Gabrielle Rougeau has spent her life dreaming of her wedding day.
A substitute teacher from Port Coquitlam, she and her fiancée Rob Murray were engaged in February of 2010 and immediately set to work finding a venue for their nuptials. Finding few places to accommodate them in the Lower Mainland, they ventured north, and in March found Cedar View Estate, a bed and breakfast located in Pemberton.
With a lodge and ten acres of lush agricultural valley surrounding it, Rougeau thought she'd found the perfect place.
"We went up there in March and right away (I thought), this is where we're getting married," she said.
"We stopped looking, came home and told our parents. Everyone was really against it because they didn't understand, they'd never been to Pemberton, but we knew right away that we wanted to get married there."
But her wedding dream was shattered when Cedar View Estate owners Beau and Rebecca Craig recently explained that it is illegal for them to hold weddings on the property despite holding numerous events the previous summer.
The Craigs and their property have been the focus of a zoning review by the Village of Pemberton for the last few months. It turns out that the property is only zoned as a bed and breakfast and holding weddings violates the zoning.
Beau Craig first learned of this last summer, when a neighbour made a zoning complaint to the Village. The neighbour said the noise associated with weddings was disturbing his ability to sleep. Craig entered into discussions with the Village about what to do next. According to him, weddings had been held at the property since 1995, and increasingly since 2004.
"We purchased the property with the full intention of using it the same way...," he said.
Craig said staff members at the Village told him that if he could prove weddings had taken place there before, he could have the use grandfathered, meaning he could continue to hold weddings there despite the zoning.
Craig provided the Village with evidence of previous events, but staff came back and said it wasn't sufficient because the property wasn't run as a wedding venue the whole time.
From there, Craig applied for a Temporary Commercial Use Permit (TCUP), an application that has twice been denied by council.
"Village staff directed us to apply for the TCUP," he said. "We've been following their directions the whole way through and here we are."
Unable to book any further weddings, his clients have had to look elsewhere. Some are looking to North Arm Farm, a property owned by Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy. He can host weddings at the farm because he also produces crops there, activities that grant him an "agritourism" status that permits such events so long as they don't become the central business.
"If (Beau Craig) got to a point where he had a farm status, if the BC Assessment Authority classified his property as a farm, then various other opportunities open up to him," Sturdy said.
As it stands, Rougeau is scrambling. In between trying to find work as a teacher, she is working hard to find another venue for her dream wedding. North Arm Farm might be one of those options - and according to her, it just has to be or she may have to cancel the whole thing altogether.
"After a year and a half of planning, working seven days a week to pay for it, I just don't even know," Rougeau said.
"...I don't think anyone else can feel what I'm feeling, because if they (did), (the Village) wouldn't have made this decision not to allow my wedding to take place."
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