A new proposal for the Gates Lake recreation facility in Birken, which would include a 5,000-square foot community hall constructed next to the existing structure owned by the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD), will be presented to the public during an open house scheduled for Tuesday (July 24).
The Pemberton Valley Utilities and Services Committee (PVUS), which administers recreation services in Pemberton and Area C, got its first look at the new options during Friday’s (July 13) PVUS meeting.
Area C director and PVUS board member Susie Gimse said the new proposal takes into consideration the feedback received at a public consultation regarding the facility from a few weeks ago.
“We’re reporting back (to say): ‘This is what you said, this is what we looked at and this is what it will cost,’” said Gimse. “There will be additional cost with a larger structure, but I’m good with (the new proposal) if that’s the direction the community wants to go.
“It was great to have such good public feedback at the last meeting and the work we’ve done to date is the result of that community consultation.”
The new proposal would see less work done to retrofit the existing building for community use, and with the addition of the community hall, the projected capital costs would increase by approximately $75,000.
The hall would be a steel building with a footprint of 50 x 100 feet as per the recommendation made to PVUS from the SLRD recreation services manager.
“The difference between the (original and new proposals) with the existing building is that we don’t have to add on to the structure… we can accommodate the changes within the existing building for public use and it would just be the main floor,” said Gimse.
Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy, also a PVUS board member, presented the latest proposal during his report to council on Tuesday (July 17). Most of the discussion at the council table was centred on the long-term operational costs of the facility. Although capital costs for the facility will come out of Area C amenity funds, Village of Pemberton taxpayers will share the operating costs as per the recreation services agreement between the two jurisdictions.
“I think that we’re certainly on record as being concerned with the operational costs… the other point being that we’re already short of operational funds and we’re at our max taxation on that particular service,” said Sturdy.
Although the rough financial projection for the new proposal actually predicts lower net operational costs compared to the original due to higher revenue generation, both Gimse and Sturdy said those numbers are hard to take at face value.
“These are… the best numbers that the recreation manager could come up with, but they’re not based on actuals or any historical revenues,” said Sturdy. “The revenue-potential side is probably where the questions lie.”
Some opponents of the original Gates Lake facility proposal have pointed to the SLRD-owned fire hall property in Birken that is already zoned for a community centre as a better site for such a facility.
However, PVUS has essentially ruled the fire hall property out as a possible community centre site, as B.C. Hydro right-of-way issues, steep terrain and problems with the septic field are among the major challenges facing the site.
“The other constraint, of course, is that this is where the fire hall is located and there would definitely be conflicts between the two uses,” said Gimse. “Certainly, the volunteer fire department have indicated that nobody’s ever discussed it with them. It’s just not a suitable site.”
Sturdy said he hopes those issues can be communicated to residents during the open house because the fire hall site “seems to be what people focus on.”
The July 24 open house takes place at the N’Quatqua Community Hall with an open house at 6 p.m. and a presentation by recreation manager Peter Duhault at 7 p.m.