SLRD, member communities reaffirm opposition to GAS 

District looks to strengthen regional growth policies

click to enlarge FILE PHOTO - out of gas? The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District recently reaffirmed its opposition to the proposed Garibaldi at Squamish ski resort on Brohm Ridge in a letter to the provincial government.
  • file photo
  • out of gas? The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District recently reaffirmed its opposition to the proposed Garibaldi at Squamish ski resort on Brohm Ridge in a letter to the provincial government.

The board of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) has reaffirmed its position regarding Garibaldi at Squamish (GAS).

In a letter dated Dec. 14 and addressed to Mary Polak, provincial minister of environment, and Steve Thomson, minister of forests, lands and natural resource operations, the SLRD board advised the province that, as part of a scheduled review of its Regional Growth Strategy (RGS), it would look to strengthen "existing policies that direct future growth within the Region to existing communities and the elimination of policies regarding the development of destination resorts."

The changes are meant to emphasize that the RGS doesn't contemplate the development of new satellite urban areas or destination resorts consisting of residential and tourist accommodation development (such as GAS).

The letter goes on to state that: "none of the local governments covered under the SLRD RGS are planning to introduce an amendment to the RGS to support the proposed (GAS) project."

The proposed, $3.5-billion ski resort on Brohm Ridge north of Squamish was given an environmental assessment certificate last January, at which time the provincial government said the final decision would be in the hands of local governments.

None of the SLRD's member municipalities — Squamish, Whistler, Pemberton or Lillooet — are in favour of the project.

"If truly this is in the hands of local government, our expectation is that it will not move forward," said SLRD board chair and Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) Coun. Jack Crompton.

"I think it's fairly self evident that all of our communities face capacity issues as it is with the highway, with housing, with access to those things that support the businesses and the families in each community, and this would put such a massive strain on all those resources that it would just put us in an extremely difficult spot," he added. "The core of our opposition is that we want to use the resources that we have to serve existing residents rather than to deliver profits for a company out of Vancouver."

The project is backed by the Vancouver-based Aquilini and Gagliardi families.

It being the holidays, neither the provincial government nor a spokesperson for the Aquilini Investment Group responded to requests for comment before Pique's deadline.

Jordan Sturdy, MLA for the region, said he thinks it's a bit premature to be talking about capacity problems in relation to the project.

"We would be looking at a decade before anything really substantially takes place, I would imagine," he said. "These are big projects, there is a lot of process to go through — consultation, land-use planning, all sorts of stuff — and it's not the kind of project that just starts next year."

With Squamish's population expected to double in 20 years and Whistler's desire to increase hotel occupancy, capacity issues are already front and centre.

"To me that's really the issue that we have to keep focused on right now... these issues are real, and are right now," Sturdy said.

"When we talk about GAS, there's not even an application yet, so I don't know if it's going to come forward, I don't know if the proponents feel that it remains economically viable, I don't know if the proponents are (still) proposing what they put through the EA."

The RMOW officially endorsed the letter at its Dec. 20 meeting.

"I think it really speaks to the shared direction of our region," Crompton said at the meeting.

"This is not something that people in Squamish, Whistler, Pemberton and the Sea to Sky corridor want to see happen and I think it gives clear direction to the provincial government."

The proposed resort is a year-round, destination mountain resort community that would include ski lifts, trails, resort accommodation and housing units, guest services, public amenities, and groundwater supply and infrastructure. The overall project area would be 2,759 hectares.

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