Scale and impact on Squamish’s infrastructure was on the minds of a lot of people attending an open house on the all-season resort proposed on Brohm Ridge.
On Wednesday (Dec. 18), the provincial Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) held a meeting to gather residents’ comments on the resort that would include 5,730 housing units and 1,700 units of guest accommodation.
While the idea has been around for decades, the name Garibaldi at Squamish (GAS) first came to the table in 1996, when an “expression of interest” to develop a ski area was submitted under the Commercial Alpine Ski Area policy. In 2010, planning hit a speed bump when the province requested proponents provide further environmental assessments, specifically regarding how water would be supplied to resort and its proposed housing, two golf courses and snowmaking on 124 ski trails.
To make time for GAS backers to obtain the additional information in the requested Supplemental Application Information Requirements (SAIR), the process was extended to June 2014. Last February, GAS proponents took the initial steps in compiling the requested data, conducted testing on the main aquifer in the Paradise Valley.
At the open house, EAO officials wanted residents to gauge whether officials were asking the right questions of the proponent, said Chris Hamilton, the EAO executive project director. But many attendees had a lot of their own questions regarding the 1,200-hectare project.
Squamish resident Tristan Rayner said he came to the meeting to learn more about the proposal.
“I’m interested in the potential impact on residents of Squamish and environment,” he said.
Covering an area from Brohm Ridge down to Highway 99 and around Cat Lake, it’s a huge project, Rayner said. If the four phases of construction over 20 years are given the go-ahead, Cat Lake would be surrounded by development, he noted, adding a lot of recreation occurs in that area.
Squamish resident Matt Parker questioned the ski hill’s viability. B.C.’s Commercial Alpine Ski Policy (CASP) was developed in the 1980s, backed by the Social Credit government. It later expanded to include all-season resorts. The idea behind the policy is if developers are willing to cough up cost for recreational infrastructure, such as ski lifts, they can buy Crown land at the base of the mountain for market price before infrastructure upgrades. With the policy in mind, Parker said he fears the resort is merely a land grab.
Peter Auld shared similar concerns. He questioned the impact the additional kilometres of sewer and water mains would have on Squamish taxpayers. As a snowmobiler who has ridden within the boundaries of the proposed resort, Auld said the land and snow there is not conducive to a ski resort. It’s often foggy and Mount Garibaldi creates its own weather, he said.
“In my mind it’s not about the ski resort,” he said. “This is a money-driven machine.”
The current EAO comment period has been extended until Jan. 14. Garibaldi at Squamish has until June 10, 2014 to submit its supplemental application. Once the EAO reviews the document, it will go to the public for another 30-day comment period. The EAO will then write a report to submit to affected ministers.