For the third time in as many months, the Squamish-Lillooet
Regional District has deferred judgment on a GEMS school in Pemberton.
The regional board put off a motion at its Dec. 16 meeting that
would have sent a non-farm use application to the Agricultural Land Commission
(ALC) for the school’s proposed site at Pemberton’s Ravens Crest property.
The proposed motion would have seen the board to send the
application to the ALC with a recommendation of non-support because it
conflicted with agriculture policies in SLRD Area C’s Official Community Plan
(OCP). The motion also said that “non-agricultural sites” should be considered
when recreational, institutional, industrial or commercial uses are being
proposed for agricultural areas.
Despite the delay in dealing with the motion, GEMS proponent
Cam McIvor isn’t fazed.
“The deferments aren’t the biggest issue,” he said in an
interview. “Time can be an enemy of business at times, but I think right now
we’re still tracking to be able to deliver some answers, so hopefully we can
get moving a little quicker soon.”
The board deferred the motion for a number of reasons. Chief
among them is that directors want the project’s proponents to see if other
sites can be considered for the school, given that the current proposal places
the school on agricultural land.
Area C director Susie Gimse put forward a resolution that
further consideration of the proposal be deferred until proponents viewed
alternate sites. She said the ALC won’t even look at the current non-farm use
application until that’s been done.
The resolution was welcomed by Steve Olmstead, the SLRD’s
director of planning and development, who said his department would support
looking at other sites.
“One of our principal concerns, and we think that it actually
strengthened the application, was a study of alternative sites,” he said at the
meeting. “That’s my primary concern with the application as it has been
presented at this point.”
At the same time, not all SLRD directors have actually had a
chance to see the site. The board first deferred the motion at its October
meeting until all directors toured the site.
Five of nine directors have seen the site: Gimse, Pemberton
Mayor Jordan Sturdy, Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed, Area A director Russ Oakley
and Area B director Mickey Macri.
Three directors had their first board meeting on Tuesday and
haven’t yet had a chance to see the site: Squamish Mayor Greg Gardner and
Councillor Patricia Heintzman and Lillooet Mayor Dennis Bontron.
The next step for GEMS is to arrange tours of the site for the
remaining directors that haven’t seen it and have some consultants look at
available land in the Pemberton Valley to see where a school would be suitable,
according to McIvor.
As for timelines, he said that GEMS is keen on Pemberton and
that the international company is looking to start marketing a school around
the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
“In our last meeting with GEMS they were keen to have something
on the ground and do some marketing around the Games,” McIvor said. “Our goal
in the community I think should be just to be as expeditious as possible so
that they keep their focus and energy up on the project.”
Though the board has yet to bring GEMS to the ALC’s attention, the SLRD nevertheless approved the school in principle at its Dec. 16 meeting.