Sea to Sky Gondola rezoning approved by Squamish-Lillooet Regional District
The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District board of directors granted today (June 25) final approval to rezoning and official-community-plan-amendment bylaws needed for the Sea to Sky Gondola’s upper terminal.
After the SLRD board meeting, Electoral Area D director Moe Freitag told the Straight that the vote was unanimous.
“I know there was lots of confusion surrounding the provincial-park aspect,” Freitag said by phone from Pemberton. “But what we were approving today had to do with the top terminal that falls into my area, and there was a stipulation that the rezoning wouldn’t go through if the province didn’t approve their part. So that’s the stage we’re at. The public gets what they asked for.”
While the gondola would run through the Stawamus Chief park—though not up the Chief itself—both its planned lower and upper terminals lie outside the park. The base property is located in the District of Squamish between the Chief and Shannon Falls, and the top would sit on Crown land on Habrich Ridge in the SLRD’s Electoral Area D.
According to Freitag, the project’s proponent still needs to obtain a development permit from the SLRD. He said he’s pleased Sea to Sky Gondola Corporation has pledged to make a lump-sum contribution of $10,000 toward Electoral Area D’s emergency-services costs the year the gondola is completed.
“We currently have numerous tourism options in our area,” Freitag said. “But I see this as being—just like the proponent proposed—an actual stop, where people get out of their vehicle or their bus or however they’re coming up, and they’re actually going to partake in what we are, not just drive past what we are.”
Anders Ourom, an organizer with Friends of the Squamish Chief—a group opposed to the gondola proposal—called today’s SLRD vote “a relatively minor step in the whole process and no surprise”. He told the Straight that FOSC is focusing its efforts on fighting Sea to Sky’s application for a park-use permit.
According to Ourom, FOSC has collected more than 1,000 signatures on its print and online petitions. The group aims to show B.C. environment minister Terry Lake that there is opposition to the project, and point out that the government didn’t follow its own Provincial Protected Area Boundary Adjustment Policy, Process and Guidelines with respect to the Chief park.
On May 31, the B.C. legislative assembly approved Bill 49. Lake’s legislation set the stage for the removal of 2.36 hectares from the Chief park for the gondola corridor and the conversion of that land to a protected area.
Ourom noted B.C. Parks didn’t hold its own “neutral” open house on Sea to Sky’s park-boundary-adjustment application. B.C. Parks also didn’t post documents related to the proposal on its website.
“The government hasn’t complied with its own policy for considering removing land from protected areas, let alone for commercially developing it,” Ourom said by phone from Vancouver. “We think that the government should follow its own policy.”
Sea to Sky declined to give an interview or provide the project’s environmental reports to the Straight at this time. Ministry of Environment staff also didn’t make a B.C. Parks representative available for an interview today.
In February, District of Squamish council approved the rezoning of the gondola’s base property to allow development of the lower terminal. Sea to Sky has applied to the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations for Crown land tenure and to the Ministry of Environment for water licences for the upper terminal area.
Sea to Sky hopes to start construction in the fall and open the gondola in July 2013.