Some tempers flared, while other people expressed ambivalence Tuesday night at a public meeting about a plan to expand the Village of Pemberton’s (VOP) boundaries.
John Steil, a principal consultant with Stantec, an international design and consulting firm, made a presentation to a packed room at the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District council chamber in Pemberton about a proposed boundary extension that will bring a myriad of areas within VOP boundaries.
If approved in its current form, the boundary expansion could incorporate 20 new areas into the VOP, including the Rutherford Power Plant next to Highway 99, as well as “potential settlement areas” near Ivey and Mosquito Lakes.
The VOP stands to gain $250,000 in annual taxes under the expansion. The revenues could come from vacant residential land in the north, whose total taxes, if incorporated, would rise 41 per cent from $2,465 to $3,475. Rutherford Power’s taxes would take a giant hit if incorporated, rising 91 per cent from $517,000 to $987,263.
Steil noted in his presentation that the VOP could collect $525,000 in taxes from the Rutherford plant if the village’s taxes were applied today, but he said that’s unlikely to happen.
Reactions to the proposal ranged anywhere from vehement opposition to cautious support from those present.
Myson Effa, a resident of Pemberton for 10 years who recently began living in Whistler, loudly interrupted Steil in the middle of his presentation and railed against him for “lying” and enlisting the VOP in what he called a “corrupt process.”
He claimed that residents in Revelstoke, in B.C.’s Interior region, had once voted against boundary expansion by 90 per cent but that the provincial government went ahead and rezoned its boundaries anyway.
Mayor Jordan Sturdy, seated at the front of the room, told Effa to quiet down or he would be ejected. However Effa, despite being told that there would be time for questions after the presentation, kept talking.
Steil then carried on with his presentation, telling the audience that he had spoken with all landowners in the areas that could be added to the VOP’s boundaries and said that anyone who had an issue with the proposal could contact him.
Using a Powerpoint presentation, he showed the audience that most landholders approve of the current proposal — and that includes Rutherford Power, which he said supported the plan as long as they continue to pay current mill rates.
Among 11 private landowners, he said that seven approve of the expansion, while three oppose it and one still has concerns about the plan.
Once given an opportunity to ask a question, Effa continued with his invective against Steil and the boundary expansion proposal.
“The process is not transparent, it’s not fair, it’s not legal,” he said. “We had the RCMP send 50 men last year into the ALR offices and copy every single document that they had, charges laid against six people who were not aides to a cabinet minister.
“It’s an extremely corrupt process right now and I don’t have any confidence in it.”
He wasn’t the only one opposed.
Ingrid McDougall, owner of a property on Airport Road that will be incorporated into the VOP under the plan, said after the meeting she opposes the expansion because she doesn’t feel that some landowners have received enough information about it.
McDougall said that when she received information about the plan, it was accompanied by a pre-written letter of support to sign, or else provide an explanation why she would not sign it.
She told Pique that she was not prepared to sign it then and is not prepared to sign it now.
Though he supports the idea of expanding the VOP’s boundaries, Sturdy said there will be a variety of governance problems that could be encountered in the expansion process — among them, how the new population will be represented.
“You look at the Pemberton Meadows for example, it’s a particular area that has 300 people living in it,” he said. “If that was amalgamated into the VOP, they would be dwarfed by the urban population.
“All of these areas need some sort of legitimate representation, and this is not something that can be figured out quickly.”
The public meeting is part of the consultation phase of the plan. The next step is for Steil to prepare a report on the issues raised by the expansion proposal.