Pemberton defers judgment on Regional Growth Strategy 

Whistler still undecided on how it should proceed

Everyone wants to solve Sea to Sky's great impasse, but Pemberton at least has yet to figure out what it wants.

Village council this week discussed the Regional Growth Strategy at a Committee of the Whole meeting but hasn't yet sketched out its position on it, deferring judgment on the strategy to another day.

The Regional Growth Strategy has proven a contentious roadblock to regional diplomacy in Sea to Sky after the District of Squamish rejected it at a council meeting last October. Squamish felt at the time that it had a lot to lose if it adopted the strategy, which seeks to ensure development of compact, sustainable communities throughout the corridor.

In late September Squamish brought its concerns before an Elected Officials Forum, which brought a veritable who's-who of Sea to Sky politicians to Pemberton to hash out each other's issues with the strategy.

Squamish Mayor Greg Gardner came to the forum with a whole new set of concerns but assured everyone present that he agreed with the strategy's aims and would like to see it go through in a different form than has been presented.

Squamish has offered to accept the strategy if it meets any of the following options: that a duty to consult with the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District be made a part of the legislation when updating an Official Community Plan, rather than require plans to gel with the strategy; or that maps in the strategy be amended to turn areas inside municipal boundaries into settlement areas.

The regional district, meanwhile, listed two further options in an Oct. 9 memo: develop a whole new proposal as an alternative to the growth strategy or support the bylaw as it stands at second reading.

Pemberton has yet to decide which of these options it supports, but many on council indicated Tuesday their support for the first option - enshrine a duty to consult with the regional district and remove mandatory language that requires unanimous approval by regional districts where major amendments are concerned.

Major amendments as yet are undefined, but elected officials within the corridor worry that major developments such as the GEMS school or the proposed Garibaldi at Squamish ski resort could constitute such a thing. They worry they will require the approval of all municipalities in the regional district as well as all adjacent regional districts.

The regional district and its member municipalities are considering these options as part of a non-binding dispute resolution process, which can examine a multitude of options.

Another option for dealing with the impasse is by going to a binding arbitration process, which could see a single arbitrator choosing a solution from two options. A regional district memo states that the fourth option, accepting the strategy as it stands, would have to happen through a binding arbitration.

"I would prefer to stay in the non-binding process at this particular point," said Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy. "I will never support the proposal as it stands... I'm very uncomfortable with one community, be it an electoral area or a municipality being able to completely challenge any kind of change in another community that may or may not be affected or connected."

Councillor Al LeBlanc supported the ideas that Squamish put forward at the officials forum and said he endorses Option 1, creating a duty to consult with the regional district but removing mandatory language from the strategy.

"I think any time you go to arbitration, it's not a good way to deal with things," he said.

Councillor Lisa Ames also indicated her support for Option 1 and said Pemberton council should work to get the impasse with the strategy over with as soon as possible. Councillor Susie Gimse also supported Option 1 as long as it applies to all jurisdictions within the regional district.

Meanwhile, Whistler council couldn't agree on how they should tackle the RGS dispute and during their public meeting Tuesday they voted to workshop the issue in more detail.

Three councillors - Ralph Forsyth, Grant Lamont and Tom Thomson - support Squamish's proposal to resolve the dispute, while the other four council members remain skeptical.



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