SLRD expected to hold Sea to Sky Gondola public hearing in April
A public hearing on a proposed sightseeing gondola near the Stawamus Chief in Squamish has been tentatively set for April 19 in Britannia Beach.
The hearing will take place if Squamish-Lillooet Regional District directors give second reading at their board meeting on Monday (March 26) to proposed bylaws to rezone the upper terminal site and amend the official community plan for the Sea to Sky Gondola project.
In a report on the agenda for Monday’s meeting in Pemberton, SLRD staff recommend the board grant the second of four required readings and schedule the hearing, which would be held by Electoral Area D director Moe Freitag.
“The application, if approved, would redesignate and rezone an area of unsurveyed Crown land in Electoral Area D, to the southeast of the District of Squamish,” the staff report states. “No major issues have yet been identified that would prevent the process from moving forward and the scheduling of a public hearing. The OCP amendment bylaw would designate Electoral Area D as a Development Permit Area for Wildfire Protection, and the gondola upper terminal site as a Development Permit Area for Form and Character.”
Freitag told the Straight today (March 23) that the hearing would happen at the Britannia Beach Community Centre (60 Copper Drive) and start at 7 p.m. Reached by phone in Whistler, the Britannia Beach stone mason said he couldn’t predict what the turnout would be like.
“Squamish fast-tracked this one pretty good,” Freitag commented, referring to the District of Squamish. “There hasn’t been a lot of resistance in general to the idea. So it would really be difficult to say.”
On February 7, District of Squamish council granted final approval to rezoning the gondola’s base property and amending the official community plan to allow development of the lower terminal.
Sea to Sky Gondola Corp.’s proposal would see the gondola rise 820 metres from a base between the Chief and Shannon Falls to the ridge northwest of Mount Habrich.
On March 15, the Straight reported that the company has applied to remove two hectares from Stawamus Chief Provincial Park so seven towers can be installed on what is now Class A parkland. The one-kilometre-long, 20-metre-wide corridor would be redesignated as a protected area.
Environmentalists with Sierra Club B.C. and the Wilderness Committee have expressed concern that changing the boundaries of the Chief park could lead to other provincial parks facing pressure from private developers.
Freitag noted he is “not exactly opposed” to Sea to Sky’s park-boundary-adjustment application. According to him, the gondola project could help keep the park from being “ruined” by increasing use.
“Unfortunately, too often the provincial government neglects these parks,” Freitag said. “Of course, by doing so, things aren’t taken care of, and people will wreck what we have. So I think it’s a great idea that the private sector’s willing to take a step in the right direction, take over some of this area, and take on the interpretative portions, put in some washroom facilities, properly constructed trails, so people stay on the beaten path and don’t wander off and kill off the riparian areas and the ecologically sensitive areas. That’s a step in the right direction, in my opinion.”