Boundary expansion took a back seat to recreation and issues surrounding Area C at an all-candidates’ meeting in Pemberton on Friday night — despite what candidates expected.
Candidates for mayor, council and school board gathered at the Pemberton Community Centre to hash out the various issues being faced by residents of both the village and Area C, which falls within the purview of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District. The event was hosted by the Pemberton and District Chamber of Commerce and moderated by Dr. Hugh Fisher.
Candidates for the mayor’s post are incumbent Jordan Sturdy and current councillor David MacKenzie. Sturdy, a resident of Area C himself, said in his opening remarks that the boundary expansion is phase one of a greater expansion that he expects to take place at a later date.
“Simply spoken, it’s $180,000 in revenue and the province pays the bill,” he said. “There’s no cost to the regional district and I hope they all think about supporting this referendum on election day.”
However, a number of affected properties will see their taxes go up if incorporated into the village. Emerald Adventure Tours, for example, will see its annual taxes go up 64 per cent, according to a report from Stantec, a planning firm that’s overseeing the expansion.
Phase two, Sturdy said, is a governance restructure to resolve a “jurisdictional nightmare.”
“We’ve got the Village of Pemberton, regional district, Lil’wat Nation, school district 48, dyking district, ALC, Ministry of Transportation, it goes on,” he said. “It’s a miracle we get anything done.”
MacKenzie, a village resident since 2004, also stood by boundary expansion as “phase one” of a greater expansion into Area C that he expects to take place in the future.
“Extending the boundaries will bring in much-needed revenue to help grow the tax base of this tax-poor community,” he said. “This proposed extension will help facilitate the growth of amenities in the village. Our longer term goal would be to create a single governance model in the valley.”
The mayoral candidates’ stances on boundary expansion, however, did not provoke any questions from the audience. At one point Sturdy was asked why the Village of Pemberton provides water to areas in the SLRD, and why the SLRD “subsidizes” people who are getting village water.
Sturdy responded by drawing attention to issues surrounding fire service, saying that at one point the VOP said it would not respond to areas in the SLRD because for a while those areas were not paying for service.
Water, he said, is a different situation, and unlike the fire service, “We can’t shut the water off.”