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Pemberton golf courses dispute 'buyout' claims

Pemberton's golf courses are challenging claims by the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District's top administrator, saying they support the Pemberton Festival and don't want "buyouts" as previously asserted.


Pemberton's golf courses are challenging claims by the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District's top administrator, saying they support the Pemberton Festival and don't want "buyouts" as previously asserted.

Chris Wallace, General Manager at Big Sky, spoke in response to SLRD administrator Paul Edgington's comments in a Nov. 23 meeting of the Pemberton Valley Utilities and Services committee (PVUS).

Edgington spoke to the committee about issues that festival organizer Live Nation has raised in regards to a future event. One of the issues, according to Edgington, is that some local businesses want buyouts.

Pique then spoke to Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy, who was present at the meeting, and asked which businesses Edgington was referring to.

Sturdy said it was the golf courses. The mayor said that the businesses have expressed concerns about access but didn't mention buyouts.

"The challenge for the golf courses, which are the businesses that specifically have expressed a concern, is that their ability to access the golf courses was limited because of the traffic issues," Sturdy said. "So we would work to resolve those traffic issues. We have some interesting opportunities there that would provide solutions to that problem."

Both the Big Sky and Meadows golf courses dispute the assertion they want buyouts. Wallace, for one, said he supports the Pemberton Festival and merely wants his business involved as a partner.

"We're not looking for a buyout, we're looking to participate in it," he said in an interview. "We think it's a great thing for the community, the Pemberton Festival. I think as somebody who's been in business for 20 years... our business should be considered, especially when it's in the high season."

There's little question as to the issues the golf courses faced during the last Pemberton Festival. 40,000 spectators came to town to see artists such as Coldplay, Tom Petty and Nine Inch Nails, bringing unprecedented vehicle traffic to town on a two-lane highway.

Many spectators parked their cars at the Pemberton Airport - which is accessed along the same road as are the Big Sky and Meadows golf courses. Wallace said the RCMP closed off the highway to traffic that would have otherwise come to Big Sky, thus denying both staff and customers access to the golf course.

Wallace hopes the same thing doesn't happen in a future festival.

"Anything that exposes Pemberton exposes our golf course," he said. "But when we're a summer season business and our highway gets shut off and our access gets shut off, that's a tough thing to swallow."

Gordon Bell, general manager of the Meadows at Pemberton, also said he supports the festival and denies he's sought a buyout.

"Recognizing the fact it was the first time they did it, there was some logistical issues," he said. "We're confident that if Pemberton was fortunate enough to try it again that they'd do a great job."

The return of the Pemberton Festival in 2010 remains very much up in the air. Live Nation decided to forgo a 2009 festival because by the time it received approval to use the land it was late to secure talent and sponsors.

Liquor licensing and policing costs were other issues discussed at the PVUS meeting. Sturdy said a future music event could require a kind of "festival-type" of licensing as a preferred solution.

"There's a suggestion that a festival type of licensing would be a preferred solution and I'm trying to understand that," he said. "Although I don't know that (that) licensing currently exists in the legislation, so that would require a change in legislation."

Sturdy went on to say that he's not sure how well the idea of new license legislation has progressed, nor is he sure what kind of legislative changes are required to make that happen.

As far as policing costs go, he said there's a possibility that not as many police would be required for a future festival.

"The policing cost issue I think is predicated on a security plan," he said. "So if there was perhaps more effective security in terms of private security and more effective fencing, and given the experience of the festival in the past, it appears that we haven't needed the same number of police officers as we had at the 2008 festival.

"Given the history, we probably don't need as many police."

Edgington, away from the office until Wednesday, could not be reached for comment by deadline. Festival organizers have been repeatedly asked for comment on a future event but none have returned that request.