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SLRD adopts regional growth strategy

$11,000. That's how much it cost to decide which of "shall" or "should" was the best wording to include in the regional growth strategy, a planning strategy that aims to focus development into compact, walkable communities and prevent urban sprawl.


That's how much it cost to decide which of "shall" or "should" was the best wording to include in the regional growth strategy, a planning strategy that aims to focus development into compact, walkable communities and prevent urban sprawl.

An arbitrator eventually decided that "should," the option provided by the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, was the best term to include in section 1.1 of the strategy, which lays out planning directions for member communities.

The District of Squamish wanted the word "shall" included in the section, as did the Resort Municipality of Whistler, which also wanted to change the wording of Section 1.1 (a) in the strategy but the arbitrator didn't agree.

The $11,000 figure came in response to a question from Area C Director Susie Gimse at the SLRD's June 28 meeting. She wanted to know how much the arbitrator cost the regional district as a matter of "taxpayer accountability." SLRD Planning and Development Director Steven Olmstead responded with the figure.

Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy, who sits on the board as a director for the Village of Pemberton, then said he'd be interested in learning the whole cost of adopting the regional growth strategy, a planning strategy that has been in development since 2003.

"It's all a big package, it seems to me," Sturdy said. "If there's additional time and cost finding out what the appeal process cost is, the overall cost at the end of the day is certainly of interest and relevant to the taxpayer."

SLRD Administrator Paul Edgington said the costs to develop the RGS have been reported in the regional district's financial plan and in various financial statements. Nevertheless, the board passed a motion to break down the costs expended on the strategy, including the mediation and arbitration periods when adoption stalled.

The board finally approved the regional growth strategy at Monday's meeting. Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed, who doubles on the board as a director for Whistler, was not present. Neither was Squamish Director Paul Lalli, who was a forceful advocate against the strategy in the 2008 election because he worried about how it could limit development in Squamish.

Sturdy joked that Lalli boycotted the meeting where RGS was adopted but Board Chair Russ Oakley later explained that the Squamish Director had earlier alerted him as to his absence. Lalli said in an e-mail to Oakley that his alternate, Squamish Mayor Greg Gardner, could attend in his absence but he wasn't at the meeting either.

Other business at the board table saw directors vote against a request for a subdivision in the Agricultural Land Reserve, an area where farming is a priority use.

The property, belonging to Pemberton resident Hollie Davis, is located at 7306 Clover Road. She hoped to subdivide the land into two lots, one measuring four hectares, the other 5.8 hectares.

Davis, who has lived on the property for 21 years, hoped to sell off the smaller parcel and continue to live on the other one. As it stands, she operates a bed and breakfast on the property but there is also a barn, chicken coop, two sheds and a gazebo. Adjacent properties on Clover Road are used to produce hay, cattle and sheep.

The application would have had to go to the Agricultural Land Commission for approval but the board decided not to forward it, reasoning that it wanted to make a decision that was "consistent with the objectives" of the commission, which works to preserve farmland throughout the province.

The board also received correspondence from Pemberton resident Brenda McLeod, who wrote expressing concern about the Village of Pemberton's proposal to expand into some parcels of Area C, which borders its boundaries.

Among other things, she wrote that "appropriate local government process has not been followed" and that the plan does not follow Smart Growth principles.

Sturdy, a strong advocate of boundary expansion, said the letter was "chock full" of misinformation and errors.

"I am happy to go through it, including the suggestion that it's not contiguous is totally false, that it does not contemplate sterilization of farmland, that the Village of Pemberton certainly supports agriculture, and I do bristle at the suggestion that there's any difference in support at the SLRD level in terms of the support for agriculture in this area," he said.