EDITORIAL: Avoiding unintended Squamish consequences

Are we pregnant but ignoring the possibility of a baby, Squamish?

It wouldn’t be the first time we didn’t think carefully about unintended consequences.

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Case in point: the housing complex being erected in front of Squamish Elementary School. Previously, the proposal for that teardrop-shaped property was for an oil and lube business.

Parents, kids in tow, protested that “industrial” proposal in council chambers. Municipal leaders of the day listened and changed the zoning to residential. The result is the 104 apartments and 18,000 square feet of commercial space complex that is mid-build.

Not to knock the development, but would an oil and lube place have been so bad, in retrospect?

Many completely object to any industry in town.

And yet, the Squamish environment is not faring so well in its new incarnation as a tourist mecca, is it?

The Howe Sound cumulative effects assessments show that roads, development, and people are having a serious impact on our most valued treasures: grizzly bears, rare birds and waterways in particular.

And now, many are opposing the proposed workcamp that would likely be a temporary home for Fortis and Woodfibre workers.

These LNG-related projects, like it or not, have been approved by provincial and federal levels of government.

The baby is coming (unless something drastic happens) and yet many still seem to not want to prepare for the child.

Saying fossil fuels should stay in the ground, as some commentators have in response to the proposed camp, is not helpful.

Should detailed planning and thinking be done around where to place the camp and how? Absolutely.

Good on the SLRD for wanting to tie the camp to the LNG project.

We don’t want a catch-all camp.

But it seems again, many are saying a blanket ‘no’ without all the facts and without running the scenario through to its natural conclusion.

If the approximately 500 workers are coming and we have nowhere for them to stay, what will this do to our traffic, parks, rental market and waterways?

Hire local, some on Facebook have said, then housing won’t be an issue.

Squamish employers are struggling to find anyone local to hire. And — er — LandSea, the business proposing the workcamp, is a Squamish company.

The camps are “turnkey” with catering and medical services. Thus, not a strain on our already bursting facilities.

Is Britannia the best spot? Maybe or maybe not, but as SLRD director Tony Rainbow hinted, why not get something out of this project for the area like a dock or other amenities?

Something that Fort St. John Mayor Lori Ackerman said when she visited Squamish in 2015 seems apropos.

Proponents are usually fine with community demands, Ackerman said, because they want to be part of the community.

“So rather than slamming the door in their face, I have said to them, ‘You want to come in, this is how it is going to work,” she said at the time.

Is this employee housing not what we have asked for with projects?

Other than not having the LNG on Howe Sound — something we don’t have a lot of control over at this point —  what is the alternative?

This is not to say residents should agree to every shiny thing that comes our way.

On the contrary, skepticism that works to make the projects as good as can be is critical.

But let’s deal with the reality facing us, not the one we wish for.

Otherwise, we may find ourselves with a big ol’ baby we never planned for.

That doesn’t bode well for any of us.

 

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