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Pair of Pemberton developments propose hundreds of new homes

Official Community Plan review to continue through 2022
Pemby 3D rendering of Benchlands
A 3D rendering of Pemberton’s future Benchlands neighbourhood.

A pair of applications presented to the Village of Pemberton’s (VOP) Committee of the Whole (COW) on Jan. 18 could add two new developments inside the village’s boundaries—and hundreds of new homes.

The first, from the Skénkenam Developments General Partnership (a partnership between the Lil’wat Nation and Pemberton Benchlands Development Corporation) was for a zoning amendment related to the proposed development of the Benchlands on the northwest corner of Pemberton.

The proposal plans to extend Eagle Ridge Drive farther up the hillside, and will provide approximately 270 new single-detached and multi-family units to the community.

Skénkenam purchased the approximately 60-hectare site in Sept. 2021. Most of the land is in VOP jurisdiction, with a portion in the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District.

The Benchlands Neighbourhood Concept Plan was initially approved by council in 2007 as part of the Official Community Plan (OCP), and the area was zoned for residential use with the future growth of the community in mind.

With its application, Skénkenam seeks to rezone the land from Residential One, which is exclusively for low-density, single-family lots, to a Comprehensive Development zone, which are created when there are a mix of proposed land uses that do not match up with any one particular zone.

However, the presentation to the COW on Jan. 18 was not to move forward with the application, but rather to update the committee on its status, according to VOP consulting planner Cameron Chalmers.

With an OCP review currently scheduled to take place sometime over the next year, Chalmers is proposing the creation of a sub-area plan for the Benchlands neighbourhood that will be adopted into the new OCP when it is complete.

“You can think of it almost as it’s analogous to a miniature Official Community Plan,” said Chalmers.

“This is when we anticipate our next appearance before Committee of the Whole would be, when we have the first kind of cohesive draft of that plan, because it will show how all of the pieces tie together and how the project relates, or doesn’t, to council, the Committee of the Whole and the community’s aspirations for this neighborhood in the future.”

One concern about this new development came in the form of a letter written to VOP mayor and council by community member Niki Vankerk, who believes that with a comprehensive OCP review coming sometime within the year, it would be a mistake to move ahead with any OCP amendments, like the one proposed for Benchlands, before fully knowing what new information the OCP review will bring forward.

“I think it’s been at least 10 years since we had a big review of [the OCP], and the nature of the community has changed so much that I think we should be waiting to decide on developments like the Benchlands,” Vankerk said.

“My understanding of an OCP is it’s the community’s wishes and ideas for the direction of the Village and how it would grow. So why would we not wait for that to make any decisions? Maybe the change in the OCP that comes from this review will better align with what the Benchlands developer wants to do, or maybe not, but at least then they have the information of what the current community wants for the town before they make decisions on making changes.”

However, opinions on the development among community members seem to be split, according to council.

While Councillor Amica Antonelli has heard from others in the community who share Vankerk’s stance, Coun. Ted Craddock said he has heard the opposite from people who want to see the new neighbourhood break ground as soon as possible to give the community “a bigger opportunity for rental, and different options for housing.

“Now the concern is … it’d be pretty hard to put off all projects with OCP amendments for two years,” said Craddock, noting that delaying such projects until the OCP update is complete could add years-long delays to new housing opportunities.

“So I would have a hard time agreeing to this total shutdown of the community OCP amendments until that review is in place.”

After a lengthy discussion, the committee directed staff to submit the draft sub-area plan for the Benchlands to a future COW meeting for review.

Meanwhile, on the opposite side of town, between Pemberton and Mount Currie, the Redwoods development (located at 7374 Pemberton Farm Road East) proposed 176 multi-family townhouses, stacked townhouses and 2,751 square metres of commercial space on just 3.3 hectares of land.

After a presentation, the members of council all agreed with Coun. Leah Noble that the level of density of the proposed housing development was “too excessive and out of character for Pemberton.”

The committee rejected the proposed plan in its current form, instead directing staff to amend the application to align it more closely with existing development in the area.

Find the full agenda package and a recording of the meeting at pemberton.ca.