The Pemberton Festival site is now permissible for any event promoter to use, meaning the grounds could play host to another major gathering as early as 2013.
Mayor Jordan Sturdy announced to council during Tuesday’s (Dec. 18) meeting that the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) approved a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) on the site that will allow any event producer of the Village of Pemberton and Squamish-Lillooet Regional District’s (SLRD) choosing.
The previous MOU between the village, SLRD and ALC stipulated that only Live Nation, producers of the one-off Pemberton Festival in 2008, were allowed to host an event on the property.
“It doesn’t mean we’ll have a festival, but it does mean that there is an opportunity for a festival without Live Nation,” said Sturdy.
The news comes after at least two years of lobbying the ALC for the approval. The ALC rejected an amendment to the previous MOU 18 months ago that would have made it read like the new, approved one.
Sturdy credited village staff for its “persistence and skill” in communicating the desires of local officials, as well as the ALC for recognizing the value of future festivals in the Pemberton Valley.
“The opportunity has been created to potentially allow for a festival in 2013 and beyond,” said Sturdy.
Although he has said in the past that the site has drawn interest from potential event producers, Sturdy said Tuesday that it’s now up to the land owners to secure an event on the festival site. The site is owned by Ravens Crest Developments Ltd. When contacted by The Question, Ravens Crest president Cam McIvor declined to comment.
Live Nation has expressed a desire to return to the site and put on another festival like the one that drew 40,000 attendees 4 ½ years ago, provided they could find a way to make such an event financially viable. The company has cited policing costs, liquor-related issues and available infrastructure as concerns it wanted addressed before coming back.
Pizza trucks spark debate
A variance request before council on Tuesday led to a greater discussion around the best way for the village to deal with food trucks and other mobile businesses.
Council voted to allow Pemberton Pizza and Whistler Wood Fired Pizza to operate on alternating days outside the Pemberton Valley Lodge. Usually, only one portable food vendor license is issued per parcel of land.
But there seemed to be some hesitation around portable businesses in general — in particular, ones not based out of Pemberton.
Sturdy said he was “not a fan” of mobile enterprises who pack up and leave town at the end of a work day, and that businesses and constituents had provided him with similar feedback.
“Generally, there was a concern from restaurateurs about the capital investments they’ve made, the contributions to community that they make, and concern about mobile food vendors specifically who are not contributing to the (local) tax base or employment — simply taking the money and running, essentially,” he said.
Bylaw officer Ben Hansler also told council that the Pemberton Chamber of Commerce has given “mixed” feedback about food trucks as well.
But the issue goes beyond meals on wheels. Others like the well-known fish bus and tool truck that frequent Pemberton fall into the same category, and could be contravening bylaw regulations applicable to mobile stores.
Up to five mobile vendor licenses can be issued per year. There are currently three active in Pemberton, though Hansler said correspondence had been sent to the fish-bus operators requesting they obtain a license and adhere to bylaws.
Council added a condition to the variance approval requiring permission of the land owner to operate in front of the hotel. Although the Pemberton Valley Lodge is supportive of the two businesses, the trucks actually set up on the site of a once-proposed pub owned by another party.
Staff was also directed to bring the associated bylaw to a future committee of the whole session for review.