Pemberton areas to pay for fire service 

Residents of Heights, Meadows regions approve referendum on fire protection service

A years-long conflict between the Village of Pemberton and some outlying areas came to an end on Sept. 27, as those areas voted to get their own fire protection service.

The referendum saw residents of both the Pemberton Meadows and the Heights regions vote to establish fire service areas that will receive service from the VOP’s fire department.

The areas were getting service from Pemberton Fire Rescue at no cost, according to Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy.

“This has been an ongoing issue for many years,” he said. “Historically what has happened is that the Pemberton Fire Rescue has responded to calls outside of that area, including Ivey Lake and Walkerville and Owl Ridge.

“This has always been a perceived inequity, because it’s basically the people in the fire service area and the people in the village are providing fire service at no cost.”

The Pemberton Meadows service area will extend from the Ryan Creek Bridge to the end of the Meadows, according to Sturdy. The other fire service area will extend north of Mount Currie to where Birken’s service area begins.

“We wouldn’t want to leave a gap in between,” Sturdy said.

Previously, the Meadows and Heights areas didn’t have an official fire service area. Each time the areas needed a fire truck to put out a blaze, residents would put calls into the fire department and the VOP’s fire service would respond. Pemberton Fire Rescue would then attend a blaze, but residents of the regions didn’t have to pay a cent for it.

It was a situation that came to a head last December, when Pemberton council said it would no longer provide service to those areas.

“That’s what got everybody’s attention,” Sturdy said. “There was a public meeting last year where it became clear to all of us, I think, that the people who are no longer going to be served, wanted to be served, and they were willing to look at the solution that we had suggested because it was equitable.”

The results of the referendum would seem to suggest the same thing — a clear majority of voters in both areas voted to get fire service. Out of 38 voters in the Pemberton Meadows area, 26 voted yes, while out of 41 voters in the Pemberton Heights area, 31 voted yes.

A Squamish-Lillooet Regional District bylaw will put $0.63 out of every $1,000 of net taxable value of land and improvements towards the fire service in the Pemberton Heights. Pemberton Meadows residents will pay $0.66 of every $1,000 for the service.

“What it does is it gives the regional district the authority to tax for fire services, whereas prior to this referendum, there was no legal authority to tax for those areas,” Sturdy said.

The areas will be receiving their services from Pemberton Fire Rescue, but Sturdy said they can form their own fire departments if they wish.

The results of the referendum were announced at a Sept. 29 meeting of the SLRD after Chief Administrative Officer Paul Edgington handed them out to those present.

Area C director Susie Gimse said, “Voter turnout was not terribly impressive.”

However Russ Oakley, the SLRD chair, said he did not know how many people would have been able to vote to begin with.

“More than that,” Gimse said.

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