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Squamish lone hold-out in RGS

The District of Squamish is the only one of 11 Sea to Sky municipalities yet to embrace the Regional Growth Strategy (RGS), and with the local vote for adoption scheduled for Nov. 4, the town is becoming ever more polarized.

The District of Squamish is the only one of 11 Sea to Sky municipalities yet to embrace the Regional Growth Strategy (RGS), and with the local vote for adoption scheduled for Nov. 4, the town is becoming ever more polarized.The Squamish Lillooet Regional District's (SLRD) document is meant to establish where growth should occur throughout the entire corridor. Mayor Ian Sutherland, representing Squamish on the SLRD board during its Monday (Oct. 27) meeting, said he believes local councillors will accept the document, with provisions for amendments down the road, since the bylaw does not contain provisions for clarifications or minor amendments during the approval stage."I think our council is satisfied," he said.Coun. Corinne Lonsdale disagreed in a follow-up interview."I don't buy anything that's broken," she said.Lonsdale said it's more important to get the document right first before approving it."It's not like something dastardly is going to happen if we don't pass it within the next month or two months," she said. Under the RGS formula, which has drawn fire from some corners, changes to the RGS can only be made through SLRD bylaws, though amendments deemed by the SLRD board to be minor can go through an alternate process. The Squamish Chamber of Commerce opposed the RGS."We feel that any restrictions or impediments on the economic development and long term planning of our community in a way that could cause Squamish to lose its autonomy, would be detrimental to the future of Squamish," stated president Margo Dent in a letter to council.And vehement opponents, such as council election candidate Paul Lalli, say the document amounts to handing over decision-making powers for land use to outside communities - not the least of which is Whistler. "We do not want Whistler to have more control than they already think they have," said Lalli. "They've expanded their boundaries, they know that they're capped out. So what else do they need? They need a tool to control what's happening in Squamish."Lalli said his point was made clear when Whistler planner Bill Brown stepped into the debate in opposition of the Paradise Trails equestrian/residential development during a Squamish public hearing Tuesday (Oct. 21). "This is a prime example of why Squamish should not support Regional Growth Strategy, because here, Whistler is sticking their nose in Squamish land use decisions and it's unacceptable," said Lalli. Whistler mayor Ken Melamed said Brown's presence was entirely his own doing as a Squamish resident. He said Whistler has no interest in curbing Squamish growth, and in fact has "directed a significant amount of growth towards Squamish on Squamish's behalf." Answering a challenge that under the RGS, Whistler could veto Garibaldi at Squamish, which resort staff and leaders have vocally opposed, Melamed said Whistler has only one seat at the SLRD table, whereas Squamish has two. "Despite some suggestions otherwise, Whistler really is interested in Squamish's success and the corridor's success. And in fact, I think it should be pointed out that Whistler's success is the corridor's success, and British Columbia's success, so let's not forget about the revenue generation that happens in Whistler, which supports everybody - schools and public services. We generate $1 billion a year in the economy, $1 million a day in taxes go to province, 10 per cent of British Columbia's tourism economy." Lalli said he didn't buy it. "Either he doesn't understand the Regional Growth Strategy or he's just playing politics with it because the Regional Growth Strategy, at the end of the day, is going to be in the form of a document."And if Squamish chooses to have a major project that doesn't fit within the RGS, doesn't matter how many votes we have, you're going to have to go through an amendment procedure, which is still a little bit complex to me, and I see a lot of in-fighting at the Regional District board level."With files from Megan Grittani-Livingston.

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