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Council opposes SSC transparency

Briefs from the District of Squamish council meeting Tuesday (Oct. 20)

Squamish Sustainability Corporation (SSC) meetings will not be open to the public, council decided during a District of Squamish council meeting Tuesday (Oct. 20).

Last week, Coun. Patricia Heintzman tabled a motion to open the meetings since the board of the arm's length corporation, which administers tourism expansion and business development, is entirely made up of council members.

Heintzman's motion stated that, "in the spirit of fostering transparency and open government, council ensure that Squamish Sustainability Corporation [SSC] board meetings are open to the public and responsible to the same rules as outlined in the Community Charter while council comprises the entire makeup of the SSC board."

However Mayor Greg Gardner and Coun. Doug Race took exception to the suggestion, pointing to problems over semantics and the difference in responsibilities between councillors and SSC board members.

The SSC board is subject to the provisions as outlined in the Corporations Act and not the rules of the Community Charter, said Race.

"There's a reason for that. In this chamber we govern people. We make decisions about land use, taxation and so forth and rightfully they should be open but municipal corporations operate in a completely different environment. They are set up to run a business," he said. "It doesn't matter who the directors are, the question is what are they deciding."

Gardner said he viewed the wording problematic.

"'Ensure' is beyond our powers. We can certainly request or encourage but ensure goes a little far," he said.

Heintzman agreed to change "ensure" to "request" in her motion, saying that the SSC board should offer transparency where possible and minimize closed discussions to only those issues that are necessary.

She said she did not believe the group encountered a single issue that should be handled privately while sitting on the SSC board.

Race said that by altering the wording, the motion is rendered meaningless.

"We can request people to do something but they are still not bound to do it," Race said.

The motion failed with Coun. Paul Lalli, Race, Gardner, Coun. Rob Kirkham and Coun. Bryan Raiser opposed. Coun. Corinne Lonsdale was absent.

Council salaries debated

Municipal council salaries were again debated in council chambers, with Raiser as the most vocal proponent of council raises.

Following a council direction, staff presented a comparison to communities of similar population, operating budgets, also comparing their non-unionized staff members' salary ranges. Results showed the mayor's salary is in the 50 percentile of the norm while councillors' salaries are in the 70 percentile.

Raiser said the only people who can afford to live with the meagre councillor salary are the retired, the wealthy or those individuals who hold top positions they can take time off from.

"This is not a volunteer job, this is not a part-time job," said Raiser. "People aren't doing this job for the money. The only way I am sitting here is because I love this community.

"The bottom line is councillors should be able to afford to live in the community they serve and love."

Heintzman agreed, but suggested that open council meetings were not the place to discuss the issue. Gardner said that although having council members discuss their own salaries might be a tedious task, he believes they have an obligation to do so.

Council unanimously supported Lalli's motion to move the remuneration discussions to budget meetings.

Council split on Brew Pub request

Noise pollution came up as a concern following a Howe Sound Inn and Brewing Company request to allow for patron participation entertainment in the North Beach Lounge and Grill Restaurant. A recent rezoning change that would allow residential units to be built on a portion of the Brew Pub's parking lot created concerns over future residents' comfort. Brew Pub representative Trevor McGee agreed to amendments limiting the number of patron participation events to 10 per year and for invite only, adding that karaoke was not in mind when the request was made.

Raiser opposed the amendments, saying the establishment is already a source of entertainment that will naturally generate noise.

"It's [the bar] already there, I don't like these limitations," said Raiser.

Race countered the argument by saying the amendments will ensure that all future restaurant managers will act as responsibly as McGee intends to.

Council passed the amended motion allowing limited patron participation entertainment at the restaurant with Raiser opposed.

Anti-idling bylaw meets approval

Council unanimously approved the first three readings of a bylaw that would make idling illegal, and subject to fines of $75. Council agreed the anti-idling bylaw would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help fulfill several initiatives within the District of Squamish Official Community Plan, the District of Squamish 12 Step Pledge an the Sea to Sky Air Quality Management Plan. Anti-idling signs have been acquired and will be posted.

Fees for events on district property discussed

Council considered a recommendation from the Parks and Recreation department to charge a fee of $5 per participant for events utilizing district property, including trails, road, road allowance easement or right of way, or any other form of Municipal property.

The acquired funds would be held in an account used for hiring independent contractors to construct or maintain the trails.

Kirkham noted he was in favour of the spirit of the motion, but had some concerns over the exact terminology used.

Council agreed to include direct reference to trails that are partially or entirely on district property in the motion. After further discussion, the motion was unanimously referred to staff to further clarify justification for a new fee.

Squamish to get exposure

Council supported two initiatives that would generate heightened exposure to the country and the world. Members encouraged locals to prticipate in the Games Town 2010 competition by registering their stories, photographs or video clips about their community's Olympic spirit. Residents are asked to upload their information or before Saturday Oct. 31. Starting Sunday Nov. 1, residents can also vote for Squamish, which will be competing against 18 other communities of similar population size.

"There is an opportunity to win $120,000 for our community," Lalli added.

Council also unanimously agreed to create a task force that would investigate hosting an Economic Development Summit in Squamish for the fall of 2010.

Gas tax pays for overpass

Council unanimously approved the Kingswood overpass capital project to receive a funding amount of $750,000, which was appropriated from the gas tax reserve fund. The project is expected to receive a community works fund transfer from UBCM in the amount of $229,000 in Dec. 2009.

Midway parking nixed

Council members unanimously passed a motion stating "No parking" signs will be installed on the east side of Midway, indicating seasonal parking from Nov. 1 through to March 31. However a 15-metre long portion of the road adjacent to the Rental Network property (1007 Industrial Way) will be designated as a loading zone between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. from Monday to Saturday.

Funds to improve accessibility

A Quality of Life grant totalling $3,732.74 was unanimously approved for a Wheels in Motions Initiative to improve accessibility of Stan Clarke Park.

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