The Hill Academy's plans to open its Pacific campus in Pemberton by 2015 remain on track despite the community's opposition to borrowing millions to build a recreation facility, of which the school would have been an anchor tenant.
In the referendum held Saturday, June 14, which asked voters if they would authorize a $4.8-million loan to finance a new multi-sport recreation complex, the result was an emphatic "no" from local residents. Of the 624 ballots cast, 531 opposed borrowing for the facility.
Peter Merrill, CEO of The Hill Academy, said the school and the Sunstone Development Group, owners of the campus site, would now pursue a "Plan B" to construct a recreation complex of its own.
"It doesn't affect anything in terms of our opening day," said Merrill. "I'm kind of glad it's over... and we can move on."
However, Merrill said he hopes the referendum result isn't a reflection of the community's sentiments toward the athletics-focused school. The Hill Academy recently placed third for "Worst Use of Money" in Pique's Best of Pemberton poll, which "really hurt," said Merrill.
"I'm confused by that," he said. "We have not received one cent from anybody."
Responding to the referendum results during their regular meeting on Tuesday, June 17, Pemberton councillors applauded the community for coming out to voice their opinions at the polls on Saturday.
"At large, (voters) were engaged, and that's democracy in action," said acting mayor James Linklater.
Councillor Ted Craddock said he understood the result and felt that things may have been different if the village wasn't the only party assuming capital costs for the facility.
"I had brought to council previously that unless we had a partner moving forward, it was going to be pretty hard for the community to shoulder the cost," said Craddock. "We weren't able to bring that to the table and I think the public saw that."
Although voters rejected the loan, chief administrative officer Daniel Sailland noted that the facility plans that came out of the recreation consultation and referendum process are "reusable in other forms" if other partnerships or funding sources become available.
Tuesday's staff report containing the official results indicated that the final cost of running the referendum is anticipated to be less than the $12,000 budgeted for the vote.
TEMPORARY CAMP CONTINUES TO IRK ACCOMMODATION SECTOR
A temporary workers' camp set up in the industrial park was the source of frustration for Pemberton's accommodation providers once again on Tuesday, due to news that the Pemberton Music Festival would like to use the camp to house staff during the event, running July 16 to 20.
Earlier this year, a Temporary Use Permit (TUP) was approved allowing establishment of the camp, currently being used by labourers completing construction on the Upper Lillooet Hydro Project.
The TUP allows the camp to remain until Aug. 31, although the current workers occupying the site are expected to leave by early July. The permit regulates the camp's existence, not who may occupy the site.
Speaking on behalf of the festival, Cam McIvor said that, if available, the camp would put up event production staff that will be on-site at the festival for up to 18 hours per day. McIvor indicated that housing all staff at one location nearer the festival grounds would be ideal compared to utilizing local accommodation providers.
Multiple hoteliers or bed-and-breakfast operators spoke in opposition of the festival's plan, including Pemberton Valley Lodge manager David MacKenzie.
"The existing camp has taken business away from our hotels and bed and breakfasts," said MacKenzie.
Council could have added a "no sublet" clause to the TUP, but expected the festival would likely put up the workers in Whistler hotels if barred from the camp.
"In that case, I'd like to have these people in town and make it easier on the proponent," said councillor Mike Richman.
However, festival officials may ultimately have to look elsewhere to place their staff if hydro project workers have not vacated the camp in time for the festival.