Governance figures prominently at Pemberton town hall 

Governance in the Spud Valley figured as a major issue at a town hall meeting at the Pemberton Community Centre June 9.

The event was the fourth such forum hosted by the Village of Pemberton and served as an opportunity for residents of the valley to step forward and raise with their council any issues they felt needed to be addressed.

Previous town hall meetings have highlighted the desire for more recreational opportunities. A survey circulated at last year's forum showed that Pembertonians want to see a facility such as a hockey rink or swimming pool in town - both of them major capital investments.

This time out the hot topic was governance - and the fractured state of it in the Pemberton Valley.

When someone says they live in Pemberton, it doesn't necessarily mean they live in the Village. They could just as easily be residents of Area C of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, an area that surrounds the village boundaries but isn't incorporated as a municipality.

Valley locals sometimes count the population of Mount Currie towards "Pemberton's" total population.

Three of four members of Village council are residents of Area C - Mayor Jordan Sturdy and Councillors Susie Gimse and Ted Craddock. The area doesn't have a local government but it gets many of its services from the Village anyway. Gimse also represents Area C on the board of the regional district.

Living outside the village is an important issue for Ivan Knowles, a Pemberton Meadows resident who feels that Area C residents run into confusion trying to identify where they live. He feels that amalgamating parts of Area C into the Village could also give it more weight at the provincial and federal level.

"What happens in a small community when you don't have strength by size, you're always looking like a small community and you don't have the same weight," he said after the meeting. "You don't have the same impact or influence in the provincial structure, federal structures, they still regard Pemberton as a (small town)."

Sturdy sympathized with Knowles' concerns and said council has made governance a key priority of its mandate, adding that it's an issue common to all communities in the regional district.

"As most of you know, I am in exactly the same boat," he said. "Governance is recognized as being very important throughout the regional district. So what's happened is a process has been put in place where the regional district will be corresponding with the various communities... to identify issues... and then from there we can start generating solutions to those problems.

"Council has agreed to be part of that process."

He went on to say that the existing situation, whereas the village has a council but Area C does not, is "not optimal" but added it's an issue that can't easily be resolved. He said the issue ought to be studied more seriously, although a resolution to governance issues in the valley could take as much as five years.

Water metering also figured as an issue at the town hall meeting. The Village is currently considering installing a metering system that would track more precisely how much water residents are using and bill them based on consumption. Council will decide at a meeting later this month whether to go ahead with installing the meters.

Pemberton developer Garth Phare expressed some concern about the plan, saying that he has not seen "outstanding comments" that meters have worked in other communities.

Sturdy responded that metering has been shown to reduce water consumption by approximately 15 per cent because it allocates one's bills to a "user-pay" model - a more equitable system in his opinion because it is tied closer to individual consumption.

The town hall also served as a jumping-off point for revising the Village's Official Community Plan, which was adopted in 1999 and was last amended in 2003. Council wants to revise the plan because the current strategy doesn't take into account changes and growth that have taken place in the Valley since the last amendment.

As it stands, when rezoning motions come before council they're often accompanied by amendments to the Official Community Plan bylaw because the plan doesn't reflect the Village's contemporary needs and desires. Revising the plan could help the Village avoid making those constant changes and develop an updated vision of how the community wants to look in the future. 

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