Low turnout for regional growth strategy consultation 

The turnout for the first round of community consultations on the SLRD’s regional growth strategy may have been small but the issues and concerns on residents’ minds are wide-ranging.

Less than 20 people showed up at each of the four community workshops held in Squamish, Whistler, Pemberton and Lillooet last week.

"It was a small but meaningful participation," said Lisa Griffith, planner with the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District.

The regional growth strategy is an initiative from the SRLD to develop a 20-year plan, which will provide the basis for future decisions in the region.

"To me it’s an essential document because what we want to get is some high level concurrence with the various communities of where we’re going and how we relate to each other and how we can support each other," said Whistler Mayor Hugh O’Reilly, who sits on the nine-member board of the SLRD.

The residents of Whistler, Squamish and Pemberton found many common issues, among them the need for a variety and range of affordable housing, the need for alternative transportation opportunities and a region-wide trail system for biking/hiking and the protection of ecologically sensitive areas.

There were also issues raised specific to the different communities. For example, in the Whistler workshop one participant suggested that the regional district should adopt a strategy similar to The Natural Step, the sustainability guideline adopted by the resort municipality to guide its decision-making.

The Pemberton workshop dealt with concerns over the protection of agricultural lands.

And the Squamish workshop touched on issues of urban sprawl.

The Lillooet workshop was a little different, focusing for the most part on the barriers to economic development.

With all these different factors to consider, SLRD Chair Susan Gimse said it was definitely time to get started on a region-wide plan.

"We’ve seen the increased interest in the area," she said.

"We’re seeing huge pressures on our Crown land surrounding our communities and we need to get some kind of handle on that. We need to know where are we going to be in 25 years and what we want to look like. If we don’t do that now we might end up with something we’re not real happy with."

She was concerned, however, about the lack of community interest in the first round of consultation.

"For me the only sort of area of concern was I’d like to see more of the general public and residents of the area start showing up and providing us with feedback," said Gimse.

"For the most part the ideas and suggestions that came forward are good ones but next time around we’ve got to find a way to engage the youth and the new families that are moving in that want to live here, (and the) old families that have been here forever.

"You like to make sure that everybody’s voice is heard at the table. You want to make sure you have a good balance of opinions and views and I think next time we have to find a way to ensure that we have that."

There is still time for residents to give their input on this first round of consultation.

Log on to www.slrd.bc.ca and fill out the four simple questions on the feedback sheet by Friday, Oct. 15. Those questions are:

• What are the top six issues that you think the Regional Growth Strategy should address?

• What is your vision for the region in 2025?

• What goals would guide us to that vision?

• Do you have any suggestions for improving the public consultation process being used in developing the Regional Growth Strategy?

There will be at least three more phases of community consultation as the regional district develops the strategy.

The board is planning to adopt the strategy by the end of next year.

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