Pemberton council approves skills park concept 

Council briefs: Cannabis-related business licence fees; hot springs management

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JOEL BARDE - Skills (L to R) Bree Thorlakson, Suki Cheyne, Cookie Losee and Aime Fear of the Pemberton Off Road Cycling Association were elated with council's vote of support for a mountain bike skills park.
  • photo by Joel Barde
  • Skills (L to R) Bree Thorlakson, Suki Cheyne, Cookie Losee and Aime Fear of the Pemberton Off Road Cycling Association were elated with council's vote of support for a mountain bike skills park.

The Village of Pemberton (VOP) Council voted to direct staff to work with the Pemberton Off Road Cycling Association (PORCA) to identify a suitable location of a mountain bike skills park during its Jan. 14 regular council meeting.

Specifically, council instructed staff to develop a report that will look at potentially placing the skills park at either the VOP's recreation grounds or a property beside the new parking lot for the Community Barn, or splitting the park up between the two locations.

In a report to council, staff identified a .53-hectare (site at the recreation grounds that could be used for the park.

This option would see the skills park replace two smaller practice fields that were included in the original recreation site concept.

The idea to look at the downtown core option came at the suggestion of Councillor Ted Craddock, who raised concerns about accessibility, specifically for youth.

Following the meeting, Bree Thorlakson, executive director of the Pemberton Off Road Cycling Association (PORCA), said she was happy with the discussion and actions the VOP has taken.

While not everything would fit at the proposed recreation grounds site, she said, there is the possibility of splitting up the features (dirt jumps and pump track).

"It's a smaller site so not everything will fit in there," she said. "We could look at splitting the skills park into three, [with] the different features. It's not ideal, but we're working with limited locations."

PORCA has already secured some funding for the project: $25,000 from the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation in April 2019 and an additional $10,000 donation from Squamish-based OneUp Components.

In total, Thorlakson estimated that yearly maintenance of the project would be about $5,000, and the approximate cost of the project would be $160,000—depending on the features selected.

VOP staff has been in discussion with PORCA on the development of a skills park since 2016.

An early plan for construction of the park underneath the power lines close to the BMX track was not approved by BC Hydro due to height restrictions.

The alternate plan, which had the skills park built on School District 48 property adjacent to the Pemberton Secondary School was deemed unfeasible by PORCA out of concern for the requisite insurance costs.

CANNABIS-RELATED BUSINESS LICENCE FEE

During the meeting, VOP council also responded to a letter from one of the co-founders of Coast Mountain Cannabis Inc. (CMC) asking the VOP to reconsider its business fee for cannabis-related businesses.

The company, which operates out of a building in the Pemberton Industrial Park, recently became a licensed producer under Health Canada's regulations.

"Having invested over $5 million to date, much of which has been spent with local contractors, and hired 8 local full time employees on really good salaries, we feel we have contributed a lot to the Pemberton economy already," stated a letter from Andrew Ellott, one of four founders of the company.

In his letter, Ellott asked VOP council to reconsider its business licence fee for cannabis-related businesses, saying it is "egregious" in comparison to what other businesses in the valley are required to pay.

The VOP's annual business licence fee for a standard business is set at $150, while its annual business licence fee for a "standard" cannabis production facility is set at $5,000 (or $2,500 for a "micro" production facility).

While that figure is much higher than for a standard business, Craddock and Richman said it was in line with what other municipalities are charging.

"If I recall, the $5,000 was a little bit below the average," said Craddock.

In the end, council decided to respond to CMC's letter with the information that council considered when setting the fee.

"We appreciate all that they are doing," said Craddock of CMC. "I think we need to respond to the letter."

HOT SPRINGS MANAGEMENT STRATEGY

VOP Council was also asked to give input on a management plan for the Meager Creek and Keyhole hot springs at the council meeting.

The province is partnering with Lil'wat Nation on developing a new strategy to manage the sites. (To read more see, "Lil'wat Nation and province working on management plan for hot springs," page 29.)

Council asked staff to communicate that it is not in favour of opening up Meager Creek Hotsprings for public use, unless a geotechnical analysis is completed and it is deemed safe. Council did, however, say it would support the opening of Keyhole Hotsprings, as long as a robust management plan was put in place.

"We would support that Keyhole Falls be opened if there is a management plan that includes things like washing facilities, signage and a plan for garbage," said Richman following the meeting, adding that there would also have to be a significant level of patrolling and management to guard against the risk of forest fires.

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