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Letter to the editor

What’s the hurry?

I would like to express my concerns regarding the Village of Pemberton's desire to extend its boundaries.

It is my understanding that this boundary expansion is primarily in response to a request from a handful of developers, with the Ravens Crest development as the driving force.

The growth of Pemberton's boundaries should not be considered without the input of unbiased and impartial professional planners, preferably on staff. Stantec and John Stiel have been retained by the Hillside Development group (Raven's Crest Developments) to develop a Neighbourhood Concept Plan for Raven's Crest, at the same time as they've been retained by the Village of Pemberton to move the boundary expansion ahead. This casts an interesting light on the recommendations that were put forth in the Sub-Regional Land Use Planning Study, specifically, that the village expand its boundaries to include the Hillside Development lands, given that that document was also authored by John Stiel of Stantec.

The premise that the town of Pemberton will grow to 11,700 inhabitants in 2026, based on recent historic growth rates of 5.4 per cent, is flawed. During those years, Pemberton experienced unprecedented growth — growth that was so unusual it made national headlines, as the fastest growing town in the province, for three consecutive census results. This also occurred at a time when there was very little progress in creating employee-restricted housing in Whistler, and when gas and money were cheap.

This projection in the Sub-Regional Plan that the Hillside Developers are relying on is, at best, a stab in the dark. And it hasn't taken into consideration the impacts on the housing market of 1,000 new employee-restricted housing units between now and 2011 in Whistler, an economic downturn, or the softening effects of rising interest rates.

The town of Pemberton has an Official Community Plan, and the Benchlands Neighbourhood Concept Plan was adopted by council as part of the OCP last year. The Benchlands is a master-planned community that when built-out, will accommodate up to 500 new homes, a school and parks. This almost doubles the current village population. All within walking distance of the town centre. The pace of development in that area to this point has been very slow, in fact the real estate market could be generally characterized as slow to stagnant.

There are currently over 150 real estate listings in the Pemberton area, varying from vacant lots to multi-million dollar estates. There are currently three large live/work projects under construction and taking pre-completion sales.

The village has already said that it plans to pursue a comprehensive boundary restructure in the future. If that is the case, then why rush forward with this specific extension? Why not just do it once, and do it right? Why not wait until the village actually has a staff planner, with some expertise in this matter, and no conflicts. After all, if we can afford an economic development consultant, to drive development in the area, surely Pemberton can afford a staff planner to manage and plan it.

Let's put the boundary expansion on the back burner until there is a demonstrated need for Pemberton to more than triple in geographic size. Until then, it's cost-effective for village taxpayers to live in the most compact town in the Sea to Sky corridor.

Growing to 11,700 is a choice for the current 2,200 residents of Pemberton, and maybe that's a question we should have a chance to answer, before the boundaries are rewritten.

I ask, what exactly is the hurry here? Maybe someone's bank account is getting a little low?

Dave Hobson


We can have our cake, our festival, and eat too

This letter was addressed to Colin Fry of the Agricultural Land Commission. A copy was forwarded to Pique for publication.

I was one of the individuals who met with the delegation from the A.L.C. when they visited the Pemberton Festival grounds earlier this year. I would like to begin by saying that I admire the work the A.L.C carry out and that I firmly believe that Agricultural Land, all 5 per cent of it in British Columbia, needs to be protected.

The reason for this letter is that I believe yourselves, Live Nation and the Pemberton area are on the same page.

My concern for the Pemberton Festival Land was so great that I took a self-funded trip to Glastonbury, England earlier this year, following their Music Festival. I met with their operations director, Dick Vernon, their Chamber of Commerce and community members at large. I was impressed to see that their festival grounds had so quickly been fully returned to a working dairy farm after 177,000 people had attended their festival.

This festival has been taking place since the 1970s. I was so amazed by what I saw, that I obtained a copy of their environmental statement, which I passed on to Live Nation. (You are more than welcome to see this report, please advise me if you wish to do so.)

Our farming residents in the Agricultural Advisory Committee and the community as a whole, have impressed on Live Nation how important the good management and stewardship of the festival land is. I am happy to report that the clean up and maintenance of the land has been exemplary so far.

The economic benefit to Pemberton farmers and their land has so far been nothing short of amazing. Our farming community is struggling to export their seed potatoes due to the Canadian/U.S exchange rate, rising fuel prices, equipment and feed costs , to name but a few factors.

It is the task of the Chamber of Commerce to promote local business. The farming community require our help. We worked hard side by side with Live Nation to make this world class event happen right here. The festival gave the farmers not only the chance to sell their goods locally but also to promote the wonderful produce we grow here on this precious land. It was a massive success and can continue to be so.

I attended a meeting in Whistler last week where I heard Whistler executives, restaurateurs and members of the community pledging to purchase more local produce from the Pemberton area. I listened as Live Nation shared with the audience, the fact that local food was the most successful of all food sold at the festival. This was followed by their commitment towards the goal and vision of feeding 40,0000 people for three days with all locally grown produce. I can also confirm we now have interest for a food processing plant to open up here.

I submit to you that none of this would have happened without the Pemberton Music Festival.

In conclusion I would like to extend a warm invitation to the A.L.C. to work with the people of Pemberton to reach our dream of feeding 40,000 people from our local farms and to continue to make the festival grounds a part of that food production. This would ensure that our A.L.C lands are put to good use and protected for future generations.

I further submit that with your assistance, we can have our cake and we can eat it.

Paul Selina

President, Pemberton and District Chamber of Commerce

Witnessing a Whistler decision

Whistler council met Monday night to discuss among other things the new transit facility to be built on the wetlands in question, owned by B.C. Hydro lands.

Talk about a bizarre council experience. Not one person in that room wanted the transit facility built on the wetlands in question. Not the presenter, none of council and definitely no one that spoke from the audience, and yet the process gets the OK to continue to work towards filling in the wetlands to build the Whistler component of the hydrogen highway.

Council openly discusses the importance it puts into conserving wetlands and recognizes the essential values of saving ecosystems. The spokesperson for B.C. Transit discusses in great length how they had hoped to build anywhere else but on these particular wetlands. Even the questionable nature of hydrogen as a fuel for the future is recognized by all in the room.

So how is it twisted to a point that a decision was reached approving it?

You will have to ask Whistler Council that question, because I sure as hell don't know, and I was there.

John Buchanan


The otter test at Nesters Pond

There really wasn’t much we could do to save the wetlands at Nesters, since B.C. Transit and B.C. Hydro are exempt from the RMOW’s zoning laws. At last night’s council meeting what really struck me as absurd were:

• The president of B.C. Transit told council that he was made aware of the property by municipal staff. Hmmmm.

• The mayor was not aware that a press release had gone out last week stating that “..the municipality supports the decision..,” it was obviously municipal staff who supported this decision. It was apparent from last night’s council meeting that several councillors were not aware that they had publically supported this.

• The mayor asked staff to be in on the mitigation during this construction. Staff, the very people who made B.C. Transit aware and “supported” this paving of the wetland, are going to be the very people who are going to monitor it. This doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. In my opinion, the reality of the monitoring will be if the otters that have “wintered” in Nesters Pond for five years continue to come back.

B.C. Transit will be holding an open house for the community, please come out and make your opinions known. This will be the only time we, the community, get to talk to B.C. Transit directly.

Furthermore, I think council should suggest to B.C. Transit that they come before them every three months with an update of the construction and mitigation. While we’re at it, why not ensure someone from the community is following this mitigation (destruction?) of the wetlands?

I’ll be sure to let everyone know (via a letter to the editor) if the otters come back, since this to me will be the true test of the mitigation (destruction?).

Kelly Lee-Richards


No relief through these tools

Like Jamie Pike, I too was confused by Bill Barratt’s letter to the editor (July 31, 2008), where he stated that the dollars from our “financial tools” are intended for and confined to funding tourism programs.

I had always thought that one of the goals of Whistler receiving these financial tools was to provide some relief to Whistler property owners so that the 10,000 residents did not have to fund all of the infrastructure costs related to meeting the needs of the 50,000 people who visit our community on a busy weekend.

In addition, since our taxes used to fund trail improvements, arts and culture programs, I hosts and village enhancement programs, I would expect that our municipal expenditures should decrease, seeing that they are now being funded by the $7 million cookie jar that has been handed to Tourism Whistler and Whistler-Blackcomb. It seems ironic that the Class 6 hotels received a $2.2 million tax break and then get to enjoy the benefits of these financial tools to grow their revenues while the taxpayers get to carry the burden.

I was also amused by Mr. Barratt’s reference to staff always being available to answer questions. If that is the case, why am I still waiting for a response to my letter of Jan. 28, 2008 where I raised a number of concerns about the decision to fund the construction of the debris barrier through the implementation of pay parking? When this policy was announced, we were told that a dialogue with the community was required. Since then there has been no dialogue, other than to request tenders for paving the three parking lots and hold an information meeting in the middle of summer to tell us that they are going to charge us $8 to $12 to park. However, there has been no dialogue as dialogue involves two parties being involved in a meaningful discussion.

Only in Whistler would it cost $4.5 million to pave three parking lots for 876 vehicles. With all of this talk about transparency, why isn’t the material from the July 23rd public meeting posted on the RMOW website? It seems that the only way to engage the RMOW is through the Letters to the Editor of our two local papers. Is anyone listening in city hall?

PS – Whistler-Blackcomb has been very silent as to what their plans are for pay parking in their lots.

Gary K. McDonnell

Whistler/North Vancouver

Cleaning up after the festival

RE: Pemberton Festival and garbage

First, I have to congratulate all stakeholders who pulled off this extraordinary event, with so much positive praise. The accomplishment is huge.

However, I am left with a bitter taste overall because of one major concern. As a past professional wildlife/bear manager, I was concerned to see the lack of a bear/garbage management plan for two reasons: 1) public safety and 2) wildlife conservation. It was obvious by the one can in the Sabre pit servicing hundreds of vehicles, the garbage left strewn on the side of the roads, and the post-festival garbage in general, that the severe lack of available garbage cans (let alone bear proof bins) were the identifiable cause. For festival organizers marketing and capitalizing on our relatively pristine environment, Live Nation should be ashamed for not demonstrating nearly adequate garbage/bear management in either planning or action.

Living in the mountains, we are all generally aware of bear behavior. Bear research shows that a bear will not spend a full day foraging in the wild for food when it can get the same amount of food in 15 minutes from garbage. Further, research shows that bears which get into garbage, by being in human areas, become habituated to humans. Consequently habituated bears show less fear of humans over time, will seek out food in homes, will not flee, etc.

Direct conflicts with humans typically result in the bear showing defensive-aggressive behaviour, as in the Coquitlam bear attack. The bear ends up getting shot; the humans end up traumatized, severely injured, or killed. This is why professional bear managers know that a garbage bear is, eventually, a dead bear. It is also why public safety managers know that habituated bears pose a serious public safety threat.

The more than five cubs who reside near the festival site, no doubt will eventually become problem bears in the Village of Pemberton or Mt. Currie now that they have been taught about easy food findings in garbage. Within a few years, they may severely injure someone and they will all likely be shot.

Proposed solutions:

1) A solid, professionally reviewed and approved (by conservation officers or bear researchers) bear/garbage management plan should be in place before further festival approvals.

2) Live Nation should be required to provide education and awareness marketing/promotional tools around garbage and bear management.

3) Garbage/recycle bins should be everywhere in future festivals.

4) A massive cleanup crew, the same size as the set up crew if need be, should be employed to clean up the festival, parking, camping, and surrounding areas of garbage within two days of the festival close.

5) Live Nation should agree, in contract, to an independent review and enforcement of their efforts and steep fines for management plan violation.

6) Integrated accountability should be built into the plan; Live Nation should ultimately be held most responsible, but the Village of Pemberton and the SLRD should also be accountable in ensuring the plan is reasonable, acted upon, and enforced.

By adopting these solutions, a start will be made towards our village and corridor taking full pride in welcoming the world to our little environmental utopia, and in showing the world that we respect our bears/wildlife and human safety.

Ali Ome


Lazy campers spoil it for all

I went up to Levette Lake on Sunday, Aug. 17th to find a campground had been completely deserted by teens after they had camped there the night before. The neighbouring campers told me they had just up and left all of their trash behind. There were frying pans with food in them, underwear, cases and cases of empties, toilet tissue scattered all over the site, beer cans and bottles in and around the lake, burnt chairs and tents etc.  It was heart breaking.

The girls camping next to them had written down all the licence plates they could get but I am not sure if they reported to conservation officers, who are eager to hear from them.

After work Monday I drove up there with two friends in tow and gathered up all the remnants. It filled the back of my pickup truck. What a shame.

We dropped it all off at the landfill site as it is conveniently located on the same road!

I was very disturbed by the laziness and irresponsibility of these young campers and shocked that not one of them had the integrity to say something to the rest of the group about cleaning up. Sad and true, it must end so the rest of us don't lose the privilege of using these beautiful lakes.

I imagined those same kids in 20 years complaining that they have no where to take their children to swim because all our lakes our polluted... hmmmmm!

Krista Dutton