A heated debate at the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) board table Monday (Oct. 22) ended with Mayor Jordan Sturdy convincing other directors that Pemberton should be allowed to plan future development on land annexed through the village's recent boundary expansion.
The board ignored a staff recommendation and instead supported Sturdy's preferred option for the SLRD to accept Pemberton's Regional Context Statement (RCS). In a report, SLRD staff had suggested the board reject the RCS once again and send it to the province for mediation, "given the magnitude of the inconsistency" with the SLRD's Regional Growth Strategy (RGS).
Pemberton is the last member municipality to have the SLRD approve its statement, which is required under RGS legislation. The source of controversy has been the two-parcel combination of the Hillside and Lil'wat legacy lands, which the village wanted to be designated as a "future growth node." The property was not within the village boundary when the RGS was adopted in 2010, and the 187 ha parcel of land was not identified for future growth at the time.
The staff report said an RGS amendment of that magnitude should not be considered until the strategy's five-year review in 2015. SLRD planning director Kim Needham told the board that the re-designation was too significant to be dealt with through "housekeeping," and that the move would be "potentially precedent-setting in the region and could leave us vulnerable to other situations that could cause significant deviation from the Regional Growth Strategy."
Sturdy argued that any development on the land would have minimal impact on neighbouring jurisdictions, so the village should be permitted to begin planning for the property as it sees fit.
"This property is in the Village of Pemberton and needs to be planned for accordingly," said Sturdy. "This is all of the land from the gravel pit up to the Ivey Lake subdivision - all of that Hillside property - and should be considered through our planning process."
Compared to anticipated "huge numbers" of growth in the District of Squamish and Area D, Sturdy said the possible build-out on the Hillside land would be minimal and not nearly as "regionally significant."
"We're arguing over the potential for a couple hundred units," he said.
Area D director Moe Freitag asked Sturdy what Pemberton's position would be if the shoe was on the other foot - if the village would support RGS amendments to reflect similar growth issues in his region.
Sturdy replied: "I think people who live in Howe Sound East should determine their own destiny, frankly, as the people in Pemberton should be determining ours."
Pemberton's RCS will now be referred to the RGS Steering Committee for amendment review.
SLRD seeks tenure on trails
The board approved funding an archaeological assessment and aboriginal interest study of the Riverside Park lands adjacent to the recently-acquired Fulton property so it may move along in the process of applying for SLRD tenure on the surrounding trails.
Up to $15,000 from the Pemberton Valley Recreational Trails Service cost centre was allocated for the studies, to be completed by the Lil'wat Nation, of land on the north bank of the Lillooet River.
The province rejected a previous application for tenure made in 2003 because there was no legal access to the lands, but that has since changed with the SLRD being one of the partners acquiring the Fulton property.
Another, more recent tenure application was also returned, with provincial officials noting that the two studies and a letter of support from the Lil'wat Nation are required before the process can move forward.
A staff report explained that "the acquisition of Riverside Park would expand the footprint of the Fulton Park area, protect one of the few remaining old growth cedar stands in the Pemberton Valley, and provide residents with beach access along the Lillooet River."
Directors get small raise
The board supported its scheduled pay increase tied to the Consumer Price Index on Monday, passing a bylaw amendment that also aimed to make expense submissions from directors and alternates more consistent.
The board did defer an investigation of whether or not directors are adequately compensated until next year.
Board chair and Area C director Susie Gimse said directors have not received a pay increase other than those tied to cost of living since 2004.
"People want to know how much more we're making," she said. "Well, we're not."
Sturdy agreed, saying: "I don't think we're overpaid here."
Following the increases, electoral area directors will now make slightly more than $10,000, annually. Municipal directors will be paid just more than $7,000, while the chair will collect and additional $10,277.