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Woodfibre LNG clears SLRD’s 'little roadblock' of minor amenities

The regional district issued a temporary use permit for temporary office and infrastructure amenities near the Woodfibre LNG project on the west shore of Howe Sound
A map of the WLNG site and nearby infrastructure and amenities. The amenities approved under a TUP by the SLRD are located to the north west of the terminal area, outside DOS boundaries.

The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) voted last month to approve a temporary use permit (TUP) for minor amenities on land near the Woodfibre LNG project, just outside the District of Squamish (DOS).

The SLRD board was revisiting a TUP application from FortisBC from February, when directors voted against allowing the permit, which would have allowed offices, amenities and infrastructure to be installed to support workers at the ongoing natural gas project nearby. Instead, they referred the application back to staff for clarity on the use of the site, for further engagement with the DOS, and wider public notice.

Upon returning to the SLRD board at the April 25 board meeting, the board voted to approve the TUP, but not without challenge.

Director Chris Pettingill, who is also a DOS councillor, said he was challenged in “seeing alignment with [the SLRD’s] OCP” in supporting items that would further resource extraction such as natural gas.

Pettingill, who lead the charge in questioning the TUP application back in February, said his understanding of provincial legislation around official community plans was they could not be overridden by other bylaws, such as a TUP, and therefore challenged whether the SLRD could issue a TUP to FortisBC at all.

The SLRD’s director of planning and development, Kim Needham, responded that the entire point of TUPs was to trump zoning and OCP bylaws for a set place and set period of time.

“The whole reason for [TUPs] is because it doesn’t meet with zoning and OCPs,” said Needham.

Pettingill pressed the issue, and repeated that his understanding of the legislation was that a TUP could not do that, but Needham dismissed his point.

“I’ve been working in planning for a very long time and I’ve never encountered that issue,” she said.

“If we wanted to pursue that question further and seek a legal opinion that would be something that would have to be outside this discussion.”

Needham added SLRD staff had responded to questions given to them by the board at the February meeting, “and that wasn’t a question. So if the board wished for us to answer that question, we could do so, but it would delay the issuance of the TUP for this month.”

Pettingill did not address any of the answers provided by staff in the documents provided in response to previous questions.

Area B Director, Vivian Birch-Jones, also opposed the TUP, and said she took issue with the wider project the amenities were associated with.

“[I] won’t support it because it facilitates the expansion of oil and gas,” she said. “That is not part of the solution in the current climate crisis.”

Director Armand Hurford, who is also the mayor of Squamish, talked about his issues with the scope of the plans in front on them—being the TUP—and the broader project they were attached to in a nod to the initial questions given to staff back in February asking for more detail on the wider benefits of natural gas and the impact of the WLNG project overall.

Area D Director Tony Rainbow—who represents the area where the TUP would be applied—noted the application before the SLRD was not for a pipeline or a compressor station, but temporary amenities. He spoke about the state of the site where the amenities would be located, noting that it was not pristine, and FortisBC had committed to rehabilitating the site when the amenities were eventually removed.

The only other speaker to the item was Area C Director, Russell Mack, who noted the wider project was “a fair ways along,” and “throwing little roadblocks in the way” was not helpful.

“I think what we should be doing is moving this forward but making sure that everything they’re doing on this site is to the best advantage of the site and the surrounding area,” he said.

“They need what they’re going to need and they’re going to put it somewhere. So if they’ve got a plan to put it here, they’ve got a plan to reclaim this site after they’ve finished using it and make it better than it is now, then I think we should support it.”

In the final vote, Pettingill, Birch-Jones, Hurford and Pemberton alternate director Katrina Nightingale voted to oppose the issuance of a TUP to FortisBC for amenities on the site.

The wider Woodfibre LNG project continues to move forward, though efforts to establish worker accommodations were set back by a District of Squamish vote on April 30.