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Industrial park and VOP reach agreement on services

Community benefits could include secondary community water source, more tax revenue

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"This is a plan that council sees as having long-term economic benefits to the community."

–David Allen, VOP director of development

While many of the Pemberton industrial park’s property owners feel that services are long overdue, Mountain Building Centres’ Brian McIntosh said for his company, the timing is about right.

McIntosh is referring to the recent agreement struck between industrial park property owners and the Village of Pemberton to address the park’s water and sewer needs.

"Our plan has always been to move to the industrial park when we’ve fulfilled our lease considerations," said McIntosh, co-owner of the local building supply chain. "But this change certainly warrants the property more useful. A holding tank system would not have been that desirable. It would have been an additional cost."

Mountain Building Centres, which has stores in Squamish and Whistler, has been operating from a 3,000 sq. ft. facility in Pemberton. The new store, projected to open in the industrial park in 2007, will be between 10,000 and 15,000 sq. ft.

"While the timing will probably be perfect for us, we’re 100 per cent behind Cam (McIvor) and what he’s been doing to move this forward," says McIntosh.

While the building supply company has not been negatively affected by servicing issues, others, including a car wash and a Re-Use It Centre, have been in a holding pattern pending servicing and the resolution of development cost charges (DCC). Currently, fewer than a dozen of the 69 lots in the 10-year-old industrial park have been developed.

Businessman Cam McIvor attributes the historical lack of economic activity in the park to the necessity of holding tanks and prohibitive DCC. For example, a holding tank suitable for a 6,000 sq. ft. building, can cost between $16,000 and $18,000 to install and have an additional annual service cost up to $4,500. According to McIvor, whose offices are located at the industrial park, the current DCC for that size of building could be as high as $60,000.

However, this is due to change because of an agreement reached June 14 by the Village of Pemberton and the industrial park’s owners. The group reached consensus on exploring an option from a report produced by Kamloops’s Urban Systems. The plan takes into account the park’s needs at build out – a process that could take 25 years. Currently 32 individuals or corporations own land within the park, including the VOP that holds title to a two-acre parcel. The agreement calls for the implementation of a cost-sharing plan that will see the industrial park taking on two-thirds of the estimated $3.9 million project.

McIvor anticipates the actual cost may be lower because of the extent of the existing infrastructure.

Another benefit of implementing the plan would be the addition of a balancing reservoir. In addition to serving the other end of the Pemberton Valley, the aquifer proposed to be located on the Birkenhead River, would provide the whole community with water in event of contamination of the current well. Water pressure, long a problem in Pemberton, would also be more consistent.

"We’re running short of time to get it done this year, but we’re hoping to work with council to get it resolved," says McIvor, adding: "We’re hoping to have the pipe servicing for the water and sewer in this fall and then figure out the subsequent effect to the DCC."

David Allen, VOP’s director of development, believes the project could be underway within two months.

"Part of the challenge we have now is the DCC collected at the park go into pay for services down the road, but that could take quite a while, Urban Systems estimated that it would take 30 years to collect enough DCC to service that park," explains Allen.

"We’re trying to find creative ways to ensure we can move on this sooner rather than later."

Allen feels that if the DCC are not eliminated, they will be dramatically reduced.

"What we’re looking at within the option we’ve chosen are other options. For example, it might be more feasible to do everything in the option other than the reservoir, which could be done later. We could work at getting the sewer in there and worrying about adding a balancing reservoir in a year or so," says Allen.

One major issue to consider is how the VOP will secure its one-third of the cost.

"If we need to borrow we need to get public assent one way or the other – whether that’s through counter petition or referendum. Mayor and council have not decided yet as to how they will approach that," says Allen, citing other possibilities such as a P3 partnership.

Whatever the execution, the administration is fully behind bringing services to the industrial park, having passed a motion on June 21 to research funding options.

"This is a plan that council sees as having long-term economic benefits to the community," says Allen.

McIvor estimates that the tax benefit to the VOP upon build out would be $350,000 a year, but stresses that many other benefits will be felt immediately – providing that council acts quickly.

"The immediate impact is that we would have the ability to start attracting businesses and therefore jobs," says McIvor. "It will promote business and create a tax base. If we wait another year, there may be businesses that would want to be in Pemberton but will choose either Whistler or Squamish. Right now we have to get the infrastructure in place so we can capitalize on commercial and industrial interests."

Cecile Arnott, director of finance for the VOP says that while McIvor’s figures are not far off there are variables to consider.

"The amount of taxes collected would depend on the improvements and assessments," says Arnott. "Currently, it’s (the park) generating $120,000 in taxes. That money also services the SLRD, so the village is getting approximately $71,000."

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