Resort Governance Options - Who will be in charge of the Resort?
Garibaldi at Squamish Inc will soon present to Squamish Council and ask Squamish Council to consider extending its boundaries to take in the Resort area.
At this point, we hope that the District of Squamish Council will agree to undertake a study to fully understand the positives and potential concerns of a boundary extension that would take in the resort, and look at how any issues that are identified could be mitigated.
Right now, the project is on crown land within the Squamish Lillooet Regional District, and on the traditional territories of the Squamish Nation, an equity partner in this project.
The Plan is to build an All Season Resort on Brohm Ridge, with skiing as the primary winter activity and mountain biking and hiking as the primary summer activities. There would also be a village, mountaintop restaurant, and many free and fun things to do. The owners are also committed to sustainable building practices. This will be the first resort in North America build with sustainability as a core component from the start.
The project received an Environmental Assessment Office certificate in 2013 and has been working hard to fulfill the conditions of the project since then. We expect to begin construction in 2022 for a 2025 opening.
If the citizens of the District decide to extent its boundaries, it will be the governing municipal jurisdiction. This means that it will have control over things like zoning and land use - what is built and where, building design, and open spaces - within the scope of the Resort Master Plan. Squamish Council would continue to have a say in all development through the life of the resort.
If the resort is part of the District, it also means Squamish will collect property taxes from the resort. Since the resort will have substantial commercial land, and based on previous studies and studies by other resorts, the tax benefits are expected to be very positive as the resort grows.
If this new mountain resort is part of the District of Squamish, the resort would still expect to pay for all of its own infrastructure construction and work out servicing agreements with the District to ensure a long term, mutually beneficial plan.
The District of Squamish has been contemplating a boundary expansion for a few years in order to take in nearby power stations at Skookum and Culliton Creek, and to gain better control over nearby areas. This could include setting up Community Forests, which would allow for public consultation on which areas will be harvested and when, and how recreation, trails, and other uses can be integrated into the land use plan.
At this point, we are asking the District of Squamish to make the Garibaldi at Squamish area part of their boundary extension study.
If the Council agrees to proceed with a boundary extension, whether or not it includes the resort area, there is a public process to ensure that citizens of the District of Squamish have a say in the decision.
Governance Options Available to Resorts in BC
There are a number of governance options available to Resorts around the province, and different variations have been tried and tested with different resorts. A full study can show the District of Squamish the positives and negatives of each option.
Some resorts, including Whistler and Sun Peaks, are independent Resort Municipalities. They elect their own council, collect taxes, and maintain infrastructure. Sun Peaks was a designated "Mountain Improvement District" until it became an independent resort. Big White and Sasquatch (Formerly Hemlock) are part of their respective Regional Districts.
Other Resorts, including Revelstoke, have seen the local municipalities expand their boundaries to take them in. Valemont has done a study, but has not yet made the decision whether to include the land between the resort and the town or to leave that in the Regional District.
Once the District of Squamish has undertaken the studies and has a better understanding of the fiscal and land use planning implications all parties and stakeholders can discuss the results with up to date information and if it is the chosen course of action, the District can move ahead with the boundary extension process, which includes a formal process for input by the Squamish public.
The Resort plan has undergone substantial changes over the years since its current iteration began in 1994. The resort is now envisioned as a full, all-season resort where the summer will be just as busy, if not busier than the winter. The land base is now about half the size of what it was, Brohm Lake and Cat Lake will not be touched, and the Cat Lake dirt bike trails will be preserved. Mountain Biking and Hiking have replaced golf as the primary summer activity. Smart Growth Principles have been adopted to minimize the footprint, and we are also committed to working with local Squamish experts to ensure this is the most sustainable resort ever built. We are also currently investigating new or additional on mountain water sources, and have agreed to work with Black Tusk Snow Mobile Club to help them find a new location once the resort takes shape.
Squamish is growing fast, and with that comes the usual growing pains. We have challenges with transportation and affordable housing. With thousands of new housing units planned for the Oceanfront, Waterfront Landing, and other projects already underway, Squamish also needs to create more local job opportunities so that more people can work closer to home, and spend more time with their families or doing the things they love. As a $3.5 Billion dollar investment in Squamish, this resort can go a long way to helping to provide those local jobs, while also contributing to transportation and affordable housing solutions.
This is an important decision for Squamish, and will likely be one of the most important decisions, that this Squamish Council will make. We look forward to working towards putting together the information they need to fully understand the implications of extending the District of Squamish boundaries to include the Resort area.