Singing praises of GAS 

Proponent releases updated study outlining economic benefits of proposed project

Garibaldi at Squamish Inc. released an updated socio-economic study last week, as part of the additional information the company is supplying to the Environmental Assessment Office.

The 180-day assessment process was suspended at the beginning of September, after members of the community-based working group requested more information about the overall scale and design of the proposed resort and surrounding housing.

The group also had concerns about local environmental issues, like water supply, which they felt the proponent hadn’t adequately addressed. It was pointed out that some of the information provided was almost 10 years old.

The proposed resort, which is about 8 kilometres north of Squamish, includes plans for 1,850 hectares of ski terrain with 130 ski trails, 25 lifts, two 18-hole golf courses and multi-use trails, as well as 5,739 housing units, which include over 1,700 hotel units.

Graeme McLaren, project assessment director for the province’s Environmental Assessment Office, decided to pause the process 100 days to allow the proponents time to supply necessary additional information, and for his office to assess it.

The updated 49-page socio-economic assessment, compiled by the Chemistry Consulting Group Inc., considers potential economic and social impacts the proposed resort could have on Squamish.

“While our resort will clearly increase the demand for services, such as health care, education and policing, it will be generating more than enough revenues to cover for those new services,” Mike Esler, President and CEO of Garibaldi at Squamish Inc. said in a press release issued Oct. 3.

“In addition to creating quality jobs in the community, significant new revenues will be generated to support government services at all levels.”

The report examines employment, income, government revenue and other economic impacts of the resort development, as well as population, tourism and recreation, housing, and community services. The report projects that over a 15-year development period the resort will create more than 15,000 new jobs, while generating $722 million in direct construction income and $63 million in annual operations income.

Workers are projected to contribute $130 million in income tax during construction and operations, and local government can expect $14.8 million in residential property tax revenues.

The report also acknowledges there are some social and economic issues to work out. Significantly, the residential component of the resort doesn’t fit with the District of Squamish’s official community plan, so if the District decides to annex the resort, the community plan would have to be “significantly modified.”

As well, there is an insufficient skilled construction and tourism labour force currently in the area, so employees will likely need to come from outside of the region, which will increase the need for rental accommodation.

There would also be a much higher demand on local RCMP and health services, and the resort would need to establish some form of fire services.

The report was compiled through secondary research, information from the proponents, and consultation with some local stakeholders, most of which was carried out from May to July. The information should be “considered high level estimates only that could well differ from actual impacts.”

The document also states that it is difficult to estimate the impacts the 2010 Olympics will have on the region, so the assessment does not take the Games into account.

“This report builds on the substantial work we’ve done to date and provides a compelling case for Garibalidi at Squamish,” said Esler.

“We continue to work with the Environmental Assessment Office and the Ministry of Tourism, Sports and the Arts and we look forward to the review process resuming shortly. We will soon be commissioning a fiscal impact study to further identify financial implications of the proposed development with a view to ensuring that local taxpayers will not be adversely affected.”

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