The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District says it needs more information before it can take a stance on the proposed Garibaldi at Squamish resort development.
At their board meeting Monday, members opted to uphold a staff recommendation that the current environmental assessment, which is being conducted by the provincial Environmental Assessment Office, be suspended.
Steve Olmstead, director of planning and development for the SLRD, said they have some “significant concerns” that need to be addressed by the proponent of the Garibaldi at Squamish project, Garibaldi at Squamish Inc.
“In order to do a proper assessment of this proposal we need more information, and better information, and more analysis of some of the key issues before we can really move forward,” Olmstead said.
Some of the key issues Olmstead said the proponents need to address are environmental concerns, like water supply and the scale and design of the resort.
“Under the direction that we’re going with our regional growth strategy and the provincial all-season resort policy, there is supposed to be a balanced capacity between the… ski area capacity and the base development,” Olmstead said.
He suggested the balance is skewed in the proponent’s current plans, with the residential area significantly greater than the skiers per day anticipated by the mountain development.
“We want the destination resort to be just that — to be a destination for tourism,” said Olmstead.
“We’re not looking to create new residential developments in outlying areas.”
Olmstead also pointed out that some of the information submitted by the proponents is up to 10 years old.
“The Squamish market has changed dramatically in the last five to 10 years, and when this project at Garibaldi was reactivated, that information about the potential impacts on Squamish had not been updated.”
SLRD staff first raised their concerns in January, before the application was submitted to the EAO.
Olmstead explained that the first part of the environmental assessment process was to ensure the proponent responded to all concerns raised. But the second part of the process, which they are currently involved in, is to evaluate the adequacy of the proponent’s response to each issue.
Because the environmental assessment process has definite time limits, Olmstead said staff is recommending that the EAO “stop the clock” until adequate information is provided.
Graeme McLaren, the project assessment director for the Garibaldi at Squamish proposal, said the SLRD is a member of EAOs technical working group. That group is asked to review and comment on the Garibaldi at Squamish application.
“We talk about issues, we identify what needs to be resolved, we try and find solutions,” said McLaren.
“So that’s what this letter is from the SLRD — it’s going through a range of the issues that they see from their perspective and trying to recommend that the proponent for the project needs to respond to these issues.”
Olmstead said staff had originally submitted their recommendation to the EAO on Aug. 10 but brought it forward at Monday’s SLRD meeting to explain the comments and receive endorsement from board members.
Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed attended Monday’s meeting, and said the decision to support staff’s recommendation seemed to be unanimous.
Squamish Mayor Ian Sutherland recently criticized Melamed for contacting the EAO to voice RMOWs opposition to the GAS project. Sutherland, who is also a member of the SLRD, was not at Monday’s meeting and was not available for comment.
Melamed said Councillor Jeff McKenzie sat in Sutherland’s place at the meeting, but didn’t seem to object to the decision or the SLRDs involvement in the proposal.
Melamed said the SLRD has a right to be involved in the Garibaldi at Squamish proposal, because it falls within the regional district.
“The expectation is that all stakeholders will be asked for comment, so it’s completely appropriate, and in this case, specifically referred to the regional district.”
Shortly after Whistler submitted its controversial letter to the EAO, Melamed received a call from McLaren, inviting Whistler to become part of the Garibaldi at Squamish working group.
“I think they recognized that Whistler should, in fact, be a stakeholder and have some input into the review,” said Melamed.
Olmstead said he isn’t sure how much weight the SLRD’s recommendation will carry with the EAO, and hasn’t received a response from EAO yet.
McLaren agrees that there is important information missing from the Garibaldi at Squamish proposal. He said his office is waiting to get these information gaps filled so they can hold a public review period and move forward with the assessment process.
McLaren wouldn’t comment on the likelihood of suspension of the assessment process, but said the SLRDs recommendations would be taken into consideration.
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