In his address at the Village of Pemberton (VOP) council meeting July 7, Mayor Mike Richman lauded the efforts of firefighters in the area.
But he brought up concerns over how citizens were getting their information regarding the fires burning in the region.
"B.C. Wildfire is the source of information to know what level of activity the fires are at," he said during the meeting. "There's a lot of information being circulated, a lot of misinformation being circulated. Social media, the (Pemberton) buy and sell (Facebook page) — wherever you want to look for it, it's there.
"Let's go to the right sources and pass along the right information."
BC Wildfire is online at engage.gov.bc.ca/bcwildfire and, though it provides information only for Whistler and there may be some variances, the most accurate source for air quality information is Environment Canada's report at weather.gc.ca/airquality/pages/bcaq-016_e.html.
Richman acknowledged the heavy smoke that descended on the community early in the week, causing air-quality issues, was "unnerving for a lot of people," but stressed concerns of being overtaken by the fire were overblown. Richman pointed out the greater threat from the fires burning above Pemberton Meadows in 2009.
"Some of us were talking about 2009. The fires were closer," he said. "We didn't see as much smoke and people were noticeably less nervous about it."
Richman said the VOP is remaining in the loop with meetings co-ordinated by Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) emergency program manager Ryan Wainwright each afternoon at 5 p.m. Richman added the SLRD and local First Nations groups are also represented at the meetings.
"The co-ordination of energy and activity, as far as I'm concerned, is being done top-level," he said during the meeting.
Explaining he preferred not "to be the purveyor of information with regards to what the fire is doing," Richman nonetheless attempted to assuage residents' fears with some good news. He reported that within the 36 hours before the meeting, the fires had not grown significantly and the lack of wind that kept the smoke cover in the area worked to cool down temperatures and allowed crews to "do some contingency linework," though they were not yet able to fly because of the thick smoke. He added the fire was not moving in the village's direction and remains 70 km away.
Proposed cell tower denied
Cavalier Land will have to go back to the drawing board if it wants to build its cell tower on behalf of Rogers Communications in Pemberton.
Council voted to send a letter of non-concurrence to Industry Canada regarding the project, which was a proposed 20-metre tower in the parking lot of the Pemberton Legion at 7444 Prospect St.
The applicants can continue to work with the VOP to find a suitable site. Industry Canada steps in only when there is an impasse, which it says happens in fewer than 0.1 per cent of cases.
Location was the primary concern for council, as all four councillors disapproved of its downtown location.
The Village preference would have been for co-location with the existing 18.9-metre Telus tower at 7447 Prospect St., though the applicants said that option would not work for them because of its height and current use.
At a Committee of the Whole meeting in April, council presented the applicants with four alternative sites: the BC Hydro compound at 1325 Aster St., the CBC tower, the Village water reservoirs site near Eagle Drive and the Harrow Road TV Society site. In a letter, the applicants expressed concerns with all four proposals.
Still, Richman said council sent a strong mandate regarding cell towers in the village.
"It sends a message that they should look at other locations," Richman said in an interview. "It's a small town. I'm no expert on this, but it would seem to be that there would be the ability — perhaps not the ultimate ability — but the ability to provide service without being right in the middle of our downtown and without being right next to so much residential (development).
"If they want to come to us with other options, they can."
Pemby Fest MOU approved
It's been a long time coming, but a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between three local jurisdictions to allow the Pemberton Music Festival to go forward has been agreed upon.
When the festival was first held in 2008, the Sunstone site was not part of the Village of Pemberton and then-promoters Live Nation applied through the SLRD to the Agricultural Lands Commission (ALC) to host the festival at the site. Before that festival, the application was approved in principle and was subject to the SLRD, VOP and ALC entering into an MOU.
The document outlines all three jurisdictions' "expectations, roles and responsibilities" in relation to the festival while also stressing "a commitment to explore and facilitate the enhancement of agriculture in the region," according to a Village of Pemberton report.
The three parties signed on in 2010, but with new promoters HUKA Entertainment taking the festival's reins and the VOP extending its boundaries to include the festival site in 2011, the VOP acted as the festival's agents to reconsider the original agreement from 2008. The ALC approved this in December 2012 and moved to develop the tripartite MOU.
Though originally expected to be in place by last July after the ALC was forwarded the proposal in April 2014, the ALC was not able to consider the MOU until last month because of staffing changes and other priorities. The ALC's South Coast Panel approved the document on June 9 and the SLRD followed suit on June 16. The VOP completed the process by approving the document at council.
"A lot of stuff has been working in spirit, but it's just nice to have the proper paperwork lined up," Richman said after the meeting. "As every year goes on, we hope to streamline the process with the producers so it's an easier and easier process on staff and everybody involved."
Hotel pitch given first reading
There was some wariness over a pitch for a hotel in the Hillside area.
The proposal from 580049 Ltd., which was submitted to the VOP roughly a year ago, was short on even the basic details of the size and scope of the hotel and conference centre. Amendments to the Official Community Plan and zoning bylaws would be required for the project to go forward.
Richman and councillors Jennie Helmer and James Linklater questioned planner Lisa Pedrini to ensure giving the proposal first reading did not make any commitment to the project on the VOP's part.
Pedrini confirmed this, and recommended the first reading to show the developers that the VOP was operating in "good faith." Council voted in favour of giving the proposal first reading, though Helmer remained against it. Council also voted for the applicants to host a public information session before any second reading would be given.
Richman said at first blush, he's doubtful such a project would be a proper fit for the area. However, he stressed remaining open-minded until more details are presented, and explained introducing the motion to council is the first step toward receiving a fleshed-out proposal.
"There's a lot of concern, as you heard in the gallery as well, that we have hotel/commercial-zoned space in town. We have our downtown. We want to promote our downtown. We want to keep business here, so that's definitely a priority of the village," he said after the meeting.
"Having said that, there might be concepts that don't work in town that might work better (there). We don't have a sense of what that is right now, so I think council is just very much wanting to get a better understanding."
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