The Ravenscrest development might be a great opportunity for Pemberton to accrue some amenities, but the project could also mark the beginning of a new era for the rural valley.
Susan Gimse, chair of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, said the proposed 310-acre Ravenscrest housing development could open the door for several other major developments in Area C of the regional district, which is why she believes it should be part of a wider community discussion.
"The (Village of Pemberton) boundary extensions are one of many issues that will have to be talked about in order for this project to proceed," said Gimse. "But for me the biggest issue with this is what the community wants or needs its not the development.
"One of the key components or the key messages that came through from the public when we developed the (official community plan) was to maintain the rural character of the area," Gimse continued.
"Ravenscrest is going to be on the hillside between Mount Currie and Pemberton and if this development proceeds we can consider a number of developments between Pemberton and Mount Currie, because there are several parcels of land and people will be looking for the same kind of development considerations.
"So when I look at this proposal I dont look at 450 units, I look at this as one of probably four developments that could see 2,000 units on that hillside."
Ravenscrest proponents Colin Johnson and Cam McIvor are proposing a higher density subdivision than has previously been seen in Area C. It would rely on water and sewer services from the Village of Pemberton. Johnson and McIvor have also offered to build and help fund a community sports complex on 40 acres of land that are currently in the agricultural reserve.
Johnson agreed that the project had some "issues" but he was confident the developers, the community and local government could work together to complete a wider plan.
"The (SLRD) planners suggested that we go for a higher density and for two reasons: 1. there was a limited supply of real residential property left in the Pemberton area; 2. they wanted to maintain the agricultural aspects of Pemberton and the only way they can truly do this is to make sure theres density on the hillside," said Johnson.
There would still be a profit for developers if they were forced to go back to the traditional 2.2-acre subdivision but Johnson said this was an opportunity to push for a wider plan.
"This is a much more comprehensive and costly project to undertake and the risks are far greater."
The SLRDs chief administrator, Paul Edgington, confirmed that "it would be an intense urban-type development."
"The regional growth strategy is in its infancy, so how the timing of their (Ravenscrest) project would relate to an overall strategy for the region is not yet decided," said Edgington.
Gimse said she was considering holding an extraordinary public information meeting to get a sense of what the community wants the area to look like.
"The OCP is really a plan of how this community would like to see their community develop and really what their values are," said Gimse.
"Then in terms of the other issues the land for the community sports facility is currently in the Agricultural Land Reserve. So until we have confirmation from the Agricultural Land Commission that they would allow those types of recreation down there, its of no value as a community amenity."
Johnson also confirmed that there will be opportunities for public input on the Ravenscrest project.
"Were planning on doing a public meeting every month for the next five to six months," he said.
The Ravenscrest proposal will formally appear before local government for the first time on Dec. 21 at the regular Pemberton council meeting.
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