The horse’s mouth 

Squamish’s equestrian community readies for third reading

John Buchanan might just leave, might just take all that he owns and shove off not just for greener pastures, but any pasture at all.

“I bet you’ll see people like myself just moving out of the valley and leaving the Starbucks community to carry on,” he says.

To Buchanan, Paradise Trails represents the last great hope for Squamish’s equestrian community, a small but organized bunch who’ve watched the town’s development boom chew up potential ranchlands.

But the project is not without controversy. Proposed for the end of Paradise Valley Road, it calls for 82 lots between 0.5 to two acres with an average price of $400,000. An equestrian centre will pin down the community, complete with tack shop, vet, arena and restaurant. Rambling in, out and around the community will be publicly accessible trails.

District staff is vehemently opposed to the idea. They’ve framed it as an offense to all things sustainable, the antithesis of the current planning paradigm.

“It’s inconsistent with almost all municipal policy direction, Smart Growth on the Ground and the Growth Management Strategy,” said planner Chris Bishop during a recent first and second reading for the project.

Councillors Greg Gardner and Patricia Heintzman sounded similar notes. “My general comment is that this goes against every planning principle I have read, studied or believed,” said Gardner.

“I’ve been clear from the beginning that this is a square peg in a round hole,” said Heintzman.

They were alone in their opposition. Councillors Corinne Lonsdale, Jeff McKenzie, Mike Jenson and Raj Kahlon all supported first and second reading. Mayor Ian Sutherland was absent. Come next Tuesday, the community will have its say at a public hearing.

Making reference to a treatment centre recently approved for the same environs, McKenzie suggested staff lacked consistency in its report. “One development gets approval, and there’s no fire and flood coming. Another one comes along, and there’s fire and flood coming.”

For her part, Carloyn Lair is cautiously optimistic. She’s done a lot of legwork up and down the valley, and she says there’s ample support from the community.

“I think we’ll have a very good turn out for public support and quite a few speakers,” she says. “Hopefully, that support will be there and we’ll get through.”

But it won’t be easily won, as criticism toward the project is substantial. Of primary concern is sprawl, the idea of adding yet another node in a town sometimes defined by its staggered sub-communities and the commuter culture they engender.

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