The provincial Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) has approved an application for non-farm use for several acreages that will be used for Pemberton Music Festival parking and camping.
In a decision dated June 29, the ALC approved both applications for parking on an 84-hectare site, and for music festival staff camping on another four-hectare site. The approval includes increased financial security in an irrevocable letter of credit in the amount of $500,000, a 30-day closure report to be completed by a registered agrologist following the last day of the festival to ensure proper post-event cleanup, and ongoing planning from the Village of Pemberton (VOP) and the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD).
The ALC found that the current size of the festival, including the approved areas, "are more than adequate." The approval goes on to state that the VOP, the SLRD and festival organizers are "strongly encouraged to reconfigure the festival layout and the number of participants before approaching the ALC with any future requests."
The ongoing and complicated land-use issue includes an Environmental Appeal Board (EAB) remediation order — that is on hold pending a hearing — which cites the lack of a developmental permit for the initial clearing of land, as well as significant impact to a nearby stream, plus a civil case that is currently before the courts in which injunctions against any proposed land use are sought. The ALC did not return calls by press time.
SLRD vice-chair Marg Lampman said the board and the VOP have deliberated over this and the proper process has been followed.
As for residents' concerns that their well water is at risk, Lampman said: "There is insurance in place. The SLRD has made that quite clear — the insurance has an environmental aspect to it."
Lampman said after the conclusion of this year's festival, discussions should be ongoing, particularly in light of the fact that the ALC granted approval just two weeks before the festival kicks off July 14.
"There needs to be more conversation... You can't wait until the last minute when you have this much interest and attention," she said. "This needs to start in September (to prepare for the 2017 festival)."
Pemberton Mayor Mike Richman agreed, and said that festival organizers have been clear about increasing the size to what is expected for this year — about 40,000 people.
"They have their critical number — what is it for us?" said Richman. "This is something we can look at together," he said, referring to the community and local government that can assess concerns or areas for improvement. "Now we can have a really critical look at it."
Meanwhile, local and provincial government bodies announced Tuesday, July 5 that Pemberton-area rivers are temporarily closed during the music festival.
Of concern are the sensitive riparian habitats, plus the danger of swimming in waters with fast currents. The closures restrict access to the Lillooet River at the Highway 99 bridge, the Birkenhead River and the Green River from July 13 to 18. The festival opens July 14 and concludes July 17.
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