Fasten your seatbelts folks, it looks like the three decades old Garibaldi at Squamish all-season resort narrative could soon morph into a full-on brouhaha.
A proposed amendment to the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District’s (SLRD) Regional Growth Strategy that limits future development to the boundaries of existing municipalities has been rebuffed by the proponents of the GAS project and the Squamish Nation.
Rod MacLeod, the Garibaldi at Squamish VP for planning, says the amendment is unfair because “it is changing the rules on a development in the middle of the process to the detriment of the proponent.”
And in a letter to the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, Chief Gibby Jacob wrote, “We are deeply disappointed that the SLRD has not discussed this proposed amendment with the Squamish Nation.”
Both the Resort Municipality of Whistler and the District of Squamish are opposed to GAS. Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden refers to the venture as a real estate grab. “This isn’t going to be a ski area… It makes no sense,” she said.
According to Squamish Mayor Patricia Heintzman, the district has significant concerns about the project, including the socio-economic and environmental impacts, size, scale and layout.
Earlier this year, Heintzman told Pique Newsmagazine that, “We’ve got other more realistic, more environmentally sensitive, climate-change sensitive directions we’d rather go in.”
She added that two major priorities for the community are the oceanfront and downtown.
So where is this “he said/she said/they said” verbal tug-o-war heading?
Essentially, what we have now is no longer just a squabble over a lucrative chunk of recreational land in the far-flung Squamish backcountry.
Jim Chu, VP of the Aquilini Investment Group, one of the developers bankrolling the project, calls the Squamish Nation “a very important partner.” But in the past the band was mainly a silent partner. That’s not the case anymore.
Last year, just after GAS got the environmental approval green light from the provincial government, the Globe and Mail reported the Squamish Nation had been involved with the project since 2003 and had a 10 per cent stake in GAS.
That deal includes revenue sharing, employment opportunities and authorization to exercise aboriginal rights.
Chief Ian Campbell said, “We’re going to continue to be involved, to protect our cultural and environmental values in that area.”
He also told CBC news by ensuring the promotion of those values and “benefits are flowing to the nation, we felt that was a way to build relations and start correcting some of the past status quo of just simply marginalizing First Nations and having the province making these decisions on top of our rights and titles.”
Several years ago, Vancouver Magazine interviewed Chief Campbell about the roadside digital billboards the Squamish Nation installed in Squamish and on the Lower Mainland.
Prophetically, he said, “One way or another, we are going to assert ourselves. We’re not asking anyone’s permission… just wait and see what we’re planning next.”