Pemberton endorses Regional Growth Strategy 

Meadows, Hillside residents to vote on fire service in weekend referendum

The Village of Pemberton has unanimously approved the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District’s Regional Growth Strategy (RGS), a bylaw that will guide development in Pemberton for years to come.

The strategy has been in the works since 2003 and comes as the SLRD has realized a number of challenges and opportunities it will face in the coming years — among them, the impact of the 2010 Olympics and declining employment in the northern part of the region.

The strategy estimates that population in the Sea to Sky corridor will double from 35,141 residents in 2003 to 68,153 residents in 2031, and asks all its communities to focus development into “compact, complete, sustainable communities.”

VOP council endorsed the bylaw without a single dissenting vote.

Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy told Pique that he had some concerns about the strategy’s amending process, which could require consultation with several different parties, but he ultimately decided to support the bylaw because he feels it’s in tune with Pemberton’s development goals.

“Our planning consultant suggested that, in his view, it’s extremely unlikely that issues would come about that… could be defined as major changes that would be in conflict with the regional growth strategy,” he said.

“We’ve simply embraced most of the concepts associated with the (strategy) already, it’s unlikely that we’d find anything in conflict.”

When asked whether the commitments under the RGS could hinder any future development in Pemberton, Sturdy said it’s unlikely because the town is already a compact community.

“We have all these constraints when it comes to development, including steep hillsides, northern exposures in the shade, agricultural land, wildlife habitat,” he said. “There’s really limited areas where we can ultimately grow anyway.

“What the regional growth strategy is supposed to do, one of its roles is to limit urban sprawl and that’s something that we’re committed to already.”

The Village of Pemberton also approved a motion to set a referendum on the proposed boundary expansion that could bring 20 new areas into the village’s boundaries. The expansion is meant to bring more tax revenue to a community that has been tax poor for a long time, and depends on government money for various projects.

Sturdy said the question hasn’t yet been set for the referendum, but he said that VOP staff are currently making sure that the village meets all criteria needed to hold a referendum on election day.

But that’s not the only referendum coming up in Pemberton.

September 27 will see residents of the Pemberton Meadows and Hillside areas go to the polls over whether they wish to create a fire service area for both regions.

Sturdy said the vote will end a “15-year dispute” that has seen the Village of Pemberton send its own firefighters to outlying areas at no cost.

“There’s quite a kerfuffle over the last couple of years as we threatened to no longer respond to areas outside the existing fire service area,” Sturdy said. “Our rationale was if you don’t pay, you don’t get service, and we had been providing service outside the existing service area for years with no compensation.”

Sturdy said it got to the point of “brinkmanship” last Christmas when the VOP threatened to end fire service on Dec. 31. It was only at the last minute that the SLRD gave the village some partial funding to compensate it for providing fire services.

The SLRD has organized two referendums for Sept. 27 — one for residents of the Meadows area, and another for residents of the hillside area.

“So if those two referendums fail, or either one of those referendums fail, as of this year, the village will no longer be providing fire service out there,” Sturdy said.

VOP council also endorsed a motion brought forward by the mayor himself that called upon councillors to support LiveNation in its actions to host the Pemberton Festival in 2009 and beyond.

“I was just looking for a general motion of support for LiveNation, because there’s not much point in going into a whole bunch of detail,” Sturdy said. “The VOP supports the hosting of Pemberton Festival in the future.”

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