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Pemberton council applies ‘to protect the entrance to Pemberton’

Expanding municipalities are an issue for the SLRD

Pemberton council has applied to expand its municipal boundaries and in doing so it has highlighted an ongoing trend that will have several ramifications for the regional district.

As the Olympics draw closer, the population in B.C. grows and more and more development proposals are approved, many municipalities will be applying to extend their boundaries.

But every boundary expansion can affect either another municipality, the province, or the regional district, and in the case of Whistler and Pemberton municipalities, it is the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District which has to manage the effects of these expansions.

SLRD Area D director John Turner raised some concerns about Whistler’s proposed boundary expansions at the last SLRD board meeting.

Turner is all for municipalities extending their boundaries where they see fit, but he said it was important that a level of discourse about any expansions was maintained.

"The problem that I was very vocal about was that I was reading about potential boundary expansions in papers in Whistler and Squamish and nothing was coming forward to the SLRD board," said Turner.

"The only issue I had was that I wanted more transparency in this area because I know under the law the municipalities can apply to the province for boundary expansion.

"One example of what I’m talking about is in regards to the location for the (Olympic) Nordic Events because right now it’s in electoral area D.

"And it’s been rumoured that there’s going to be some expansion of the boundaries that may include that area and then I hear another rumour that says no, it’s not going to be managed that way for the Olympics.

"So I’m hearing all of these things and I don’t know which one is right, but in the meantime all of the planning and rezoning effort is being picked up by the SLRD, and there’s a cost to that as well as staff time etc.

"I’d just like to have knowledge of what’s going here before we’re investing in it.

"Even if a boundary expansion goes ahead after we’ve invested money in a project then if we’re talking about it at least I can make sure that that money is recoverable.

"I’m not objecting to anything Whistler or Pemberton is doing… but we just don’t want to wake up one morning and find that it’s a done deal without having any consultation."

Pemberton council clerk Bryan Kirk said the council was looking to protect the entrance to the Pemberton Village with this boundary expansion.

"This has been talked about by the council for about six months now and it takes our current boundaries towards Whistler," said Kirk.

"What that does is give us some sort of jurisdiction over the entrance to the core of the municipality.

"Where the town houses are on the edge of town at One Mile Lake, that is basically where our boundary is but, the council wants to go down through Suicide Hill and have some say on what happens on either side of the highway on the way into town.

"That’s really our one and only motivation, so that area comes under our legislation."

Whistler Mayor Hugh O’Reilly said the Whistler council wants to expand to cover some of the more important water sources in the area as well as some of the fringe developments.

"At the moment we’re capturing some of the watersheds that are important to us," said O’Reilly.

"And we’re always concerned about fringe development because really what you’ve got is people trying to capitalize on getting all the benefits of a community and not paying any of the taxes but being able to live and enjoy all of the amenities and that’s really not appropriate."

O’Reilly said expanding Whistler’s boundaries was about protecting the taxpayers already in the municipality.

"When I hear comments about loss of revenue, well rezoning isn’t about driving revenues, it’s about good planning," he said.

"I go back to the regional growth strategy, which is an important document because it often talks about the fringe areas and rural interface and how we’re going to manage this.

"All you have to do is go to Fernie where the ski area is in the regional district but the town’s 300 yards away and the town’s paying for a lot of the facilities and infrastructure, so these are significant issues.

"Our applications have always been in outlying areas because of water and conflicts with our community plan.

"We’re just trying to manage the success of the resort and not have our people spill out on the fringes."