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New Pemberton park proposed

Council briefs: VOP council defers tax sale; Attendance reports cancelled
BY THE RIVER A new park is proposed to be situated on Crown land near the Lillooet River. File photo by Joel Barde

Village of Pemberton (VOP) council expressed support for two tenure applications that would allow for a public park by the Lillooet River at its regular meeting held via Zoom on July 28.

The Village has held a lease at the site, north of Highway 99 at the Lillooet River Bridge, since 1997, as it hosted the wastewater treatment plant until 2010. When the plant moved to its new site on Airport Road, the Village’s intention was to restore green space at the site. In her report, legislative assistant Elysia Harvey said Friendship Trail construction has hastened that need.

One application is for Crown land tenure and the second is for a right-of-way for a small section of the land. The current lease agreement is good until 2027, but is for utility purposes. The Village had a right-of-way agreement previously, but it expired in April 2019.

Additionally, Harvey noted that the Lil’wat Nation and the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) have jointly requested a public boat launch. There is one on the south side of the highway, but it is no longer available for public use.

Another consideration, Harvey notes, is that the location is popular for unauthorized camping and establishing a park would reduce litter and fire risk associated with the activity.

Councillor Ted Craddock said he is in favour of the application in general, but has some concerns over the public boat launch aspect.

“The issue that comes up is traffic turning left just before the bridge pulling a boat or [Sea-Doos] or what have you is a very serious traffic issue,” he said, noting it may make more sense for Pemberton Search and Rescue, the Pemberton Valley Dyking District and the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District to build and maintain a launch there. 

Couns. Amica Antonelli and Leah Noble pondered whether it would be possible to get more waterfront access for the park, and while manager of corporate and legislative services Sheena Fraser said she’d explore whether it would be possible to secure that tenure, the focus at this point is to maintain the existing tenure.

Tax sale deferred

With residents struggling financially in the wake of COVID-19, council is providing a measure to help homeowners.

At the meeting, manager of finance Lena Martin presented a report that explored postponing until 2021 the sale of properties whose owners are delinquent on their taxes. The provincial government allowed for the possibility with Ministerial Order M159 on May 15.

Taxes were due on July 2, and Martin noted that 12 properties owing nearly $36,000 are currently in the tax sale listing.

“We are looking to support those property owners that are having a bit of a struggle this year,” she said.

Martin explained that property owners are able to make payments to remove themselves from the list, which is what has been done in recent years.

“They do have from July 2 until the tax sale date to pay a portion of those taxes to keep them off of the tax sale list,” she said. “Every year, we tend to see the same similar properties that struggle and I think we’re seeing similar properties this year.

“Every year, especially the last two years, those properties have been able to come to us and pay down their taxes before the tax sale date. We’ve had no tax sale the last couple years.”

In a follow-up question, chief administrative officer Nikki Gilmore confirmed that the number of properties in the tax sale listing is in line with other years.

Property owners who are behind on their taxes accrue daily interest.

Council passed four readings of the bylaw to defer the sale until 2021.

Attendance list one and done

This time last year, council directed staff to create an annual attendance report for the mayor and councillors.

That report was presented at the July 28 meeting, but council ultimately voted not to bring the report forward in future years.

According to the report, Mayor Mike Richman had perfect attendance, as did Coun. Leah Noble, while Couns. Amica Antonelli and Ted Craddock each missed a special meeting. Coun. Ryan Zant had two missed days, with committee of the whole, regular council and in-camera meetings, and attended one special meeting electronically (before the pandemic made all meetings virtual).

Noble, however, noted her record wasn’t accurate—she missed one meeting due to a severe migraine.

Antonelli, meanwhile, expressed concern over the lack of context. The special meeting she and Craddock missed, for example, was called at the last minute, lasted a total of four minutes and was only held to formally appoint an interim chief building official.

Antonelli added that there are any number of legitimate reasons a councillor could miss a meeting here and there, and if attendance is an issue, it can be dealt with internally.

“Thinking about how this is reported in the media and how the public views this, I don’t think this report has a lot of context,” she said. “Several of us have had deaths in the family and missed a meeting.

“If there are any issues with attendance, I think a more appropriate way to address it is, rather than a public report, is to have a conversation.”

If there are no issues, Antonelli continued, then it’s a lot of staff time and resources devoted to putting together the report.

Report author Fraser grappled with whether to include the rationale or not.

“I did debate whether I identified why people were absent in some of the cases,” she said. “I did feel that that was personal and it may not be something that the council member necessarily wants to have put out there if it’s a personal matter.”