The Squamish Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) has approved an independent power project (IPP) on Culliton Creek in what one board member calls an effort to show the regional district is open to the sometimes-controversial developments.
"We have made it clear that the regional district is open for business. I would just like to point out the SLRD board is processing an application for an IPP development," said Susie Gimse, Area C director.
At the SLRD meeting on Monday (March 27), the board of directors gave first reading to a rezoning application for an IPP on Culliton Creek, a subsidiary of the Cheakamus River. The approval was given despite a decision to defer the Ashlu River rezoning application until the completion of an IPP Energy Strategy for the Sea to Sky Corridor.
District of Squamish Coun. Corinne Lonsdale was the first to point out the discrepancy. She questioned whether the approval of the Culliton Creek project threatened the power of the Ashlu decision.
"I recognize that this project is not controversial but what does this mean to an overall strategy? Are we telling the provincial government that it is okay to pick and choose projects without a strategy," Lonsdale said.
Since the landmark decision to reject the Ashlu IPP last year, the SLRD has received criticism as a government unwilling to work with run of the river projects. Gimse said the desire for an overall strategy has not changed but the region is open for business."I have been front and center on the issue and we have been seen as sending developers away. We have made it clear that we want a regional strategy," Gimse said.
Steven Olmstead, SLRD manager of planning and development, pointed out that the SLRD has consistently called for a regional energy plan but never instated a complete moratorium on IPP development. He said the approval of first reading for the Culliton Creek project, simply gets information out there during the initial screening process.
"As a result of the work happening in this region, BC Hydro has built into proposals that necessary rezoning bylaws must be met. This is not a project on our radar screen as being controversial and some issues need to be resolved," Olmstead said.
Instead of giving the green light, Lonsdale suggested an amendment for the project rezoning. In addition to the bylaw, the SLRD included a statement suggesting the district is still committed to the development of a regional energy strategy.
"Perhaps a paraphrase is that the region is open for business but not open for a free for all," said Eckhard Zeidler, Resort Municipality of Whistler councillor.
Policing changes coming
The provincial government plans to introduce legislation this spring to implement a new police-financing model in municipalities with a population of under 5,000 and rural areas.
The new financing model is designed to reduce inequity in the amount property taxpayers across the province contribute to policing costs.
In larger cities, taxpayers pay 70 to 100 per cent of their policing costs, while smaller municipalities pay nothing. Rural property owners pay a rural property tax, but the amount raised from this tax does not make a significant contribution to policing.
Under the new model, the provincial government will recover 50 percent of its cost for providing local police services and the SLRD is scrambling.
"This was first presented in 2003 and met with huge opposition. A list of concerns were identified and the province indicated they would address them," Gimse said.
The new system of police financing uses a formula that combines property assessment values and population. The formula will also reflect ability to pay, and areas with strong tax bases will generally pay more on a home of average value. It s estimated that 92 per cent of communities will pay less than $75 per year on an average single family dwelling.
"Issues that remain unresolved once small communities contribute is how we have input with respect to the level of services we receive," Gimse said. "The province also indicated they would help out smaller communities by doubling our small communities grant so in fact we might be ahead of the game."
The new finance model does not address highway policing and takes out the cost of First Nations and Provincial Parks policing. Gimse said the provincial government also needs to address added policing costs for the 2010 Olympics.Other SLRD directors expressed frustration with the current RCMP system. Lonsdale questioned the logic used to determine how many police are required for a rural area.
"The RCMP are getting so expensive and I think someone needs to look real hard at a provincial police force. I don't believe the constituents are happy with the service we have been receiving," Lonsdale said.
Jordan Sturdy, Pemberton Mayor, disagreed he said the Village of Pemberton has a very healthy relationship with their RCMP.