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Regional Growth Strategy concerns to be aired Sept. 24

Pemberton afraid amendment to allow GEMS School could involve Metro Vancouver, Cariboo, Thompson-Nicola


An elected officials forum on the Regional Growth Strategy has been set for later this month in the hope of clearing up confusion around the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District's controversial planning strategy.

Officials from the District of Squamish, the Village of Pemberton, the District of Lillooet, as well as representatives from the Squamish and Lil'wat First Nations and the regional district have been invited to the Sept. 24 session to clear up questions around the Regional Growth Strategy. The session is scheduled to go from 9 a.m. to 1:15 p.m.

The Regional Growth Strategy has proven a sticking point for the regional district after the District of Squamish rejected it at a council meeting just prior to last November's municipal elections. Squamish was concerned that the strategy could impact planning within the district and that not enough consultation had been done with the community.

Their concerns rippled through the SLRD, eventually reaching the Village of Pemberton whose councillors now worry that the strategy could stunt planning decisions within their own jurisdiction.

The elected officials forum will provide an opportunity for politicians throughout the corridor to have their say on a planning document that seems miles away from adoption by the regional district.

At a Committee of the Whole meeting Sept. 15, members of Pemberton council discussed the issues that they have with the strategy in the hope that their concerns, too, could be raised later this month.

Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy talked about problems he has with the strategy's amending formula.

Major amendments, which could apply to major planning decisions if the strategy is adopted, would not only require the approval of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District but the unanimous approval of all adjacent regional districts including Metro Vancouver and Thompson-Nicola, neither of which have jurisdiction in the corridor.

In a situation like that, Sturdy doesn't feel that major amendments could get done if they need that many approvals.

"If we're doing a private school and it requires an OCP amendment, which it just happens to require, who are the local affected governments?" Sturdy asked, ostensibly referring to the GEMS School planned for the Ravens Crest property east of the village.

"I guess by the way (the strategy has) defined it, it's sort of all the surrounding regional districts which includes the Cariboo, Thompson-Nicola, Metro Vancouver, it's everybody that touches your jurisdiction."

Councillor Ted Craddock, formerly a director on other regional districts, agreed with Sturdy's concerns about the GEMS School and said it isn't clear to him what's a major or a minor amendment.

"I think the GEMS School is another great point," he said. "If that was to come up as a major amendment right now, that would not pass because the Mayor of Whistler said he's not going to support it."

Councillor Susie Gimse, also the Area C representative on the SLRD board, said the purpose of the elected officials forum is to answer such questions about the strategy, though she challenged whether the GEMS School would require a major amendment.

"I don't think the GEMS School would require an amendment because it's within the sub-regional planning area," she said. "That whole area has been identified as an urban growth area, I could not see it precluding a school."