The Garibaldi at Squamish (GAS) resort proposal is being downsized, at least as far as its overall footprint is concerned.
GAS president Wolfgang Richter told The Chief in an interview on Friday (Jan. 27) that the company has decided to exclude the lower one-third of the development — totaling about 1,600 hectares (4,000 acres) of land — from the company’s plans.
He called the decision in 2003 to add the area close to Highway 99, including the land surrounding Cat and Brohm lakes, a “huge mistake.”
“We’ve just made a decision that all that stuff at the bottom of the mountain is coming right out of our development plans,” Richter said.
“Our intention is to bring in a slopeside mountain resort community at 3,600 feet and up. Since we have a six-mile road that we have to get in to reach 3,600 feet, we may at some point want to build down — say, 20 years from now.
“My vision is that this forest grove continue all the way up to our 3,600-foot main village site at Garibaldi.”
The lower part of the development was among the areas added to the proposal in 2003 —a decision that led to a lawsuit brought by the Squamish Nation against what was then Land and Water B.C. for failing to properly consult the nation on the expanded proposal. In September 2004, a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled in the nation’s favour.
Richter admitted the inclusion of land surrounding Cat and Brohm lakes in the proposal has also been a lightning rod for the project’s opponents. In addition to seeking the community’s blessing for the project in the coming months, proponents hope to win the full support of the Squamish Nation before putting shovels in the ground, he said.
“The huge mistake — when we went from 8,000 acres to 12,000 acres — has caused us 10 years of consternation,” he said.
The GAS proposal that’s before the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office for review is for a 25-lift ski resort with 22,500 bed units of residential and commercial accommodation. The development’s footprint, which was to cover some 4,900 hectares (12,000 acres), will now include around about 3,240 hectares (8,000 acres), Richter said.
On Tuesday (Jan. 28), Richter said the change won’t significantly reduce the amount of residential or commercial accommodation to be built for the resort.
“The bed-unit allocation is a factor of skier capacity. If you have the skier capacity, you get the bed units,” he said.
The current GAS plan shows much of the residential component in the lower portion of the development footprint, clustered along the resort access road.
Jessica Reid, a member of the Save Brohm group that has raised concerns about GAS, said that while the move appears to be a welcome one, she’s taking a wait-and-see approach on plans to reconfigure the residential component.
“Building residential on flat ground is much different than building residential in the alpine. They couldn’t just decide, ‘Oh, let’s just take this component that’s down low and move it up to the alpine,’” she said.
Reid said her group isn’t opposed to some development in the area per se, but wants the community to have all the facts before deciding whether to support it. Ideally, she’d like to see small-scale development that supports current recreational activities. The current GAS plan isn’t in keeping with Smart Growth principles, she said.
“I trust the people who have worked over a long period of time to develop a Regional Growth Strategy, and so far GAS does not meet those goals and principles,” she said.