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Salmon Arm debates major shopping centre

The community of Salmon Arm has been arguing over a proposed new shopping centre that some praise as an economic blessing while others condemn it as an environmental disaster.

According to the Salmon Arm Observer, a series of recent public hearings into the proposal have been well attended. The hearings are scheduled to conclude tonight, Thursday, with council likely to vote on the proposal on Monday, July 26.

The proposal is being made by Smartcentres, a Canadian developer and operator of unenclosed shopping centres. Documents on the proposal are available on the Salmon Arm municipal website.

Meanwhile, according to the Salmon Arm Observer, the Neskonlith Indian Band of the Secwepemc Nation has threatened legal action because it was not consulted on the hearings, which relate to land claimed by the Nation.

A local environmental group, Wetland Alliance: The Ecological Response (WA:TER) has warned that the shopping centre will degrade water quality in Salmon River and Shuswap Lake. The group also worries that the development will set "a dangerous precedent for further encroachments on critical habitat and watercourses."

A founder of WA:TER has posted a video on the issue on YouTube.

Aim High Salmon Arm, a local blog, has also been covering the debate.

Another website,, provides information to supporters of the proposal.

A local freelancer and CBC producer, Leah Shaw, told The Tyee:

"This council may pass the new proposal. That would mean at least one previously opposed councillor will flip... It will likely be three for, three against which means the mayor gets to break the tie.

"The long term effects will be loss of confidence in the democratic process and fear of regulatory bodies (charged with taking care of the environment and our well-being) for the Nay side.

"The Yes side, if it doesn't pass, will be disgruntled and frustrated residents and continued lobbying for more shopping options and bigger developments. Maybe some will move somewhere that offers them this."

Shaw concluded:

"In the long run, I think Salmon Arm will survive, land developed or not. The resentment building during these hearings will eventually dwindle to a short discussion about the past... 'remember the public hearings when... ' Fences will be mended and as long as the freshly cropped up organizations (SEAS, SLIPP, CASSSA, WA:TER) stick around, there will forever be 'better' or more discussions/ transparency around any proposed development that may affect lake quality, downtown vitality or Salmon Arm aesthetics."

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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