The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) board took another hop forward in the process toward resolving the dispute over the draft Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) at Monday's (Oct. 26) regular meeting.
The directors, with the exception of Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed, voted to support amended language almost identical to the preferred solution proposed by the District of Squamish, and to end the non-binding dispute resolution process and seek a settlement through binding arbitration.
Squamish officials rejected the policy document last year, and have since explained that the District objects to the RGS as it currently stands "because it impedes on decision-making authority of incorporated municipalities," according to a Sept. 24 report from Squamish Chief Administrative Officer Kevin Ramsay that outlined the District's proposed solutions to the problem.
At an elected officials forum on Sept. 24, which drew together council members and electoral area directors throughout the district to chew over the issues, Squamish officials put forward two options for resolving the issues as they saw them.
The first option, Squamish's preferred solution, involved redrafting a section of the RGS to amend the prescriptive tone of the language that had troubled Squamish officials, and to propose a policy for consultation with the SLRD should members be considering amendments to their Official Community Plans (OCP) that might be inconsistent with regional context statements to be prepared by the municipalities, stating the relationship between an OCP and the RGS.
SLRD staff reports have said that solution doesn't substantially affect the overall RGS. The second option involved amending the maps in the RGS to designate all lands within municipal boundaries as defined settlement areas.
The district's other municipalities and electoral area directors have spent some time recently hashing out the options and issues at their own tables, including lengthy discussions by the Whistler and Pemberton councils. But only the electoral area directors appeared to have reached a conclusion by Monday's meeting.
The directors' proposal was largely the same as Squamish's preferred solution - it changed a line regarding the RGS requiring all Electoral Area OCPs to follow a list of items, to say that "Official Community Plans should" follow the list.
The board members voted to support the electoral area directors' recommendation, except for Melamed. He told the board that he couldn't support "any weakening of the language," speaking as a director.
"If we say we believe in the growth strategy, if we say we commit to the principles, well then by gosh sakes, let's prepare to commit, jump in [with] both feet and agree to respect each other and work together," Melamed said.
He also raised the spectre of Bill 30, reminding the board of the feelings about that move from legislative authority to opportunity to consult, and saying that was not sufficient to him.
Squamish Mayor Greg Gardner said he could support the slightly changed wording proposed by the electoral area directors, because it "doesn't impact the issues being raised by the District of Squamish."
He thanked the directors for taking the questions seriously and putting time into the issue, while adding, "I wish I could say the same thing, frankly, about the Resort Municipality of Whistler."
Gardner said he saw the staff report about the RGS that went to Whistler council at their last meeting, and he felt it didn't deal with Squamish's issues.
"I'm looking for more detailed analysis," Gardner said.
Melamed noted that Whistler's council didn't support either the staff recommendation they received or Squamish's proposed options, believing they should meet again to come up with another option worth considering.
The other directors also voted to end the current non-binding resolution process and move to seek settlement through arbitration.
According to an SLRD staff report, supporting an amendment to the RGS from the non-binding process would require another 120-day referral period for acceptance by all affected local governments, including the neighbouring regional districts.
The board should resolve to move into arbitration "to avoid another 120-day referral process and the potential for non-acceptance," the report said.
IRCD bylaws move ahead
The hotly debated retreat centre proposed for Britannia Beach by the Institute for Research, Communication and Development moved a step ahead Monday, as directors gave third reading to the its OCP amendment and rezoning bylaws.
The directors voted to add an item to the list of conditions accompanying the potential adoption of the bylaws, which include an amenity agreement for $10,000 for the Britannia Beach Fire Hall, a community use covenant for storage and program space in the facility and agreements to create a trail through the property to Murrin Park and explore and possibly fund traffic safety improvements within Britannia Beach.
Following discussion on the issue and the community concerns, the directors added a clause ensuring the proponent would not proceed with any property tax exemption request that would lead to reducing net tax revenue for the local government.
A second public hearing held about the proposal in September attracted a range of responses. An SLRD staff report noted the receipt of: 53 letters of support, including 37 from Britannia Beach residents; eight letters against the project, including four people who also signed a petition of opposition; 14 verbal submissions in support and 17 against, with four non-residents included in the former group; a petition against the proposal with 97 signatures, including 84 Britannia Beach addresses; and one phone message from a supporter.
The report notes that the petition stated only that the signatories opposed changing the zoning from residential to institutional.