Pembertonians packed council chambers and overflowed into the hallway during a public information meeting for the downtown community barn on April 1.
"That was the biggest crowd in a long time," said acting Mayor Alan LeBlanc during the regular council meeting that followed.
The information meeting was a step that village staff missed scheduling as part of the development permit process. As a result, council rescinded the permit at the beginning of the meeting, though passed it again after the public voiced both concerns and support for the project.
"I've worked on this revitalization committee for several years and it's been a really great experience," said resident Drew Meredith. "This discussion goes back to '99 with the Village Vision and now we're on the verge of something happening, which I think is fantastic. I certainly support the approval of this structure."
While the majority of the crowd echoed his support to move the project forward, several people also had concerns, namely to do with where people will park when attending events hosted at the barn, including during the popular farmers' markets.
Others worried about increased traffic in the area creating a hazard to pedestrians, particularly children. "I own a business there (near the barn site)," said Al Bush. "I'm there many hours a day. What I see happening now is kids going by there in the morning and after school. I see close calls all the time. It's becoming a cluster there. The village has to address that situation somehow. There's going to be an incident there soon if not."
Betty Mercer — who first pointed out to the village that the public meeting was required before the permit could be approved — alerted council to improper signs notifying residents of the development at the barn site on Frontier Street. "The sign does not conform to the bylaw," Mercer said after citing the corresponding bylaw.
In response, council said they would look at the matter.
"I've heard a number of negative comments regarding this new pavilion," resident Lynda Clark, who is volunteering with the project, said. "I'm here today to express my support not only for the structure, but as well to complement village staff that have been involved in bringing this opportunity to the community."
The barn, a 7,500-square-foot open-air structure, is slated to be built in May with volunteers from the community and the Timber Framers Guild. While the project has received $240,000 in funding from the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation, and additional funds from other sources, the community still needs to raise $70,000.
To that end, Coun. Mike Richman is organizing the Pemberton Spring Gala as a fundraiser on April 26. Council voted to support that effort (after Richman left the room) with $1,435 for advertising and marketing.
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