In April 2010, District of Squamish council voted unanimously to endorse a letter calling on B.C.ís Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) to deny the proponents of the Garibaldi at Squamish (GAS) four-season resort development the environmental certification it needed to proceed.
The EAO didnít do that. Instead, it put the certification process on hold pending receipt of more information related to the water that would be needed for the 23-ski-lift, two-golf-course, 22,000-bed-unit resort. Since then, GAS proponents have provided that information and the EAO has re-started the process, including a comment period from Sunday (Dec. 8) to Jan. 7, 2014. Thatís a bone of contention for some, who claim seeking comments during the holidays is a sure-fire way to garner as little input as possible.
But letís back up a moment. In its letter to the EAO, our townís elected leaders didnít just voice concern about whether information about water was sufficient to satisfy environmental requirements. It also cited concerns about ďthe speculative nature of the socio-economic materials for this project,Ē calling the applicantsí assumptions on those issues extremely optimistic.
The letter reiterated the then-councilís commitment to the Regional Growth Strategy and the principles of smart growth, saying they are incongruent with the GAS proposal. It suggested that while the smaller, 1997 proposal (13,000 bed units in an area about three-fourths the size) had widespread community support, the larger, 2003 proposal did not.
So, whatís changed?
GAS proponents have shown that if needed, they can probably pump all the water they need uphill from the Paradise Valley. As well, council has changed ó though only three members are first-timers. This council, however, was elected on the promise of pursuing jobs and economic development, which could weigh in the proponentsí favour.
In June 2010, members of the GAS support group Friends of Garibaldi asked the District of Squamish to consider endorsing the smaller, 1997 GAS proposal. In other words, even they acknowledged the 2003 plan ó†the one thatís on the table now ó is far larger than the one that received broad local support back in the day.
We expect GAS will receive environmental certification in the first half of 2014. But really, from a local perspective, not that much has changed since 2010. Given that, this writer expects that for the proponents, the process of gaining community support for their project wonít exactly be a slam dunk.