The Village of Pemberton's (VOP) decision to proceed with the development of a 16-car parking lot in Fougberg Park has raised the ire of local residents who say the decision was made without adequate public consultation.
The VOP received six letters regarding council's Feb. 5 regular council meeting decision to green light the plan, which will see a public car park built on the rear of the park, accessed via John Currie Lane. A green space along Prospect Street, as well as the trees, will be maintained as part of the plan.
One of the letters was from Annie Oja, a parks planner with the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW). Oja sits on the VOP's Advisory Design Review Commission, which provides council with advice on site planning and landscape elements.
In her correspondence, Oja said that the VOP has missed some "important planning steps" in making its decision. "Where is the clear, long-term plan? Where is the opportunity for public input? Where is the public hearing?" she wrote.
Oja also noted that the project has not been brought to the panel for review and comment.
"Does this project have a development permit?" wrote Oja. "It's critical that all major development projects within the downtown core receive development permits as these are what shape the look and feel of our mountain town."
(In an email to Pique, a VOP staff member said that the design will "be refined as per our standard, and the project will go through a Development Pemit process.")
In discussing the opposition to the development plan, Mayor Mike Richman suggested that council revisit it in a future council meeting or "hit the pause button" and see how "parking looks" after the downtown enhancement project is complete.
In order to reconsider the resolution, one of the councillors who voted in favour would have had to ask that it be brought back to council for further consideration. The resolution would also require a secondary vote and a majority vote in favour to be brought back.
For Councillor Ted Craddock, bringing it back would set a bad precedent.
"I think this council has to decide that once a decision is made—whether we are for or against it—our responsibility is to back council's decision," he said.
"We can certainly go out and say, personally I'm not in favour of it, but that doesn't mean you can bring it back to the next meeting and say, 'gee, everyone has got to change their mind because we got some feedback from the community.'
"We are always going to get feedback from the community. We are never going to please everyone."
Coun. Amica Antonelli, the only councillor who voted against the motion, argued that council should reconsider the project and that public consultation was inadequate.
"I went through the materials that we had online for the downtown enhancement plan and every single design shows Fougberg Park as a park," she said. "There is no consultation materials that show Fougberg Park as a parking lot."
Antonelli—who serves as a land-use planner with the RMOW—also argued that the land that the park sits on is not zoned for a parking lot.
In the end, none of the councillors who approved the development motion on Feb. 5 asked to revisit it.
Following a discussion with staff on council procedures, Antonelli put forward a motion to seek a legal opinion as to whether she, as someone who voted against the motion, has the ability to bring it back for reconsideration. Richman supported this motion, and staff will seek a clarification on the matter.
For Nicole Brink, a trained architect who watched the proceedings with her young child on her lap, the decision was heartbreaking.
The decision to develop the park does not reflect the "proper due process for changing land use," she said following council's discussion.
"This is just bulldozing through all of that," said Brink, a trained architect who worked for 10 years in architecture and planning. "They're doing a change of use—from a park to a parking lot—without any public consultation."
Brink—who has since circulated a change.org petition to stop the development—said she was disappointed with the lack of public consultation on the decision. (As of press time the petition had over 190 signatures.)
"They should have had an open house or a public hearing," she said. "They have just bulldozed it through without any of the correct process."