Is Squamish developing too fast for council to 

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Time is often an issue. Councillor Patricia Heintzman says councillors are human resources, and, as with any human being, time-management requirements easily collide with financial responsibilities.

“I think it’s a tough job,” she says. “Councillors get paid $16,000 a year, and we already put in huge amounts of hours. And yet the demand of this job at the moment, with the current complexities of our community, we should be meeting a lot more. We’re getting into the whole debate about the value of time and the value of council. There’s two people that are retired on council, so it’s a lot easier for them to make the extra time. For people who work full time, you have to juggle a lot, and usually you’re losing money when you’re sitting in the chamber.”

According to Heintzman, this is an unusual time in the district’s history. Back in the days before McDonald’s, there wasn’t much need for policy development. The town was small, and things sort of organized themselves. But with accelerated growth comes a need for proactive management, and now council finds itself struggling to catch up to today’s high-octane pace.

“Our planning staff,” she says, “probably 50 per cent of what they do isn’t just working on development proposals, it’s policy development. And that’s where you end up having a lot of time demands and complex topics that need to be delved into. And I think sometimes we get confused.”

Confusion, Lonsdale would tell you, is in part a hallmark of inexperience. Further, she says, the current council has a deficit in that particular department.

“(Mayor Ian Sutherland) may be more willing to rely on staff than some of us,” Lonsdale says. “But staff are brought in from elsewhere and don’t always have that community feeling.”

Not long into Squamish’s April 8 strategy session, the relationship between council and staff played itself out during an exchange between Lonsdale and district planner Sabina Foofat, the district’s lead on its energy plan. Foofat spoke of an invite-only information session scheduled for the next day, one that was to include stakeholders from across the board. But not council.

“When you talk about bringing people together from various sectors, I wonder why there isn’t a council member involved,” said Lonsdale. “It’s pretty darn hard to be a policy-maker when you’re not involved from the beginning.”

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