OPINION: Squamish jigsaw

Remember when you were a kid and you spent hours trying to figure out how all the pieces of that giant jigsaw puzzle scattered on the kitchen table fit together? Fast forward and put yourself in the shoes of a newly elected municipal council that is in the process of solving a brainteaser called the future of Squamish.                          

For starters, we all know this community is in dire need of accessible rental accommodations. Some progress is being made, albeit at a pace far too slow for many observers. Mayor Karen Elliott has promised 125 new affordable units by 2022. A partnering agreement with an umbrella operating organization for purpose-built affordable rental units is also in the works.  And a commitment has been made to increase the affordable housing form options, size and the number of bedrooms within each form by 2022.                                                                                                                       

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One of the unfortunate backdrops to our outdoor rec culture and spectacular scenery is the lack of substance abuse and mental health treatment facilities.

Two years ago, Maureen Mackell, executive director of Squamish Helping Hands, told The Chief: “When our clients are in crisis, there are few options available outside of being shipped down to Lions Gate… Having mental health beds available is critical in providing the care our citizens deserve.” On the bright side, the 10 bed Squamish Turning Point Recovery House for residents with mental health challenges or substance abuse addictions is close to opening. Whether that initiative will provide enough support has yet to be determined.                                                                                                                                              

When it comes to the elephant in the room projects, the Garibaldi at Squamish resort pachyderm will cast a large shadow over muni hall in the next four years. There will be some tough decisions connected with an undertaking that has been unequivocally rejected by the previous incarnation of Squamish council and the SLRD. One of the major considerations will be whether the venture should fall under the jurisdiction of the District of Squamish or become a separate entity.                                                                                                                          

On another front, after all the hand wringing and online vitriol from both the pro and con sides, the Woodfibre LNG facility could soon be operational.

A major consideration for councillors and the mayor will be how much of an annual municipal tax hit the company should be on the hook for moving forward.

Secondly, what happens if down the road the company reneges on some of the strict operating conditions to which it has agreed?                                                                                                                       

The evolution of the Newport Beach development will also require considerable attention.

Let’s recall, this is a decades-in-the-making enterprise which has already encountered more twists and turns, and ups and downs, than the classic wooden roller coaster at the PNE. All the more reason to make sure the powers-that-be get this showcase project right.                                                                                                                             

Everything considered, this council will be faced with the challenge of assembling a diverse array of components to make Squamish a better place to live, work and play. So far, there are some positive signs. Let’s hope that pattern continues.

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