SLRD board divided over Green River Estates 

Development flies in face of Regional Growth Strategy MOU

Proposed zoning changes to allow additional houses at the Green River Estates development were deferred by the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District this week, but board members remain deeply divided about the project.

Developers of the Green River Estates are seeking a change in zoning to allow the development of 108 single-family residences. Each of the lots would be an average of .3 ha (one acre). Currently, the plan for the 248 ha site, located adjacent to Highway 99 near the base of Wedge Mountain, north of the RMOW boundary, is for 64 homes. This plan was submitted to the Ministry of Transportation in June 2005.

Green River Estates has offered to increase its community benefit contribution to the SLRD from $1.1 million to $2.49 million to offset recreation expenses in the area, if the zoning goes forward.

The land is under SLRD jurisdiction but a proposed boundary expansion by Whistler could have the development come under the resort municipality’s jurisdiction.

Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed, a long-time opponent of fringe development, voiced his concerns about the impact that the development, which has been underway since last year, would have on Whistler.

"This proposal is inconsistent with Whistler’s growth management strategy. There is a memorandum of understanding in place and it contravenes the intent of the MOU. I was surprised to hear a number of board members not support staff’s recommendation," Melamed said at Tuesday’s SLRD meeting.

Among those board members were Lillooet’s Phil Oakley and Electoral Area C’s Susie Gimse.

Steven Olmstead, manager of planning and development for the SLRD, put forth the recommendation that the application not proceed. The reasons he stated were that the plan was inconsistent with the intent of the Regional Growth Strategy, both with respect to smart growth principles and because it would promote further development in a "non-settlement" area beyond that which is already permitted. SLRD administrator Paul Edgington concurred with the recommendation.

"It was disconcerting to me," Melamed said of his fellow board members negative reaction to the recommendation. "It’s Whistler’s desire in the regional district that we’re moving forward and building respect for each other’s community. Whistler has not tried to impose any of its own agenda. It’s fair to say that Whistler is driving the Regional Growth Strategy in the interest of good planning and consensus building for the future. We want the process to evolve so that every member and region in the district gets to decide its own fate."

Melamed, who had a prior commitment, had to leave the board meeting before David Erhardt, development representative for Green River Estates, made his presentation. Erhardt focused on the self-sustaining qualities of the project, focusing much of his presentation on the $4 million sewage treatment facility.

Mayor Jordan Sturdy voiced concerns about the environmental impact of the project’s plan to have treated waste water emptied into the Greer River.

"I’m not a fan of putting more effluent in the Green River," stated Sturdy. "The same request was made by the RMOW to put in a treatment centre for Emerald. Allowing this would be a complete reversal of decision."

Designed as a strata corporation, plans for the development are to have its own sewage treatment facility using a four-phase system that would have "near drinking quality" water returned to the river, while solid waste would be trucked out.

While a self-contained sewage system would address one service need for a new community, Melamed wonders what would happen in terms of fire support, ambulance, search and rescue and community amenities such as a recreation facilities and parks.

"We want to apply our planning principles on any development that will have access to our infrastructure," said Melamed. "We are anticipating incorporating this new development into our boundaries. When the SLRD says they’ll reap the tax assessments that’s not true. They’ll get the $2.5 million but the tax assessments will go to Whistler."

The SLRD administrator requested that Ehrhardt submit his presentation in writing for consideration by board and staff. A vote on the matter was deferred until the SLRD board’s Aug. 21 meeting.

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