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Agricultural Land Commission clarifies Pemberton Festival, school decisions

Applications are considered on their own merit, says planner

The Agricultural Land Commission is looking to clarify two decisions that Pemberton lawmakers saw as contradictory positions.

At a Village council meeting on July 12, Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy said that the commission had approved an application by Ravens Crest Developments Ltd. to relax a requirement that a proposed independent school be operated only by GEMS Education, a global education company that owns over 100 schools in cities such as London, Dubai and Doha.

The decision came as a surprise to Pemberton council, as a previous application to relax a requirement that Live Nation be the only promoter to put on a music festival was flatly rejected by the commission.

On Tuesday, the Agricultural Land Commission wrote to Pique to explain its reasoning.

Tony Pellett, a registered planner with the commission, said in an e-mail that each decision is based on the merit of the "particular application or planning review."

Speaking to the independent school application, he said the original application cited GEMS Education as only the applicant's preference among "several prospective school operators." The original decision that allowed a non-farm use to permit the school made a "generic reference" to "the school" rather than naming GEMS specifically.

Pellett said that at one point, it became necessary to clarify the original decision but when drafting new wording, the name "GEMS" was mistakenly used in one of the references that originally just referred to "the school."

"There was no change to the original intent of either the application or the original decision," Pellett said.

When it came to the Pemberton Music Festival application, which permits a once-a-year non-farm use on an agricultural property that is also managed by Ravens Crest Developments, it was a different situation entirely.

The original decision around the festival, Pellett said, related specifically to Live Nation, an international music promoter, as the sole operator of the Pemberton Music Festival.

Any proposal for a new operator would be a "substantive change" to the decision and a Memorandum of Understanding that commits all parties involved in putting on the festival to enhancing agricultural activity in the Pemberton Valley.

Among other things, a Professional Agrologist must be retained to assist with mitigating soil damage and reporting on post-event cleanup after every festival. Also, parking facilities and other amenities are to be prohibited on agricultural land. The festival must also be restricted to the boundaries laid out in the application.

Any proposal for a new operator, Pellett said, would require a whole new application or applications if an affected site lies outside the boundary of the Village of Pemberton, which now administers the property in question after a boundary expansion was approved earlier this year.

Susie Gimse, chair of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District's board of directors and a councillor with the Village of Pemberton, said in an interview that the commission ought to focus on land use issues more than developers or promoters named in applications.

"I feel they should have taken the same position with the Pemberton Festival," she said. "I had a look at the response and primarily, if I remember correctly, they indicated that they felt that Live Nation was perhaps in a better position in terms of having the necessary resources and it also said something to the effect of ensuring that the agricultural capacity was brought back to its natural state.

"Those are valid points, but I mean, if those are the concerns and the issues, I see no reason why we cannot have very specific criteria for any promoter that would come and then put on the festival."