Outdoor School repurposing raises concerns 

SLRD to investigate allegations of lodging on agricultural land

By Cindy Filipenko

Joe Ronayne believes his neighbour is contravening current zoning, and he’s not happy about it.

Ronayne alleges that Ian Porter, who purchased the Outward Bound property, also known as the Outdoor School, on Pemberton Meadows Road, is contravening current zoning by operating a lodge on land zoned for educational use.

“I know for a fact he had 40 tree planters in there,” said Ronayne. “What’s the point of having zoning when it’s ignored?”

The lifelong Pemberton resident claims that the new owner is operating an accommodation facility without paying hotel taxes.

“It’s unfair. The new hotel in town (The Pemberton Valley Lodge) is paying taxes that would make you and I shudder,” Ronayne said. “Just because he’s bought the land doesn’t mean he can do what he wants with it. Capitalism has some rules.”

Porter expressed surprise at Ronayne’s allegations.

“His facts are completely wrong. He’s never talked to me or my wife and we’re the only ones involved.”

The couple has been actively renovating the property and has yet to decide exactly how the facility will be repurposed. One thing is certain, it won’t be dedicated to nightly rentals.

“We have no intention of operating a hotel,” said Porter.

The land in question was originally donated by the Ronayne family, in the 1940s, to establish an outdoor school. The relationship between the family and Outward Bound was an agreeable one.

“We let Outward Bound have concessions because they were Outward Bound and they were a good neighbour. Porter has not been a good neighbour.”

Earlier this spring, Ronayne said developers had sought his family’s support for a rezoning application. In exchange for that support, Ronayne alleged that Porter said that the existing seed potato laboratory could stay operational on the property. When that turned out to not be the case tensions rose.

Even with donated labour and materials, it cost close to $20,000 to establish a new seed potato lab, a vital component to the local agricultural industry.

Ronayne has taken his most recent complaint against Porter to the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD). While he is frustrated by the speed at which things are being resolved, he lauds Area C director Susie Gimse for being very proactive.

“This (case) is an interesting one,” said Gimse. “We’ve heard a lot of concerns from people living in the valley, but so far we have not received any indication that what (Porter) is doing is not supported by the zoning. We’ve asked staff to go up, investigate and report back. If what he’s doing is not supported by the zoning then we’ll have to take action.”

Steve Olmstead, Director of Planning and Development for the SLRD, said that at the time of the sale of the Outward Bound property there had been discussion about the zoning and that building permits had been issued to facilitate renovations.

“If we issue a permit, they have to declare the intended use of a structure or building when they apply. They are all quite aware of what the zoning is.”

While Olmstead said he was not personally aware of any activity at the facility, a building inspector had been sent out the afternoon of Tuesday, June 12.

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