Garibaldi at Squamish planning continues 

Proponents look to 2017 work undeterred by SLRD opposition

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A letter to provincial ministers from the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) reiterating its opposition to the proposed Garibaldi at Squamish (GAS) ski resort isn't deterring proponents.

The letter, dated Dec. 14, was addressed to ministers Mary Polak and Steve Thomson (environment and forests, respectively) and advised that, as part of a scheduled review of its Regional Growth Strategy (RGS), the SLRD would look to strengthen policies that direct growth to existing communities.

For GAS to move ahead, the SLRD or one of its member municipalities would have to amend the RGS, which none have plans to do.

Reached for comment, GAS president Jim Chu said proponents would be continuing planning work in 2017.

"We are not rushing anything. We look forward to obtaining public input by presenting an updated vision and draft concept plans to the community and local governments in a consultative manner, before submitting any formal applications," Chu wrote in an email.

"We also look forward to sharing more information on this unique private sector investment by two leading Canadian companies (Aquilini Group and Northland Properties), both with significant experience in the tourism and hospitality sectors, that will create thousands of new resort operations and construction jobs, economic benefits for local businesses, new tax revenues for governments, and a world-class natural mountain 'playground' for locals and tourists to enjoy."

The proposed, year-round community would include ski lifts, trails, resort accommodation and housing units, guest services, public amenities, and groundwater supply and infrastructure. The overall project area would be 2,759 hectares.

But Squamish Mayor Patricia Heintzman said the district has other priorities at the moment.

"We want to focus on the ocean front, we want to focus on downtown, we've got other more realistic, more environmentally sensitive, climate-change sensitive directions we'd rather go in," she said.

"Really, as the project is proposed, whether or not it's viable as a ski resort has yet to be determined — they really haven't done proper snow analysis, or weather analysis — this is all the work they still have to do to actually get their full certificate."

With so many unknown factors surrounding the project at this time, it's hard to talk about specifics, Heintzman said.

"It's hard to comment when it's all hypothetical and still quite a bit of work to be done," she said.

"I think what the local governments are trying to say is this is not a slam dunk from a land-use decision, and from a regional perspective it's not a priority or really the focus of where we'd like to see urban growth within the whole region."

With the province saying the decision will be up to local governments, the project may be up in the air for the next couple of years at least — the next B.C. municipal election is slated for October 2018.

The province has changed legislation to override local governments in the past, Heintzman said — a decision around the Ashlu Creek Independent Power Project being one such example — "but I've never heard of it actually simply overriding it because they disagreed with the land-use decision by the local government," she said.

"And land use really is the fundamental role that local governments play within that bigger picture."

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