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Two housing developments up for public consultation in Pemberton

While Nkwúkwma and Parkside developments will increase housing availability, questions remain around liveability
A view of Pemberton’s Benchlands area from above.

Two housing developments, Nkwúkwma and Parkside, were up for first and second reading at Pemberton council last month, and once complete, they could bring close to 500 new housing units to town.

Both proposals align with Bill 44, provincial housing legislation which aims to make it easier for developers to build small-scale, multi-unit homes and streamline the permitting process for housing developments. While the developments will add much-needed housing stock, discussions around the overall impact on Pemberton took centre stage for some councillors during the April 30 council meeting.

Nkwúkwma development

Nkwúkwma, formerly known as the Benchlands, is a development proposal by Skénkenam Development Limited Partnership, a partnership between the Lil’wat Nation’s Lil’wat Capital Assets and the Pemberton Benchlands Development Corporation. The Village of Pemberton’s (VOP) mayor and council is in the process of  rezoning the parcel from residential to a comprehensive development zone, which includes specific zoning regulations for the area.

The 450-unit project involves three phases of development, which could see up to 1,350 residents at full capacity. The hillside neighbourhood features residential single-detached, carriage homes, townhomes, apartments, and commercial and community buildings with parks and trail networks.

The developer will provide amenities and benefits amounting to $12,688,000, according to a staff report to council. Possible amenities include public art, affordable housing and a recreation site.

A major concern voiced by council last year was around affordability, and in response, 15 per cent of the houses are rental units targeted at local workers. The April 30 presentation highlighted 30 townhomes and six apartment units with rent set at 30 per cent below market rates, an amenity that amounts to $7,200,000.

The affordable housing will require that at least one person occupying the home works in Pemberton or Area C of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District.

The recreation facility contribution is $1,800,000 cash, and could be merged with other funding opportunities to create a more significant recreational amenity, according to the report.

While the project would help ease the housing crunch, Councillor Jennie Helmer raised concerns around significant population growth and its impact on services, from policing to health-care and education.

“As this particular development will be contributing to a significant population growth, where that cost is going to obviously show up is the pressure on our services,” she said.

Services that will see increased pressure include RCMP, fire, health-care and education, and specific projections on taxes to fund these services weren’t included in the presentation. Planner Cameron Chalmers noted only new developments outside the Official Community Plan require a socio-economic impact assessment that would cover such considerations, and the broader Official Community Plan already incorporates the projected growth from Nkwúkwma.

Chalmers also stressed the development will happen in phases, so growth won’t happen overnight.

Coun. Katrina Nightingale brought up concerns around whether the hillside development will provide appropriate options for active transportation by virtue of its location. While the development was originally envisioned in 2007, considerations around climate, community and liveability are major factors in Pemberton today.

“It is on a hillside ... As we look to become a more climate-resilient community, a more walkable community, and lower our greenhouse gas emissions, I do have my concerns around this kind of density in this area,” Nightingale said.

Chalmers highlighted the creation of varied trail terrains, an active-transportation spine and parks with specific pedestrian and e-bike use as a solution.

“I think it’s about as inclusive as we can be on a hillside site,” he said, noting the neighbourhood’s design isn’t car-centric.

Last year, residents of nearby neighbourhood Eagle Drive voiced concern the only access road to Nkwúkwma would run through their subdivision, and Coun. Ted Craddock brought the issue up once again.

“Originally there was talk of a second access route trying to move the traffic flow,” he said. “Where are we at?” 

Chalmers highlighted that, from an engineering standpoint, the single-access road isn’t a problem.

“There is not an engineering problem as per the traffic impact assessment. The upgrades that are required to accommodate this neighbourhood at full build-out amount to intersection improvements and light timing at the highway,” he said.

However, another relevant analysis is perceptions around how traffic changes the character of a picturesque small town like Pemberton.

“It will feel different, and it’s a tough one to manage because a lot of people choose to live in small towns so that they can get where they need to go,” Chalmers said.

“As it grows, one of the growing pains is going to be a little extra time in traffic.”

The rezoning and OCP amendment bylaws for the development head to public hearing on May 14.

Parkside development

subdivision of 7362 Pemberton Farm Road East—includes 32 residential lots and one commercial unit on 2.4 hectares. Council heard about key changes relating to housing types, but some councillors had concerns around affordability, parking and green space.

The housing options at Parkside include single family or houseplexes, co-housing, duplexes and triplexes. Houseplexes and co-housing are new housing types for Pemberton.

The houseplex is four units on the same lot, providing options for multiple strata titles on the same plot or single ownership with units rented out.

Co-housing options are like dorms with shared amenities, including kitchens, living rooms, laundry, social spaces and bathrooms. The buildings would have 10 to 16 micro-suites.

The commercial area includes convenience stores, coffee shops or cafes, health-care centres and other uses based on neighbourhood needs.

The land is on a floodplain, which is “presenting some significant geotechnical challenges,” according to the report presented by planner Colin Brown.

Another concern brought up in previous meetings by council was affordable housing in Parkside.

However, the Brown said the development is proving too small to effectively offer the same affordable options Nkwúkwma development put on the table.

Nightingale noted the SLRD requires 15 per cent of all housing developments to include affordable options. She also referenced the Land Use Advisory Commission which previously endorsed Parkside while recommending the development proceed with a 15-per-cent affordable threshold.

Brown said affordable, non-market housing was in the pipeline for other developments and not necessarily well-suited to Parkside, but he highlighted the co-housing options as a balance.

“We see that 15 per cent being accommodated elsewhere, not necessarily at this site,” Brown said.

Councillors questioned whether the subdivision had adequate parking considering the high-density of the development, and whether there was enough green space. Brown noted parking and green space often compete for real-estate, meaning one will be sacrificed for the other.

Helmer stressed the lack of green space in the subdivision creates a long-term issue for liveability, one which continues to be brought up by council as the proposal develops.

“I’ve heard twice that these [parking and traffic issues] are growing pains. Growing pains imply that you work through something and come out the other side,” she said.

“This is not a growing pain in my opinion because it won’t change.”

Helmer went so far as to propose deferring the plan before it goes to a public hearing, but council chose to approve the first two readings and forge ahead.

Parkside goes to public hearing May 28.