SLRD approves Pemby Fest parking on farmland without ALC approval 

Civil action, remediation order further complicate land-use concerns

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY BRENDA MCLEOD - LAND USE A 54-hectare site that may be used for parking for the Pemberton Music Festival in the meantime has been planted with oats and a Hellevang seed mix. The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District has approved temporary parking, although the Agricultural Land Commission has yet to approve a non-farm use application.
  • Photo courtesy Brenda McLeod
  • LAND USE A 54-hectare site that may be used for parking for the Pemberton Music Festival in the meantime has been planted with oats and a Hellevang seed mix. The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District has approved temporary parking, although the Agricultural Land Commission has yet to approve a non-farm use application.

The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) on June 22 approved a Temporary Land Use permit for owners of several tracts of land to be used for the Pemberton Music Festival — even though the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) still has not approved a non-farm use application. The land cannot be used for parking unless the ALC grants approval.

The Pemberton Music Festival is just two weeks away, but a recent civil case is now with the Supreme Court of B.C. Documents show that trustee and nominee Brenda McLeod is acting through an agent on behalf of her mother, Marion Ayers, in pursuit of the land-use changes. But brothers Grant Ayers, Myron Ayers and Lyle Ayers are seeking damages, costs, and both temporary and permanent injunctions to restrain any further activities on the land in question. The notice of civil claim was filed on May 25.

Eammon Watson, an ALC land-use planner, said the civil action presents "a hiccup," but it's not uncommon in land-use cases. Watson said the ALC often will let such cases play out in court. "In some cases, the ALC steps aside," he said. Watson added that the ALC only learned of the civil case recently. There was no update on the ALC ruling by press time.

In an email last week, McLeod responded to questions regarding the use of the land and the concern from nearby residents about their well water.

"Our property will not be used for any camping activities, only for the temporary parking of cars for four days. I understand that the Pemberton Music Festival obtained reports from professional environmental consultants confirming that there is no significant environmental risk associated with these temporary activities, including on nearby wells. This information has been provided to the SLRD and the ALC. In addition, pre- and post-event well testing will be carried out on the wells adjacent to our property to confirm that there is no adverse economic impact," McLeod wrote in her email.

Jessica Delaney, whose property backs onto a stream that runs between her land and McLeod's, said it's a risk she's not comfortable with.

"That's still 4,000 cars that could be leaking oil in the groundwater," Delaney said.

Of the process, Delaney — who attended last week's SLRD meeting — said she has no faith in her regional government after this sequence of events.

"Nobody asked what is Plan B?" she said. Delaney questions what happens if the non-farm use application is not approved.

"The board members are so in favour of the festival at all costs," she said.

The other extenuating circumstance in this sequence of applications is a May 12 Environmental Appeal Board (EAB) remediation order for alleged damage to the McLeod farmland that was cleared. The order was issued to McLeod and her husband, who have retained Vancouver lawyer Graham Walker of the firm Borden Ladner Gervais. Walker succeeded in being granted an appeal of the remediation order, as well as a stay of any remediation work pending the outcome of an EAB hearing. The remediation order cites disturbances to riparian vegetation, the banks of a stream, exposed soils, and natural drainage, among others.

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