The ripples of rejection 

Corridor governments react to Squamish canning regional growth strategy

Seldom do relationships go unstrained. Call it the failure of compromise, which, though occasionally surprising, is never unlikely.

So it is that Squamish is experiencing a slight falling out with its corridor companions, and the regional growth strategy (RGS), which was narrowly rejected by the district’s outgoing council, is the source of discord.

The RGS is a product of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District. Planners there began the process in 2003, and the document, which seeks to rein in urban sprawl in a bustling corridor, was accepted by Whistler, Pemberton and all other areas on the SLRD map.

In early November, Squamish council shot it down 4-3. Their reasons are by now familiar: inadequate public consultation, lack of clarity in both procedure and substance, as well as concern over the amendment process and the subversion of the district’s yet-to-be-approved official community plan (OCP).

Less clear are the implications the decision has on corridor relations. Though the SLRD has sent a letter to the province and Community Development Minister Blair Lekstrom is prepping a mediation process, there are still some bruised feelings north of district boundaries.

“What I know is there is a new relationship that’s going to have to be built between the new council and Whistler’s new council,” said Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed. “I don’t mind sharing some frustration. I thought we had built a fairly strong relationship, and our councillors, especially as recently as the UBCM (Union of British Columbia Municipalities annual meeting in September), spent a lot of time talking with Squamish councillors about the RGS moving forward. So I was surprised at the rejection, and also disappointed.”

An improved relationship between Whistler and Squamish is something outgoing Mayor Ian Sutherland cited as a success when he announced he would not seek re-election earlier this year. Along with outgoing Councillor Raj Kahlon and re-elected Councillor Patricia Heintzman, Sutherland voted to pass the document, going so far as to chastise other councillors for waiting until the last minute before registering full-scale dissent.

Further, it was Kahlon and Sutherland, each a Squamish representative on the SLRD, who had to face down rattled board members at this week’s meeting.

“Everyone on the board was surprised that Squamish turned their vote against the RGS,” Sutherland said. “And they don’t quite understand the reason we did it. It’ll take time to rebuild those bridges.

“I wasn’t embarrassed because I voted for it the whole way through. I’m a bit concerned about the image of our council, though.”

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