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Quantum Shift

Someone once said that the best way to predict the future is to invent it.

Someone once said that the best way to predict the future is to invent it. So how does this sound? You leave your attractive but affordable condo in Dentville and cycle along a tree-lined bike corridor to your high-paying job at the biotech lab downtown.

After work, you and your significant other meet at the South Asian Fusion restaurant on Cleveland Avenue for dinner, and then attend the gala opening of the West Coast artists' gallery on Second Avenue.

As much as this scenario has all the appearances of a pipe dream, it could become a reality if we buy into Smart Growth on the Ground, a plan that was generated by delegates from this community in collaboration with various expert urban planners. It is being touted as "a compelling long-term vision of what smarter, more sustainable development could look like in Squamish."

Although it is not a regulatory document, numerous zoning bylaw amendments have been suggested to ensure its success.

Smart Growth foresees 4,500 new housing units downtown and promises "a compact, vibrant and attractive living environment." Extensive cycling and walking trails will be part of a "green network" that will work in harmony with the surrounding infrastructure.

Even more enticing is the anticipation of local high-paying jobs in the form of value-added industry, marine-based activity, green technology enterprises, tourism, and employment in civic and educational institutions.

On the surface, these proposals resemble similar "pie in the sky" plans to save the whales, eradicate disease, or ensure an end to war. They appear to be thick on promise, but thin on delivery.

To its detractors, the Smart Growth concept has all the earmarks of a dog-and-pony show trotted out at election time, when it is referred to in the kind of reverential tones usually associated with a passing comet.

After closer examination however, it is clear that this plan has substantial merit and demands our attention, because with a completion window of 25 years, the sense of urgency will be considerably reduced after the election.

Major components of the Smart Growth plan could easily disappear from the radar screen at Municipal Hall, where lofty principles are quickly subordinated to fiscal expediency.

What is the alternative? The urban sprawl and social unraveling of Greater Vancouver's commuter cities, with their rising crime rates, traffic gridlock and its accompanying road rage?

Those who believe it can't happen here need to extract their heads from the sand. The spectre of mindless development is heading to this former backwater at the top of Howe Sound and we'd better be prepared for it.

Smart Growth is a good place to start; let's keep our eyes on the prize.

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