re-delegated.
The RGS is a high level document that aims to bring growth and development throughout the SLRD in line with modern planning paradigms like Smart Growth. Part of its mechanics allows member municipalities in the SLRD to influence the land use decisions of their neighbours - and this includes amendments to Official Community Plans. Further, as all the province's regional districts have a RGS, amendments can be subject to review by neighbouring regional districts.
"We raised the issue of that not being democratic," said Race.
Though Squamish's opposition seems fundamental, especially on account of the constitutional objection, Gardner said a number of relatively easy solutions exist. One would be to yank the teeth out of the document and demote it to a guiding but unenforceable text.
Councillor Paul Lalli, long an opponent of the RGS, rejoiced in the news of the meeting - but also took a previous government to task and warned of neighbouring agendas.
"Previous councils bonded ourselves into a process without knowing what the outcome would be," he said. "Whistler is obviously lobbying to have this pushed through for their own reasons."
Councillor Corinne Lonsdale also seemed happy about the meeting, though she noted a number of times that it was she who first noticed the autonomy issue back when Ian Sutherland was mayor and the RGS process was heating up. The mayor acknowledged her contribution.
Squamish is the only member of the SLRD to vote against the RGS. According to the mayor, the province will contemplate council's arguments, and the discussion will continue.
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