There appears to be no clearer picture of what the Gates Lake recreation centre in Birken will look like, even after a well-attended community consultation session held Tuesday (July 24) in N’Quatqua.
Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) staff presented the revised proposal for the facility, which calls for a 5,000-square-foot hall and fewer changes to the existing building owned by the SLRD, and feedback from the approximately 100 area residents who attended Tuesday’s meeting was reportedly mixed.
“We heard about the need (for a facility) but there seemed to be a split in terms of what it should look like,” said Area C director Susie Gimse on Wednesday (July 25). “Some want the larger spaces, some want the smaller, more intimate spaces.”
Gimse said she felt there was “general support” for the new option presented Tuesday but added that some expressed a desire to return to the old plans to retrofit the house on the property for community use, while others continued to request other sites be considered.
“It would be nice if there was a win-win here… but you can’t please everybody all the time,” said Gimse. “
The Pemberton-Area C Recreation Advisory Committee (RAC) held its meeting following Tuesday’s feedback session and supported a recommendation to the Pemberton Valley Utilities and Services Committee (PVUS) that PVUS consider all possible alternatives before moving forward with a proposal.
“RAC has felt that other options should continue to be explored,” said RAC chair Lindsay May on Wednesday.
The idea of building a facility on the Birken Fire Hall site was once again discussed at the community consultation. Members of the Birken Fire Protection Society were on hand to illustrate a number of problems with adding to the property, including B.C. Hyrdo right of ways, steep terrain and the potential for interference with fire department operations.
There was a motion on the RAC table Tuesday to recommend PVUS reconsider the site as an alternative, said May, but it was defeated by a split 3-3 vote.
May said it’s become apparent to RAC members that the issue is a “multi-layered” one that is about more than just establishing a community centre in Birken — it’s also about the future of recreation services as a whole in the Pemberton Valley.
That’s an opinion that Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy seems to share, as the PVUS member has been expressing the Village of Pemberton’s concerns over operating costs moving forward. Under the Pemberton-Area C recreation service agreement, the village would pay a share of the Gates Lake facility’s operating costs but Pemberton’s tax requisition for recreation is already at its maximum.
“Likely, we will be looking to raise the requisition regardless in order to ensure we have an adequate budget to provide for the service,” said Sturdy, who has also said he isn’t confident in the current operational budget projected for the facility.
Essentially, PVUS will have to take all feedback into consideration and come to a consensus on what is the best option to pursue. However, that committee isn’t without its own internal challenges.
During Monday’s (July 23) SLRD board meeting, Gimse said she perceived a lack of support from the village on moving forward with the project to the point where she thought the project had “effectively been killed.”
“We’ve agreed to take a project and look at expanding it, but now there’s question about whether or not the partnership will support the operating cost,” Gimse said Monday. “We can’t proceed forward if I don’t have a partner to operate (the facility).”
Sturdy said there appeared to be some miscommunication between the two sides and that the village hasn’t pulled out of the project. However, the mayor would like to see a set of plans move on to the request for proposals stage to get a better sense of costs. Gimse said Wednesday that she finds that approach “irresponsible.”
While Gimse would not say what direction she would like to see the facility go, she is eager to discuss it with the rest of PVUS so decisions could be made.
“I don’t know where we’re going to go,” she said. “It’s a conversation that the elected officials need to have.”