Mayor Patricia Heintzman said she’s likely to be running for re-election this year, but stopped short of making an outright promise.
“If you ask me today, I would say, ‘Yes,’” Heintzman told the members of Squamish’s Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday. “If you ask me six months from now I suspect, ‘Yes.’”
“One of the challenges is, for municipalities, particularly in a certain period of their history, is you want some continuity and you want to make sure you start projects and get them going to the point where there is some momentum,” she said during her annual luncheon with the business community.
“I think it’s really hard to do, within in a governance context, to do that within one term,” she told the crowd, which filled all the tables in Howe Sound Brewing’s Firebread Restaurant.
“Barring any crazy stuff that might happen with family or whatever, my intention at this point is to, yes, run again.”
Her remarks gave an added significance to the gathering, which serves as something of an informal state of the union speech for Squamish.
Various developers and real estate groups were a noticeably large part of the audience for the paid event. Sea to Sky MLA Jordan Sturdy was also present.
Over the course of the lunch, Heintzman discussed how the District was dealing with a number of issues that have been top of mind for residents in town.
The conversation started with regional transit.
Calls for a regional service that would link the Sea to Sky and Vancouver have been renewed as a result of the fatal accident on Highway 99 in the beginning of January.
Heintzman said the District has been working with nearby municipalities and BC Transit.
It’s estimated that a system could be in place by 2019, but the mayor said that this would be too long of a delay.
“These are changes that needed to happen awhile ago,” said Heintzman. “We’ve been having conversations with [Transport] Minister Trevena... on ramping these up sooner.”
“The rub is always who pays for it,” she continued.
The latest report from BC Transit said that public transit for the corridor would cost $3.3 million. It’s proposed that local municipalities would pay $1.9 million, while the province would cover the rest.
Heintzman said local communities have little ability to pay for the system, and it would require more help from the province.
“It really should be paid for by the province — predominantly the province,” she said, but also acknowledged that the Ministry of Transportation wants municipalities to invest in the project as well.
“This is an ongoing conversation we’re having with the provincial government.”
The conversation then turned to other familiar pressing topics in town.
Concerns were raised about affordable housing.
Heintzman said there was no silver bullet to the problem, as even increasing the housing supply in town wouldn’t immediately decrease prices, as demand from the Lower Mainland has a big influence on Squamish.
Heintzman said the District is doing much to address the issue.
She pointed to the formation of a municipal housing task force; the removal of development cost charges from secondary and carriage house suites; and ongoing talks with BC Housing and developers about purpose-built rental units.
She acknowledged, however, it has been a challenge preventing Airbnb rentals from snapping up available rental space.
“We’re doing it in a bit of an honour system right now,” Heintzman said. “But that’s still something we’re struggling with.”
There was a question about why a population threshold had to be met before development could take place in the Cheema lands, given that housing is needed for a growing town.
Heintzman said the decision was made with the town’s finances in mind.
From a fiscal perspective, she said, keeping development from sprawling across town prevents infrastructure from overextending, which could be costly.