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Pemberton community barn to be built in spring

WB Foundation puts $240K towards 'game-changer' for downtown area



The downtown community barn proposed for Pemberton will become a reality in 2014 thanks to a funding commitment from the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation (WBF).

The Village of Pemberton confirmed last week that the foundation will contribute $240,000 towards the project, representing the major piece of funding that was needed for construction to go ahead this spring.

The finished barn will be a 5,000-square-foot, open-air, timber-frame structure that will stand at the northeast corner of Birch Road and Frontier Street. It will become the new home of the Pemberton Farmers' Market and become a central meeting place for community and cultural activities while changing the face of Pemberton's downtown core.

"We're good to go... and we hope to have it all done in time for the summer season," said Mayor Jordan Sturdy. "It's going to be a bit of a game-changer for Pemberton in terms of having a sense of entrance to the village rather than a great big gravel parking lot."

The WBF is providing the full amount requested by the village, enough to cover all capital costs of the building's construction. The full budget for the project is $375,000. More than $50,000 has been collected through fundraising efforts thus far, and the village is hopeful for further contributions from other partners in the community will come in. At the time the application was made to WBF, Pemberton council pledged $75,000 in contingency funding towards the project to cover any shortfalls if fundraising is unsuccessful.

The total cost of the project has also been kept low due to the involvement of the Timber Framers Guild (TFG), a non-profit organization dedicated to the art of timber framing in North America. The TFG has been involved in the design of the barn and will send project managers and labourers to Pemberton during the construction phase, free of charge.

The TFG required confirmation in mid-January from the village that funding would be in place for 2014 construction, so the WBF funding announcement ensures that the group will be coming to Pemberton this spring. Construction is scheduled to take place in April and May.

The community barn has been a project on the village's to-do list for several years, first identified as a key piece of Pemberton's vision for downtown enhancement in a Frontier Street Master Plan in 2010.

Village won't wade into weed industry

Pemberton council elected not to pursue a staff suggestion that the village explore the production of medical marijuana as a business opportunity.

During its Dec. 17 Committee of the Whole session, council viewed a preliminary report detailing the process ahead to prepare the village for coming changes to the federal government's approach to medical marijuana production. The report contained a recommendation that council asked staff to prepare a potential business plan for a village-owned grow operation.

"There is the opportunity for the village to create a subsidiary corporation and have that corporation produce medical marijuana, or the village could enter into partnerships with private business to produce medical marijuana," said the report.

The report added that it would be in keeping with council's strategic theme of Economic Vitality, which includes exploring alternative revenue sources for the village, similar to the Community Power Project that was pursued and later paused by council.

"I think there was a skepticism there about whether — as much as we need to be looking at alternative revenue streams — this was the right fit for us," said Sturdy. "Not for any philosophical reason, but mostly because it's an emerging and uncertain market."

The report added that the village has been fielding one call per week on average from prospective growers interested in Pemberton's industrial park. Zoning and building bylaw amendments related to medical marijuana production will appear before council in the New Year.