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Village of Pemberton council approves Portage Road food truck

Council briefs: Proposed plant-list changes inspire debate; cannabis retail policy amendment approved; request to reinstate rural dividend funding
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A food truck is coming to a vacant lot on Portage Road after Village of Pemberton council approved a temporary use permit. Screenshot.

A new dining option is coming to Portage Road.

At its regular meeting held via Zoom on June 16, Village of Pemberton (VOP) council approved a temporary use permit for a food truck for the lot next to The Pony Restaurant and The Bike Co. The applicant, Pemberton Portage Ltd., also owns the property on which those businesses sit.

The applicants were approved for a three-year permit, and have the option of requesting another three-year permit down the line. The permit applies only to the lot and does not allow the truck to operate in other locations. From here, the applicants must obtain a mobile vendor business licence and submit a Vancouver Coastal Health permit. As well, the applicants must revise their landscaping plan to adhere to FireSmart principles and propose a land-coverage alternative to bark mulch.

Councillor Amica Antonelli questioned staff’s request that the applicants find a new mulch option.

“Bark mulch is really plentiful and inexpensive locally, so I encourage them to look at their options, but when they’ve reviewed all that, bark mulch might still be a decent option,” she said. “I’m not sure I’d put that in there.” 

Chief administrative officer (CAO) Nikki Gilmore said possible alternatives are gravel mulch, rock mulch, a combination of plant mulch and decorative rock mulch to reduce the fire risk.

“Bark mulch can dry out and with people discarding cigarettes, it can cause fires,” she said. “We don’t encourage the use of bark mulch.” 

The truck would operate seasonally as weather permits, and would be open similar hours to The Pony, from noon to 8:30 p.m. Thursday through Monday. 

Staff first received the application last April, but the applicant requested to postpone processing until this year, indicating in late May that it was ready to proceed.

The VOP received five letters in support of the application.

PROPOSED PLANT-LIST CHANGES INSPIRE DEBATE

It wasn’t quite the War of the Roses, but the most debated item of the meeting came as planner Joanna Rees presented a proposed update to the VOP’s plant list.

The list, first introduced in 2011 to replace the Village Vision Tree List, is a reference document for developers, landscapers and gardeners deciding what they can grow.

After consulting with the Get Bear Smart Society and the Sea to Sky Invasive Species Council, Rees’ update proposed removing 18 varieties of deciduous trees, shrubs and ground covers that are considered wildlife attractants. Rees said later that some proposed deletions were suggested by local landscapers and gardeners.

Coun. Leah Noble objected to some of the suggested removals.

“As a landscaper, I see a lot of plants on here that don’t seem like animal attractants to me, like the wild roses [Nootka rose and Woods’ rose], kinnikinnick [or bearberry], and vine maples,” she said, adding that all four are native plants. “I find the list really overzealous. I would be opposed to banning all of these. It’s really nice having all these beautiful scented flowers all around our community.” 

Antonelli was also wary of some changes, questioning whether a shrub such as the redtwig dogwood was a bear attractant.

“I would go back and try to be a bit more open to some of the native species,” she said.

Noble noted that dogwood could be an attractant “but only in mass plantings.”

“An occasional plant isn’t a big attractant,” she said.

Council referred the list back to staff to get more information on the two rose varieties, the kinnikinnick and the vine maple, with Noble saying the latter is likely only an attractant to squirrels.

“I don’t think we’re in too much danger from squirrels,” she said. 

Quipped Mayor Mike Richman: “If you grew up in Montreal, you’d be surprised.”

NON-MEDICINAL (RECREATIONAL) CANNABIS RETAIL POLICY AMENDED

After reviewing its Non-Medicinal (Recreational) Cannabis Retail Policy, staff is recommending that council removes the requirement that retail cannabis stores have two staff members on site at all times.

Staff initiated the review in March after a request from GP Cannabis general manager Kostya De.

Rees explained that the existing policy was approved before recreational cannabis became legal in October 2018 and, like several other municipalities, was overly cautious in preparation for the change. Rees noted that some regions, such as the District of Squamish, did not have this requirement.

She added that the Business Licence Bylaw has been subsequently updated to include cannabis retail outlets, but does not have the minimum staff requirement. 

Richman said that when the policy was first enacted, it was one that would be reviewed and amended as council learned more about how retail outlets operate.

GP opened in December, but found the requirement for two staff members was unnecessary. In his letter to Richman, De said the business had undertaken anti-robbery measures such as installing panic buttons, security alarms and nine cameras around the store, which De feels would make one employee more than safe.

With a second cannabis store set to open nearby and an ongoing black market, De said keeping the requirement would eventually sink the business.

“If the rule is amended, we will be able to keep operating and provide jobs, but most importantly it will help fighting the black market. The more people buy at licensed stores, the more tax money comes to our government. It is a win-win situation for everyone,” De wrote.

In voicing her support for the amendment, Noble agreed with De’s assessment.

“We want to keep these shops viable because the black market hasn’t slowed down that much,” she said. 

REQUEST TO REINSTATE RURAL DIVIDEND FUNDING COMING

During Gilmore’s CAO report, council pondered a letter requesting that the provincial government reinstate the Rural Dividend Program.

The program was scuttled last year as the government redirected funds to families affected by mill closures and curtailments.

The letter, drafted by Veronica Woodruff of Clear Course Consulting Ltd. on behalf of the Pemberton Economic Development Collaborative, asks that the government reconsider the decision, especially as rural communities continue to deal with the fallout of COVID-19.

“Although we appreciate that government intervention was essential in responding to the unexpected environmental and economic impacts on the forestry industry, we are respectfully requesting that your department reinstate these funds so that they can be accessed by all sectors again,” the draft reads.

Coun. Ted Craddock, who is part of the collaborative, said it was important to bring the letter to council before sending it off to Victoria.

“Most of us on the committee don’t feel comfortable making the decision without council’s input,” he said. 

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