Pemberton residents question festival's parking application 

Quality of well water, compromised farmland concern neighbours

click to enlarge PHOTO BY LYNN MITGES - Parking proposal An application to change the farm-use designation of this newly cleared land just off Highway 99 so it can be used for Pemberton Music Festival parking concerns several nearby residents.
  • Photo by Lynn Mitges
  • Parking proposal An application to change the farm-use designation of this newly cleared land just off Highway 99 so it can be used for Pemberton Music Festival parking concerns several nearby residents.

A property owner whose land backs onto freshly cleared farmland in Pemberton is concerned her well-water supply may become contaminated if thousands of cars are permitted to park there for the music festival in July.

Jessica Delaney, who has two young children, said she has no intention of trying to curtail the popular Pemberton Music Festival scheduled for July 14 to 17, but is worried that what is a seemingly rushed process to change the designation of agricultural land to that of temporary use for parking and camping will have dire results.

"I'm not trying to come off as someone who's against the festival, but I'm concerned about the proposed expansion, and we need broader environmental protection," she said. "I'm just concerned that we have adequate time for baseline testing (of water) and that the neighbours are engaged."

There are two non-farm use applications totalling just over 41 hectares (ha) that were received by the Squamish Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) on April 1.

An agricultural land owner has applied for permits for one piece of property of 67ha (167 acres) and another of 21ha to be used for parking/camping for the festival. The property is intersected by the highway, with the smaller parcel just north and the larger tract south and which curves around Delaney's property.

Also of issue is what is labelled on maps as a "dry channel" that runs behind Delaney's property but is, in fact, a fish-bearing stream. As well, in the request-for-approval documentation included for the April 13 presentation to the SLRD, there's an inclusion from the Ministry of Agriculture citing disapproval of the proposal due to: the extent of non-farm use land in the area and that it extends the footprint of the festival on ALR lands; the shortage of farm-use land in the area; the fact that the festival occurs in peak growing season so that high-value or rotational crops can't be produced; and that the soil of these lands are "excellent and among the best quality soils found in the Pemberton Valley" with access to good-quality water for irrigation.

Another resident, Cale Brooke, has property that also backs onto the farmland and said he is concerned about the process to change the designation of the land, and that his well already has been affected by the site clearing. Brooke said he also questions whether the land — after being used for parking/camping — can be successfully farmed again.

The Agricultural Advisory Committee on April 13 recommended that further information be required concerning the specific use of the land and the crops, the growing cycle, proposed strategies for reducing impact and soil compaction, and the type of surfacing for the proposed parking and camping.

SLRD director/chair Jack Crompton said he wouldn't comment on the applications until he can make an "evidence-based decision. The board has to meet to make a decision before I can speak on their behalf."

The SLRD board meets to vote on this on April 27.

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